"So, naturalists observe, a flea has smaller fleas that on him prey; and these have smaller still to bite ’em; and so proceed ad infinitum."
- Jonathan Swift

August 1, 2010

August 1 - Anthobothrium sp.

Sharks are predators, usually thought of as at the top of the food chain in ocean ecosystems. As such, they can accumulate a lot of poisons or toxins, as we have seen recently in the news with scares of mercury in tuna. But it turns out that some of their parasites can be accumulating the toxins in extremely high concentrations and there is speculation that in doing so, they may be protecting their hosts. A recent study by scientists at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and the University of Tehran, Iran, found that tapeworms such as Anthobothrium, had concentrations of cadmium and lead, two heavy metals, that were as much as 455 times that of their hosts. The scientists suggest in their paper that parasites can serve as useful bioindicators - squishy little canaries in coal mines, if you will.

You can read about this in the original paper or on this site.

Image is of the type species of the genus Anthobothrium, A. cornucopia, from its original description in 1850.


  1. Ah, very interesting. I hadn't heard about this.

  2. Is there anything else about this parasite? such as mode of attachment and life cycle, also some other harms other than it soaking up nutrients from the marine animals?

  3. Heng Chun Kiat, it is a tetraphyllidean tapeworm so it has structures on its scolex which allows it to fit snugly between the folds of the intestinal wall. If you want to find out more on this parasite, you can look up "Anthobothrium" on Google Scholar here: http://scholar.google.com