Monday, January 25, 2010

Branchellion torpedinis - parasite of the day.

In honor of the International Year of Biodiversity, my good friend and colleague Susan Perkins established a blog that designates a quaint quotidian critter as Parasite of the Day, for each and every day of 2010.

Today's entry is the enigmatic elasmobranch ectoparasite, Branchellion torpedinis (submitted by Al Dove of the Georgia Aquarium).

By way of adding to his contribution, please find below here two additional pics of the beautiful frilly leech:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Industrial Leech Husbandry

A recent video piece from Reuters showcases the "International Leech Center" in Udelnaya, outside of Moscow. Alas, and uncritically, the piece gives voice to the local belief (and one that prevailed in European medicine the 1800s) that leeches are a cure-all. Among other things, we are told that they "boost the body's immune system" and "the level of endorphins". I can't find any scientific evidence of (or even studies on) the latter. And while it is true that leeches can induce an immune response, it typically is not a pleasant one. My own exposure to North American medicinal leeches induces what appears to be a delayed-type immune response leading to massive swelling in the afflicted extremity, peaking about 72 hrs after the bite.

Leeches for Learning

Anna Phillips (my student working on medicinal leech diversity) continues her considerable efforts at educating the youth of this nation on the beauty of leeches. The Mount Airy News covered her visit to J.J. Jones Intermediate School in Anna's own home town. Locally she has been involved in the after school programs here at AMNH and she also teaches as a substitute in the science program at the Spence School.