Meet the pentastome

At the Thoughtomics blog, Lucas Brouwers has a really nifty post on a recent discovery about the biology of pentastomes. What's a pentastome? Oh, I am SO glad that you asked.

Every animal has its own parasites to worry about, but canivorous reptiles and amphibians have to deal with particularly gruesome ones. They can become infected with small, worm-like creatures called pentastomes that live inside their lungs, where they suck blood from ruptured blood vessels. Reptiles pick up the parasite when they eat infected prey.

Pentastomes are true escape artists. Once they realize they’ve entered a reptile stomach, they use their sharp hooks to claw themselves a way to the victim’s lungs. In an experiment where pentastomes were implanted in a gecko’s stomach, the parasites invaded the lungs in as little as four hours.


BTW: The image above, of a pentastome called Kiricephalus coarctatus, comes from a student page on the life and pests of the Western Cottonmouth snake. It's worth poking around that site, too.


    1. Dunno, the pic kinda looks a unicorn’s horn. Perhaps unicorns are just regular horses infected with magical pentastomes?

  1. “If the pentastome finds itself outside an organism, it attempts to get eaten again by disguising itself as a delicious cruller.”

  2. The name does indeed derive from the Greek for “five mouths” but pentastomes only have the one—they got the name because in some species the mouth looks very similar to the four adjacent hook-like limbs.

  3. Good Grief, Maggie.  Do any of your posts NOT remind us that Nature is full of ungodly, Cthulu-esque horrors determined to destroy us all?

    I mean, GAH.

    1. It’s not a nematode. They were placed on their own for a while, but now seem to be peculiarly reduced crustaceans.

  4. The screw shaped ridge in combination with the o-shaped ridges suggest two different kinds of metameric evolution, which in turn suggests fantasy, which suggests Photoshop. 

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