Sacculina are Pretty Much My Favorite Parasite


53 Responses to “Sacculina are Pretty Much My Favorite Parasite”

  1. Takuan says:

    are you saying god is a crab?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Boing Boing: a directory of uncomfortable things.

  3. Maggie Koerth-Baker says:


    That post about S. coleoptrata isn’t in the book. There’s another non-booker coming up later today.

    I’m trying to do a couple book posts + at least one non-book thing each day.


    a) Joke.
    b) It is possible this situation makes the crab feel loved, but I doubt it.
    c) Joke.

  4. blueelm says:

    Chorske @ 39– Good to know! I’ve never seen one, but I enjoy eating shellfish.

  5. dr80085 says:

    @30 GHEDE

    Toxoplasma gondii doesn’t just change rat behavior.

    If, like half the population, you’re a human infected with T. gondii, you’re about twice as likely to die in a traffic accident. That’s the same increased risk as having a blood alcohol level of 0.06. Infection has also been associated with schizophrenia.

  6. takeshi says:

    The secret origin of modern conservatism.

  7. tuckels says:

    Where’s my unicorn?

  8. sally599 says:

    Best guestblogger ever!

  9. Ian70 says:

    Do they have “They Live” sunglasses for uninfected crabs to wear? Those would be handy.

  10. JoshuaZ says:

    I was going to recommend that people who found this interesting should read Parasite Rex but then saw that someone else had already made that comment so I’m just going to repeat that.

    And now we just need a parasite that makes zombie unicorns…

  11. Chorske says:

    #23, I’ve seen green crabs with advanced infections, and the parasite is unmistakable; I can’t imagine anyone opening up an infected crab and NOT realizing that something was off.

    Maggie Koerth-Baker, my second favourite parasite is a local tapeworm called Ligula intestinalis. Its primary host- the host that carries the adult tapeworm- is a bird, and the intermediate host- the “stepping stone” that carries one of the larval stages- is a fish. The bird acquires Ligula by eating infected fish. Seems simple enough, but the parasite makes things easier for itself by making the fish swim upside down- this disrupts the camouflage of the fish, and the fish’s white belly attracts the attention of the bird.

    My favourite parasite is Dracunculus, mostly because of its awesome name.

  12. Takuan says:

    the way people carry on, it almost makes it sound like being hijacked by a brain-parasite was a bad thing… Fess up now, how many of you have actually tried it? hmmm?

  13. overunger says:

    I still don’t understand the “either/or” paradigm of agnostic scientists. ESPECIALLY scientists- as ones who study energy and its dynamics.
    I get that scientific discoveries counter most Biblical claims and ideologies. But that’s just organized religion, which is extremely limiting to growth in any direction. What about the possibilities of a grand universal force that is outside of limited explanation.
    It just seems to me that the universe is much grander and amazing than we can comprehend, and I would think that the more open minded and deeper you explore into science, the more mysterious and magical your perspective of it becomes. I understand writing off an outdated, dogmatic deity, but to write off ALL concepts of a higher mind or energy by scientists seems to be itself limiting, small minded, and stunting our evolution just as much as these flocks of mindless, religious sheep.
    If we never looked into a microscope or telescope, imagine how ignorant and scientifically stunted we would be now. I think the same case could be made for not looking into the mind, the aether-4th dimensional realm, etc.,etc.
    Not to be so serious and stuff,it IS a great article:)

  14. doug117 says:

    Maggie @#17

    Mine too: joke

  15. Bugs says:

    I’ve found that studying science does indeed make the natural world seem more magical and mysterious. The more you study any complex subject (in my case, molecular biology), the more you learn to think of even more questions that we don’t know the answers to yet. It’s a really humbling experience.

    But this doesn’t lead me (or many of my colleagues, AFAIK) to religion. Because so much of science is about looking at complex systems and finding that there’s an unintuitively simple, mechanistic explanation for it. So when we see some new, wonderful and fascinating phenomenon all of our experience tells us that there’s going to be an elegantly simple explanation, if only we can find it.

    Er, the tl;dr version:
    We don’t turn to God to explain the mysteries of the universe because we’re used to finding that mysteries usually have pretty simple answers. This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist, it just suggests that he doesn’t need to exist as an explanation for all this cool stuff we see.

    RE “looking into the mind, the aether-4th dimensional realm, etc.,etc. ”
    If you can come up with a hypothesis and a way to test it, then congratulations – you’re doing science! The mind is the subject of enormous and intense study, as are further dimensions.

    If there’s something that scientist aren’t looking in to, it’s because no-one can think of an interesting and objectively testable question. It’s all very well hand-waving and making impressive statements about aether, but until you can nail down exactly what you mean and use that to make a testable prediction, the scientific method can’t help you.

  16. Takuan says:

    my all time favorite fish to open up and marvel at the sheer number of gut parasites in is the common spiny pufferfish in Japan. Amiable,slow moving, take your hook ten times in a row (the same fish) and almost completely useless.

  17. P1rat3 says:

    Sacculina, the gold diggers of the animal kingdom.

  18. Ghede says:

    See also:

    Cat “parasite” (Although, in this case, I think it has a more symbiotic relationship with the cat, it’s not all take) that when it gets into a rat or mouse, it makes them approach cats.

  19. The Unusual Suspect says:

    Okay, some species just need to be extinct.

  20. daneyul says:

    I do have to wonder–are Sacculina infested crabs cooked and served just like any other?

    I don’t eat crab, but even if I did, I don’t think I would anymore.

