"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 26, 2010

February 26 - Metaparasitylenchus hypothenemi

It’s been a long week for me here at the AMNH. We’ve just finished up the interviews for prospective students for our Richard Gilder Graduate School and I am definitely in need of an extra cup of coffee this morning. So, perhaps it’s fitting to finish up this week of newly described Mexican parasites with Metaparasitylenchus hypothenemi (you’ll need a cup of coffee - or eight cups -to wrap your tongue around that moniker!). These are nematode parasites that infect coffee berry borers, beetles that are one of the most important coffee pests. The free-living adult worms are thought to mate in the coffee berries themselves and then the female nematodes penetrate into the larval beetles’ cuticles. There they wait, as the beetles proceed through their own developmental process, though pupal stage into the adult form. Like many nematodes, the eggs hatch within their mother (the photo shows a female filled with eggs and first-stage larvae) and even go through their first molt within the egg or soon after. Third-stage larvae leave the beetle hosts via the typical exit routes – the gastrointestinal and/or genital openings.

These nematodes pose an interesting biogeographic question as well. The coffee borer itself is native to Africa, so it is possible that the beetles brought this parasite to the New World with them, but it is also possible that the nematodes were native to the New World and hopped into these hosts when they encountered them. It is currently being studied as a possible biocontrol agent for these coffee pests. Go parasites! I need my coffee!

1 comment:

  1. If there is one way to make people hold a parasite in high esteem, it is to make them understand that this parasite is all that stands between them and a week long caffeine withdrawal headache, in addition to all the disruptions that come with legions of cranky tired people in the workplace.
    Also, I do graduate admissions too so my sympathies on the difficulties that go along with that!