Curtuteria Australis: The Body Snatching Parasite

The Real Life Body-Snatching Parasite

This is the true story of the body-snatching parasite, Curtuteria australis, which takes over multiple hosts during its lifecycle.

Curtuteria australis, or Curt because it's easier to write, is a parasitic flatworm who doesn't have an easy life.

Curtuteria Doesn't Have An Easy Life

What Happened Soldier?

Abort Mission!

Curt is born as a larval worm inside the belly of an oyster-catcher bird. Naturally, he soon finds himself in the faeces of the bird.

Landing Module AKA Oystercatcher Bird Turd

And is delivered smartly onto the ground of the New Zealand mudflats.

A Perfect Landing

Safely landing within the bird-turd—I mean, state-of-the-art space vessel—Curt and his siblings hatch.

Scouting The Mud Flats

That's where the easy ride ends. Almost immediately, Curtuteria australis and friends are eaten by whelks.

If you're not up to speed with your marine taxonomy, whelks are an apparently delicious type of sea snail.

Whelks Consuming Curtuteria Australis

I Was One of The Lucky Ones

It Was Dark and Cold

You Were Inside The Monster's Gut?

Good question, Sergeant. The answer lies in the second stage of Curtuteria's bizarre lifecycle:

Because that's how Curtuteria australis does business.

Next, still in the belly of the whelk, Curt cocoons up and undergoes asexual reproduction to create free-swimming baby worms. Curt, in his new baby worm form, is released out the anus of the whelk.

Into the ocean.

Ever Taken a Dump in The Ocean?

Swept Away By The Tides

Have you ever tried to survive being eaten and shat out, only to be carried away by the tide to die?

Then Things Got Bad

The Kraken

Now when I say Kraken, I'm actually talking about a type of shellfish called a cockle (Austrovenus stutchburyi).

Not above ingesting the anal excrement of a sea snail, the cockle happily sucks in Curt with its inhalant siphon.

Inside The Kraken

How Did You Survive?

Curt migrates down to the cockle's foot, and begins to burrow into it.

Further Deep Inside The Kraken's Lair

You'd think you'd be relatively safe living inside the cockle's foot, no? I mean, it's not exactly going to attack his own foot to spite you, is it?


Fortunately, no. But then this happens.

Shark Attack

Who knew that the tip of the cockle's foot is a typical snack for the foot-cropping Spotty fish, Notolabrus celidotus?

Cartoon of Soldier Hiding

How to Survive Life in a Cockle

A Fiendish Predicament


Good Grief, Hell No, Soldier

We Hardened Our Bunkers

In other words, they form cysts, and the clever little Curts render the cockle's foot useless. For a cyst-filled foot can no longer dig into the sand.

Success! The cockle is beached!

The Kraken is Beached!

Did I Mention There Was a Dragon?

Jehovah's Balls

Of course, you realise the dragon is an oystercatcher bird. Having been eaten by the oystercatcher, Curtuteria australis ends up back inside the belly of the bird.

Home Sweet Mothership

Lifecycle of Curtuteria Australis

And the stupidly complex and high-risk lifecycle of Curtuteria australis can start anew.

Source: National Geographic: Body Snatching Parasites

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Pete Casale Bio

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pete Casale is a tech-hound and an illustrator who got roped into blogging for Science Me. He's also the designer on the RTS indie game, Battlecruisers.

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