Posts Tagged: ‘parasites’

Sure, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, but it’s also a louse-eat-tongue world. Organisms do what they can to get ahead and sometimes that means crawling inside a fish head chewing out a niche. In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Julie and I get to know Cymothoa exigua, the horrifying and ingenious parasite that replaces a fish’s tongue.

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Researching Tibet is like reading about some fantastic other world, where psychonaut monks chart the realms beyond death and body breakers offer up corpses as alms to the scavengers of the sky. So it should come as no surprise to learn that Tibetans also dig up a strange root that’s allegedly “half vegetable, half caterpillar” and sell it for bank as an energy booster and aphrodisiac.

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To quote esteemed mad scientist Seth Brundle, “Insects don’t have politics.” Theirs is a world of intricate brutality and wasps have been excelling in it for more than a hundred million years. This latest example comes to us in this paper from France’s CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange) and it concerns a wasp that not only hatches from its egg inside the belly of a ladybug, but upon emerging forces its eviscerated host to guard its cocoon while it transitions from larva to full-grown horror wasp.

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Think about all of the preening and flirting we exert in order to obtain it, not to mention the relationship factors and potential baby-making that may go along with it when it finally happens. To evolutionary biologists, it’s an extremely inefficient design compared to asexual reproduction since we squander so many resources for sex, and they’re only now figuring out why sex exists.

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Ah, symbiosis. It’s taking place everywhere, at this very moment. Consider: Trillions of bacteria are milling about in your gut, and they greatly outnumber your gut’s own cells. If your gut were picking tonight’s movie by quorum, the bacteria would win out. (Sorry to say that you’ll be watching Dustin Hoffman in “Outbreak,” once again.)

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It feels like we are being bombarded by bedbug stories. Turn on the radio, open a magazine, walk by a TV and there is another new story about the bedbug invasion. Especially in big cities, and a lot of them are in hotels.

If you hear enough of these stories, you may get to the point where you are afraid of going to a hotel. You might also be worried that bedbugs are moving into your home. So what are you gonna do? How do you find out if you have bedbugs or not in your home or hotel room?

One thing you could do is build a bedbug trap…

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Parasites compose some of the more fascinating and successful organisms on the planet, but it’s hard not to focus on the yuck factor when there’s a botfly larva squirming inside a dude’s head. So it’s pretty cool to see a short documentary with a different approach hitting festivals around the country: Sharon Shattuck‘s “Parasites: A User’s Guide.” Lets watch the extended trailer and interview the artist behind it all, shall we?

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Growing up, I was always told to slip on a pair of shoes if I was going to play outdoors. Granted, I did part of my growing up in Newfoundland, Canada, where going barefoot was a great way to lose a few toes or step in bear feces. Allison, on the other hand, grew up in the Northeast and was allowed to run free and shoeless without fear of biting cold or carnivore poop. You New Engladers with your heated, bear-free sidewalks…

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A recent theory about human hairlessness cites parasites as the cause. Find out how parasites relate to hair — and some fascinating facts about shaving habits — in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.

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Yes, the next time you find yourself appreciating the finer qualities of sexual reproduction or shaking your head at its many complications, you can throw all the blame and praise to the worms.

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