  21. milovoo says:

    Carl Zimmer’s excellent book Parasite Rex covers Sacculina as well as several other fascinating parasites.

  22. RyuMaou says:

    Funny, all I could think of when I read this was, “Huh, sounds like my ex-wife”.

    Sorry, I know it’s trite and all, but, well, it’s also true, so I couldn’t help myself.

  23. Chorske says:

    Nice Takuan!!

    For sheer numbers of parasites, my fave fish is the sea raven. Not only does it growl at you when you pick it up, you can often see knots of roundworms bulging just beneath its skin.

    I do this for a living, and I love my job.

  24. Praystation2 says:

    The scariest parasite (Protozoan organism
    ) I know of is African trypanosomiasis or the Sleeping sickness
    Ugh blegh

  25. Takuan says:

    “The disease then enters a neurological phase when the parasite passes through the blood-brain barrier. The symptoms of the second phase give the disease its name; besides confusion and reduced coordination, the sleep cycle is disturbed with bouts of fatigue punctuated with manic periods progressing to daytime slumber and night-time insomnia.”

    that sounds disturbingly familiar

  26. blueelm says:

    daneyul @ 23

    I thought the same thing. I don’t see why they wouldn’t be unless they are easily recognized. Gross. So gross.

  27. Avram / Moderator says:

    Compared to this, those house centipedes seems friendly and lovable, don’t they?

  28. fltndboat says:

    Maggie, Xenie likes you. You friend. Try to remember yourself before you knew anything. Then trust your old self more in her knowing. Sharing on a blog can be brutal if you read the posts. Icky stuff . Never take a digital post personally. That is the first law of cyber space. Globally.

  29. Diatryma says:

    Rhizocephalan barnacles! You’re the first person outside my Parasitology class to know of them, and they’re weird enough that I can’t explain them without sounding like I’m making it up. They simultaneously horrify me and make me so happy.

    It’s the male larvae (male adults?) that really do it. Free-swimming penises, just looking for a female….

  30. Simon Cameron says:

    I have to say, I’ve loved each of your stories so far Maggie.

  31. fltndboat says:

    #44 I am convinced that you are massively intelligent. You proved it to me many times over. Any disease of the brain that turns you into a blithering idiot should be opposed. Normal life should be looked at as a possible cause. Perhaps we are only different in the nature of our parasites and drugs I wonder?

  32. bardfinn says:

    Mmm M! I want me some snow crab now.

  33. ulmedas says:

    Am I the only person to miss read that as scalia at first glance?

  34. Anonymous says:

    GEH! Zombie crabs…. Hope these little critters don’t develop a taste for humans…

  35. Anonymous says:

    Soooo… marriage, then?

    Also, on a related note my Captcha is “sheath lewinsky”.

  36. overunger says:

    That sounds good. That’s my feeling as well.
    But I WAS saying that I agree science leads us to paradigms beyond religion. (I personally despise anything that keeps expansion of thought and experience stunted in any way-I’m more of a fan of ERIS than that control freak King James)
    And I agree that things like 4th (or higher) dimensional study and such is difficult without better understanding of said realms. It seems very difficult especially dealing with things outside of our experience – things that are almost impossible to nail down or make a testable prediction with current models.
    The atom bomb or micro-processor couldn’t have been created 500 years ago because it was outside of the models and thinking of that time. I guess we’re just S.O.L. until discovery plods along to new hights and perspectives of our universe as time goes by.

  37. Xopher says:

    I’ve known people in relationships like that. I think I’ll write a story about one and name one of the characters Sacculina.

  38. dbarak says:

    Hm. Nadya Suleman?

  39. RedShirt77 says:

    Wasn’t this an episode of star trek?

  40. Trent Hawkins says:

    Great. That’s all we need, giant zombie crabs!

    … Ok, I gotta admit I am interested in seeing some videos of this freak of nature.

  41. Stefan Jones says:

    #3: You haven’t met any Amway salespeople, huh?

  42. Blackhat says:

    Holy crap! My new least-favorite animal…

  43. urshrew says:

    Its like that wasp then lays its in eggs in other aphids, other insects, and occasionally small mammals. Turns them into zombies who take care of their incubating young, as those very same pupae devour the host from the inside. Existence is quite nasty in its ingenuity.

  44. LarryWelz says:

    Wow, that’s even creepier than the Tarantula Hawk, the state insect of New Mexico. It’s a beautiful wasp with an electric blue body & orange & black wings. They find a tarantula & sting it, which paralyzes it. Then the wasp drags the helpless tarantula to its hole in the ground & lays an egg in the spider’s body. When the larva hatches, it feeds on the tarantula, which is still alive. Intelligent design my ass.

  45. HotPepperMan says:

    “It won’t all be book promotion, though. Promise.”

    3 – 3 is pretty high in the self-promotion department…

  46. daneyul says:


    Actually, I saw it as Thomas, but same difference…

  47. archanoid says:

    Immediately reminded of Infected.

  48. Anonymous says:

    If you think that is wild- check out the fungus Cordyceps….

    And imagine the whisper in your ear…. “climb. climb. climb”

  49. doug117 says:

    And this is “against the existence of a loving deity” how?

  50. Xopher says:

    The related organisms that infect humans are called Goa’uld.

  51. Anonymous says:

    Maybe people can also be infected with a currently unknown parasite that causes us to exihibit and persue greed, ego, religion, love…

  52. sheetzam says:

    Need More Unicorn Chasers!

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