Parasites that have complex life cycles involving marine creatures really baffle me - the odds of them completing their life cycle just seems so unlikely - and yet they do. Profilicollis altmani is a species of acanthocephalan (thorny-headed worm) that uses mole crabs (Emerita spp.) as its intermediate hosts and then infects shore birds like Herring Gulls as the definitive host. The adult parasite attaches to the intestines of the bird and then will release eggs into its feces where they somehow make their way to new foraging crabs. This parasite is also of recent interest because it appears to have jumped hosts into sea otters, where it can cause fatality. The otters are not normally hosts of these parasites, but perhaps are becoming infected as a result of eating prey that they normally do not.
Photo by Tricia Goulding, Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies, San Francisco State University.