Category Archives: Friday Fellow

Friday Fellow: Large Roundworm of Pigs

by Piter Kehoma Boll

It’s time to go back to the roundworms and to the parasites once more. Probably one of the most famous roundwors is the large roundworm of humans, Ascaris lumbricoides, but today I’m going to talk about its closest relative, the large roundworm of pigs, Ascaris suum.

Found worlwide, the large roundworm of pigs, as its name implies, infects pigs. It is a large worm of the phylum Nematoda and is very similar to the large roundworm of humans, the main difference being simply that the former infects pigs and the latter infects humans.

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A typical male (top) and female (bottom) of Ascaris suum. Photo by Wikimedia user VlaminckJ.*

The adult worms live in the intestine of pigs and show sexual dimorphism. Males are smaller, measuring 13–31 cm in length and have a curled posterior end. Females are larger, measuring 20–49 cm and do not have the curled posterior end. They have a light pink to whitish color and may occur in large quantities inside the host.

When sexually mature, a female can lay up to 200 thousand eggs per day and have up to 27 million eggs in its uteri. The eggs are eliminated with the pig feces and remain in the environment where the embryo starts its development. As soon as the eggs are eaten by a pigg, the eggs hatch and the larvae crawl into the walls of the large intestine and reach the bloodstream, being carried to the liver and from there to the lungs. In the lungs, they reach the alveoli and start to migrate upward toward the trachaea and are coughed up and swallowed by the pig, reaching the intestine again. There, they remain in the small intestine and complete their development into adults.

The great similarity of Ascaris suum and Ascaris lumbricoides implicate that they have a recent common ancestor which may have split into the two species after humans started to raise pigs. Eventually Ascaris suum may also infect humans and Ascaris lumbricoides may infect pigs too, but they seem to have a preference and an improved development in their “traditional” host. Molecular studies indicate that the populations of both species seem to be considerable isolated, but there have been some eventual hybridizations, suggesting that they are yet in the process of become fully separate species.

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References:

Leles, D.; Gardner, S. L.; Reinhard, K.; Iñiguez, A.; Araujo, A. (2012) Are Ascaris lumbricoides and Ascaris suum a single species? Parasite and Vector5: 42. https://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1756-3305-5-42

Wikipedia. Ascaris suum. Available at: < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ascaris_suum >. Access on November 6, 2017.

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Friday Fellow: Duckweed Chain Flatworm

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Today we have one more flatworm in our team. It is part of the most bizarre group of flatworms, the so-called Catenulida. Our fellow is called Catenula lemnae, which I adapted as the “duckweed chain flatworm”.

The duckweed chain flatworm is a very small animal, measuring about 0.1 mm in width and about two or three times this size in length. It is found worldwide in freshwater lakes and ponds and is likely a complex of species, but more detailed studies are needed to make it clear. As other catenulids, it lives close to the substract, being considered a benthic animal, and feeds on other smaller organisms, such as small invertebrates and algae. It is usually a dominant species in the community of benthic microanimals, such as microturbellarians, in places where it is found.

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A chain of several connected individuals (zooids) of Catenula lemnae. Photo by Christopher Laumer.*

The word catenula, meaning “little chain” in Latin, was given to these animals because of their peculiar way of vegetative reproduction. The organism frequently divides transversally close to the posterior end, giving rise to new organisms that are genetically identical to the original one. However, the new animals often remain connected to each other for a long time before splitting, and as this asexual reproduction continues, it eventually turn them into a chain of connected individuals (called zooids). This chain swims elegantly using its cilia as if it were a single individual.

Most recent studies mentioning the duckeed chain flatworm are simply surveys of the species composition of a certain area or broad phylogenetic studies on the catenulids or flatworms in general. Little is known about the ecology, behavior and population structuring of this species, unfortunately.

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References:

Braccini, J. A. L.; Leal-Zanchet, A. M. (2013)  Turbellarian assemblages in freshwater lagoons in southern Brazil. Invertebrate Biology132(4): 305–314. https://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ivb.12032

Marcus, E. (1945) Sôbre Catenulida brasileiros. Boletim da Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras da Universidade de São Paulo, série Zoologia, 10: 3–113.

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Friday Fellow: Chinese Magnolia Vine

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Coming from the forests of Northern China, Korea and Eastern Russia, our newest fellow is a woody vine called Schisandra chinensis and populary known as Chinese magnolia vine.

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The beautiful red fruits of the Chinese magnolia vine. Photo by Vladimir Kosolapov.*

Used in Chinese traditional medicine, the plant is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs. The part of the plant most commonly used are the berries, which are known as magnolia berries or five-flavor-fruits. The second name is a translation of the Chinese name, 五味子 (wǔwèizi), because the berry is said to contain all five basic Chinese flavors: salty, sweet, sour, spicy and bitter. An infusion prepared with the dried fruits is called omija tea or omija-cha, from the Korean name of the fruits.

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A cup of omija tea. Photo by Raheel Shahid.**

The traditional uses of the Chinese magnolia vine included the treatment of disorders related mainly to the sexual organs. Several current studies by laboratory trials indicated that the plant has a large number of beneficial properties, including antioxidant properties and the ability to increase endurance, working ability, accuracy of movements and mental ability. It also seems to be useful in the treatment of several diseases and disorders, especially inflamatory ones, such as sinusitis, otitis, neuritis, dermatitis and gastritis, as well as on some infectious diseases such as influenza and pneumonia, among many other conditions.

