"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

July 20, 2010

July 20 - Acanthobothirum zimmeri

Last week, you met Calliobothrium schneiderae, a tapeworm described by Maria Pickering, a graduate student in Janine Caira's lab at the University of Connecticut and also learned that Maria named that species after her high school biology teacher. Today, meet another tapeworm of elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) that also came out of the Caira lab, and was described to science by Carrie Fyler. In 2008, Fyler had organized a symposium at the annual meeting of the American Society of Parasitologists in Arlington, Texas, that featured talks by three people on the topic of "Parasites and Popular Culture." One of the speakers in that symposium was Carl Zimmer, author of the book Parasite Rex as well as numerous other books, blogs, and articles. In gratitude, Carrie named a new species of tapeworm after him. Acanthobothirum zimmeri is a small tapeworm that infects a species of whip-ray off the coast of Australia, a host that itself is new to science. Zimmer seemed fairly pleased about this recognition when he blogged about it in The Loom, particularly that it had some bizarre features that helped make it a really great parasite. The number of species of tapeworms is enormous with more than 5,000 described species. But there are also close to 2000 undescribed species out there - so if you'd like to be so honored as well, your best bet is to do something to impress Janine Caira or one of her current or former students.

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