"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

December 30, 2013

Another year of parasites in insects, in shellfish and in extreme environments

It is hard to believe that it's already been another year again, and it was a particularly exciting year too, with a lot happening with and around this blog. In terms of the parasites we featured on here, there were some which can be considered to be pretty extreme; like the only external parasite found on guppies that live in noxious tar pits, and some tapeworms with an special affinity for heavy metal. There are those that might make your squirm; like the sexually-transmitted roundworm in anole lizards, and a crustacean that lives in a fish's bladder.

We gave seafood fans some food for thought with some parasites that plague catfish and flounder, and checked in on bunch of clam parasites (tapeworms and flukes) and mussel parasites too (Himasthla elongata). And while fish and shellfish might provide some fodder for parasites, on land, insects provide plenty more opportunities for parasitism, after all, insects are the most diverse group of animals on Earth and they make abundant hosts; from crickets to hornets to ants, and amongst these parasite of insects (some of which are insects themselves) there are some rather sinister ones - like the parasitoid wasp that takes its host to the edge of death so it can be a more compliant host, or the mosquito-killing round worms which sit like mines to be activated upon detecting the presence of its mosquito larva host.

Of course, this year we also had some guest bloggers in the form of students from the University of New England ZOOL329/529 class of 2013 who wrote about how toxic birds makes for sad lice, self-medicating in bees, avian malaria parasites that make their host more attractive to mosquitoes, and how an intertidal fluke might respond to a rise in global temperature. Also, as with last year, we brought you some conference coverage too (part 1, part 2).

We will be back next year with plenty more posts about the newest research in fields relating to parasitology which you might not have heard or read about elsewhere, and as usual, I have already lined up a few which I am going to be writing about... See you all next year!

P.S. If you can't wait until next year, you can find some of my other parasite-related writing on The Conversation about freeze-tolerant parasites, a worm that usurp hornet queens, and fungi that plague the zombie ant fungus. And alongside writing this blog, I've doing a regular radio segment call "Creepy but Curious" where I sometimes talk about parasitic (among other things), like the zombie ants, the infamous crab-castrating Sacculina, the tongue-biter parasite, and the virus that melts caterpillars.


  1. Thanks, Tommy, for your continuous effort in communicating the wonderful, bizarre and endlessly fascinating world of parasites! I look forward to the 2014 entries.

    Best regards, Simon Haarder (Danish parasitologist)

  2. Thanks for reading the blog Simon! Much appreciated.