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January 18, 2008



Here is a little parasie story I just came across.


PS- email e back, for some reason my mail program has eaten your email address!

Stephen in NZ

Thom H.

Interesting, but I was a little disappointed with the article. These two comments are an example of what I take exception to:

"According to researchers, this is a strategy concocted by nematodes to entice birds to eat the normally unpalatable ant and spread the parasite in their droppings."

"It's just crazy that something as dumb as a nematode can manipulate its host's exterior morphology and behavior in ways sufficient to convince a clever bird to facilitate transmission of the nematode," Dudley said.

It's no wonder people don't understand evolution when this is the kind of statements they see in popular science articles. Come on, nematodes don't concoct strategies and they are neither dumb nor smart with regard to their behaviors. Behaviors with reproductive advantage get passed on and amplified, there's no nematodal Thomas Edison out there. Scientists who make statements like the above annoy me to no end.

Then there's this quote:
"Yanoviak admits that they never saw a bird eat an ant's red gaster."

So this whole thing is an unproven hypothesis written up as if it is certainty. We need better science writing.


You know, Thom, I agree heartily. That struck me as a silly thing for him to say when I read the original article.

Though presumably if the nematodes are in the red ants, and the nematodes are in birds, there has to be some way.

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  • Diane A. Kelly
    Diane Kelly is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she studies the neural wiring and mechanical engineering of reproductive systems.
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    Jim Cambias writes science fiction and designs games in the lonely wilderness of Western Massachusetts.