Ben Lee's Reviews > Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature's Most Dangerous Creatures

Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer
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's review
May 16, 2007

really liked it
Read in May, 2005

We all love to hear a good love story. Here's a good one taken from Parasite Rex, by Carl Zimmer. Start the sappy romantic music now.

"Here the fluke lodges itself in a vessel and finally has its first meal since leaving the snail: a drop of blood. It now begins to mature. If it's a female, a uterus starts to take shape. If it's a male, eight testes form like a bunch of grapes. In either case, the fluke grows dozens of times bigger in a few weeks. Now it is time for the parasite to search for a partner for life. If it is lucky, other flukes sniffed out this human host and are lodged in the liver as well. The females are delicate and slender; the males are shaped something like a canoe. They begin to make blood-borne odors that lure members of the opposite sex, and once a female encounters a male, she slips into his spiny trough. There she locks in, and the male carries her out of the liver. Over the course of a couple of weeks, the pair make the long journey from the liver to the veins that fan out across the gut. As they travel the male passes molecules into the female's body that tell her genes to make her sexually mature. They keep traveling until they reach a resting place unique to their own species. Schistosoma mansoni stops near the large intestine. If we were following Schistosoma haemotobium , it would take another route to the bladder. If we were following Schistosoma nasale, a blood fluke of cows, it would take yet another route to the nose.
Once they find their destined place, the fluke couple stay there for the rest of their lives. The male drinks blood with his powerful throat and massages the female to help thousands of blood cells flow into her mouth and through her gut; he consumes his own weight in glucose every five hours and passes on most of it to her. They may be the most monogamous couples in the animal kingdom--a male will clasp onto its female even after she has died. (A few homosexual flukes will also get together. While their fit isn't as tight, they will keep reuniting if a disapproving scientist should separate them.)"

The liver, what a romantic place to meet. Haha, speaking of liver, it reminds me of a joke about a Chinese man looking for love...but it's one of those jokes you gotta hear. It doesn't work reading it.
Think of this love story next time you eat grapes... hahahahaha...

Read more about Schistosoma at Wikipedia.

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