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I was drawn to this book orignially out of the idea that things so small can cause so much damage and or alter larger animals in ways some would find hard to believe. One of the previous reviewers mentioned something about sacculina (a parasitic barnicle that attacks crabs). Reading about how sacculina castrates its host and makes it care for its young was one of the things that got me interested in reading this fascinating book. Sacculina is only one of many fascinating parasites discussed however.
Many are familiar with parasites such as cuckcoos, tape worms and trichinella but few have heard of parasites such as the lancet fluke and even fewer are familiar with its life cycle and what it does to its host. In terms of the spooky element, I think Dicrocoelium dendriticum (the lancet fluke) ranks as one of the top villains given in the book. The lancet fluke has three different hosts, namely the snail, the ant and cow or other grazers. As an adult, the lancet fluke spends its time in the gut of a cow where it lays its eggs. The eggs are then deposited on the ground with the cow's feces then snails eat the eggs which hatch in its intestines. The baby flukes bore through the snail's gut emerging from the snails slimy body and onto the ground where they attract the attention of ants. The ants eat these slime balls and become infected. The flukes then make the ants climb up the highest blade of grass they can find and lock their mandibles onto the top of the blade hanging until they are eaten by a grazer to continue its life cycle. There are a few interesting details which I intentionally left out.
Only one parasite in the book made me cringe and that was with candiru. Candiru is a thin fish found in the rivers of Latin America. Woe to the unfortunate soul who happens to urinate in a river in the presence of candiru because it will detect the odor of urine and ram itself into the victim's urethra (male or female) and lodge itself there with its teeth. Candiru is virtually impossible to remove once inside the urethra. Humans are not candiru's natural hosts however, it attacks them as a mistake.
The book also expounds on how and why parasites have a vital and critical role to play in ecology. Examples of bad things happening because certain parasites were eliminated is discussed.
Now I translate thru Dragon for deaf students in medical classes. I like a quick look-up, then put into my ever-increasing Dragon vocab.