Creepy Crawly Discoveries

Skin Eater

Skin Eater

Image via – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microcaecilia

Skin Eating Worm Species Discovered

In French Guiana, biologists discovered a creature which certainly lived up to the world-wide folklore which has it that mothers will often sacrifice a great deal for their offspring, this most giving mother creature a newly discovered amphibian – Microcaecilia dermatophaga –  which feeds those offspring with her own skin.

This new species name actually means  little skin-eating caecilian – one of only four known such species whose young feed this way – being animals that appear to be a cross between a worm and a snake, but are in fact legless amphibians  older than the dinosaurs, though nowadays, such creatures only live in the moist tropics and most are found living underground.

As stomach churning as we might find this idea for feeding the kids, it is actually very practical, as the mother worm grows an extra layer of fat-rich skin which her young – having specialized skin-eating teeth – can then scrape it off and eat it as they grow toward maturity, these special teeth being replaced as they grow older with pointier ones that are more adapted to their adult diet of worms and termites.

Finding another such skin-feeding species gives researchers a better understanding of when this trait actually evolved, and if it is a key characteristic for many species. Caecilians may have developed this specialised maternal care very early on in their evolution, which according to molecular estimates is probably around 250 million years ago,  making caecilians genuine survivors in evolutionary terms, and really quite extraordinary creatures.

Gruesome Parasite that Hangs Around

Adult Blood Flike

Adult Blood Flike

Images via – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schistosoma

A parasitic disease -schistosomiasis – which  affects 230 million people annually, and second only to malaria in the number of people impacted – is not usually deadly, but the chronic effects of can be especially damaging in children. The affliction is caused by Blood Flukes, or schistosomes –  parasitic flatworms capable of living inside human hosts for decades.

These horrific creatures hatch in water contaminated by faeces, hitching a ride into the human body on a tiny snail host that burrows through skin – what has now come to light is the disturbing news that the reason Blood Flukes live so long is that they contain stem cells which allow them to regenerate. Even more horrifying is the lifestyle they enjoy inside their human hosts.

 The mature into adults, feeding on blood and finding a partner to mate with, females then laying eggs continuously, those not being excreted becoming embedded inside internal organs, often leading to chronic inflammation and serious tissue damage. The research team  suspected the creatures might have regenerative properties enabling them to re-form from slivers 1/300th of their original size, due to neoblasts – stem cells which can become almost any cell type. This makes the eradication of Blood Flukes extremely difficult, once they have become established.


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4 Comments

  1. Sandra Johnson
  2. Tony H Leather

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