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Anelasma squalicola and Etmopterus spinax



*Update* (09/09/2014) - I have written a blog post about this parasite here:

Anelasma squalicola is a very peculiar barnacle. Unlike most barnacles that make a living by attaching onto a rock or other hard substrate and filtering tiny zooplankton to eat, it has evolved to be a parasite of the velvet belly lantern shark (Etmopterus spinax). Unlike parasitic barnacles like Sacculina (… ) which has completely transformed into something completely unrecognisable as a barnacle, Anelasma still retain some characteristics of its ancestral state.

It still have the limbs of a barnacles (called cirri), but they have been reduced down to a non-functional state (as I crudely described it here:… ), rather like the vestigial wings of a kiwi or the hind limbs of a baleen whale. Instead, it embeds a bulb-like part of its body into the flesh of its shark host. This bulb is covered in a web of fine rootlets, like that of a plant, which draws nutrients directly from the host's body.

I recently had the opportunity to write a Dispatch about this parasite for Current Biology (… ). The Dispatch was about a new paper that came out in the same journal which indicates  the closely living relatives of this parasites are, surprisingly enough, intertidal goose barnacles (… ).

I've also written a blog post about this parasite on the Parasite of the Day blog…
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EmmetEarwax's avatar
It is calculated that at least 50% of all species of animals  are commensals, symbiotes, or parasites. So much for earth being life-FRIENDLY.