"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

April 17, 2011

Herpyllobius vanhoeffeni

Regular readers of this blog will no doubt be familiar with the wonderfully weird and twisted morphology of parasitic copepods. However, this is probably the weirdest we have featured yet. Herpyllobius vanhoeffeni is a spooky-looking parasitic copepod which has all the trappings you might associate with an Lovercraftian horror tale. They are found in the Antarctic Penninsula, in waters 666-673m deep, and they parasitise a polychaete worm, Eulagisca corrientis.

The top picture shows a pair of females attached to the ventral surface of their host; note that the lower individual has a pair of lobe-shaped egg sacs extending from its side like wings. The bottom picture shows a specimen that has been dissected from the host, showing the rest of the copepod, which is usually embedded in the host. Overall, the whole parasite looks not unlike a bulbous skull resting atop a twisted stalk of a body.

López-González, P.J. and Bresciani, J. (2001) New Antarctic records of Herpyllobius Steenstrup and Lütken, 1861 (parasitic Copepoda) from the EASIZ-III cruise, with description of two new species. Scientia Marina 65:357-366


  1. You need to post new entries to Twitter so I can keep up with them. Awesome blog.

  2. That's informative!
    Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed the visit. :)