"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
February 20, 2011
Today's parasite hails from the San José Gulf of Argentina. Opechona sp. is a digenean trematode which uses the intertidal snail Buccinanops cochlidium as a first intermediate host. The parasite sets up shop within the snail's gonads where it starts cloning itself, eventually castrating the snail through physical destruction of the gonad tissue. These clonal stages (known as rediae) produce free-living larvae called cercariae (pictured) that are released from the snail into the surrounding water, where they infect the next host in the life-cycle. This parasite reaches its peak prevalence during summer when water temperature is at its highest. While the life-cycle of Opechona is not fully known, related species have been recorded to infect jellyfishes as the second intermediate host in their life-cycle, and the period of highest cercariae emission for Opechona during summer may possibly coincide with the high abundance of jellyfishes during that season.
References: Averbuj, A. and Cremonte, F. (2010) Parasitic castration of Buccinanops cochlidium (Gastropoda: Nassariidae) caused by a lepocreadiid digenean in San José Gulf, Argentina. Journal of Helminthology 84: 381–389.