parasite

Not Exactly Rocket Science

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It’s not every day that you hear about spy missions that involve a lack of sex, but clearly parasitic wasps don’t pay much attention to Hollywood clich├ęs. These insects merge the thriller, science-fiction and horror genres, They lay their eggs inside other animals, turning them into slaves and living larders that are destined to be…

Millions of people in Latin America have been invade by a parasite – a trypanosome called Trypanosome cruzi. They are passed on through the bite of the blood-sucking assassin bug and they cause Chagas disease, a potentially fatal illness that affects the heart and digestive system. The infections are long-lasting; it can take decades for…

This is an updated version of the first post I wrote this year. The scientists in question were looking at ways of recruiting bacteria in the fight against mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue fever. They’ve just published new results that expand on their earlier experiments. Mosquitoes are incredibly successful parasites and cause millions of human…

At 13 metres in length, Tyrannosaurus rex had little to fear from other predators. But it was occasionally attacked by an enemy far smaller than itself. In a wonderful piece of forensic palaeontology, Ewan Wolff from the University of Wisconsin has shown that the tyrant lizard king was often infected by a microscopic parasite, whose…

Viruses and bacteria often act as parasites, infecting a host, reproducing at its expense and causing disease and death. But not always – sometimes, their infections are positively beneficial and on rare occasions, they can actually defend their hosts from parasitism rather than playing the role themselves. In the body of one species of aphid,…

Swine flu has made the world all too aware of the possibility of diseases making the leap from animal hosts to human ones. Now, we know that another disease made a similar transition from chimpanzees to humans, several thousand years ago. This particular infection is caused by a parasite, and a very familiar and dangerous…

In Lake Alexandrina, New Zealand, a population of snails is under threat from a parasitic flatworm, a fluke aptly known as Microphallus. The fluke chemically castrates its snail host and uses its body as a living incubator for its larvae. But the snails have a weapon against these body-snatching foes – sex. The New Zealand…

For long journeys, the shell of a snail hardly seems like the ideal public transport. That is, of course, unless you’re an even smaller snail… Yasunori Kano from the University of Miyazaki has found that the babies of Neritina asperulata, a tiny snail just 3 millimetres across, hitchhike on the back of a larger species…

Conspiracy theories, TV thrillers and airport novels are full of the idea that the world is secretly run by a hidden society. We have come up with many names for this shadowy cabal of puppet-masters – the Illuminati, the Freemasons, and more. But a better name would be ‘parasites’. Every animal and plant is afflicted…

It’s a scene straight out of a horror film – you look around and see dead bodies everywhere. They haven’t just been killed either, they’ve been hollowed out from the inside-out leaving behind grotesque mummified shells. What would you do if you were confronted with such a macabre scene? Flee? Well, if you were an…