I’m certainly interested in trying a cup of omija tea. What about you? Have you ever had the chance?

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References:

Panossian, A.; Wikman, G. (2008) Pharmacology of Schisandra chinensis Bail.: An overview of Russian research and uses in medicine. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 118(2): 183-212. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2008.04.020

Wikipedia. Schisandra chinensis. Available at < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schisandra_chinensis >. Access on October 31, 2017.

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Friday Fellow: Brown Mussel

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Until now, the mollusks featured here included a chiton, a cephalopod and two gastropods. So it is time to bring a bivalve. And what would be better than showing you a common mollusk from the South Atlantic Ocean?

Living on rocky shores around South America and Africa, our fellow is called Perna perna, or populary brown mussel. In places where it lives, it can be found in great concentrations, sometimes covering large areas of rocks. It usually measures about 90 mm in length, but some larger specimens may reach up to 120 mm. The increased surface area on the rocks they occupy attract other rock-living marine species, such as barnacles, limpets, snails and algae.

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Some specimens of Perna perna growing on an oyster in South Africa. Photo by Bernadette Hubbart.*

The brown mussel is a filter feeder, as most bivalves, feeding on suspended organic matter, as well as on small microrganisms, such as phytoplankton and zooplankton. As a prey, it is eaten by a variety of animals, such as sea birds, crustaceans and mollusks. Humans also consume it in both South America and Africa. Its ingestion, however, must be cautious, as it may contain toxins from dinoflagellates that it ingested, as well as heavy metals from water pollutants.

Spread through the world by humans after attaching itself on ships, the brown mussel has become invasive in other parts, especially in the Gulf of Mexico, and it continues to increase its occupied area. This can have deleterious effects both ecologically and economically, as it may displace native species and also cause damage to human equipments. It is, therefore, one more species that became a problem due to us, humans. And the damage will not be easy to be repared.

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References:

Ferreira, A. G.; Machado, A. L. S.; Zalmon, I. R. (2004) Temporal and spatial variation on heavy metal concentrations in the bivalve Perna perna (LINNAEUS, 1758) on the northern coast of Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil. Brazilian Archives of Biology and Technology 47(2): 319–327. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1516-89132004000200020

Holland, B. S. (2001) Invasion without a bottleneck: microsatellite variation in natural and invasive populations of the brown mussel Perna perna (L). Marine Biotechnology 3, 407–415. https://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s1012601-0060-Z

Wikipedia. Perna perna. Available at: < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perna_perna >. Access on October 21, 2017.

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Friday Fellow: Yellow Morel

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Time for our next fungus, and this time it is a delicious one, or at least I think so, as I have never eaten it. Scientifically known as Morchella esculenta, its common names include common morel, yellow morel, true morel or simply morel.

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A fruiting body of the yellow morel in France. Photo by Henk Monster.*

Common in North America and Europe, as well as in some parts of Asia, especially in wooden areas, the yellow morel is a popular edible fungus of the phylum Ascomycota, so it is not closely related to the more common mushrooms, but it is a relative of the truffles, for example.

Morels are usually easily recognizable due to their peculiar appearance. Appearing during spring, their fruiting body is more or less oval in shape, covered with irregular pits and ridges, and hollow.

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An open morel showing its hollowness. Photo by Wikimedia user 00Amanita00.*

Although being one of the most highly prized mushrooms, morels can give you some undesirable effects, such as gastrointestinal problems, if eaten raw or if too old. So, it is advisable to eat young mushrooms and at least blanching them before consumption. As they are hollow, it is common to eat them stuffed with vegetables or meat.

Pharmacological and biochemical studies revealed that the yellow morel has many healthy properties, such as the presence of antioxidants and substances that stimulate the immune system, as well as anti-inflammatory and antitumour properties. It is certainly a food that is worth to include in our diet, too bad that is tends to be kind of expensive…

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References:

Duncan, C. J. G.; Pugh, N.; Pasco, D. S.; Ross, S. A. (2002) Isolation of galactomannan that enhances macrophage activation from the edible fungs Morchella esculentaJournal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 50(20): 5683–5695. DOI: 10.1021/jf020267c

Mau, J.-L.; Chang, C.-N.; Huang, S.-J.; Chen, C.-C. (2004) Antioxidant properties of methanolic extracts from Grifola frondosa, Morchella esculenta and Termitomyces albuminosus mycelia. Food Chemistry, 87(1): 111-118.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2003.10.026

Nitha, B.; Meera, C. R.; Janardhanan, K. K. (2007) Anti-inflammatory and antitumour activities of cultured mycelium of morel mushroom, Morchella esculentaCurrent Science, 92(2): 235–239.

Wikipedia. Morchella esculenta. Available at < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morchella_esculenta >. Access on October 31, 2017.

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Friday Fellow: Common Latticed Sponge

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Let’s go back to the sea and to our distant animal relatives, the sponges. Today I’m bringing a calcareous sponge with a nice appearance, Clathrina clathrus, who I decided to call “the common latticed sponge”.

Found in the Mediterranean Sea and the European coast of the Atlantic Ocean, the common latticed sponge has a yellow color and about 10 cm in diameter. It is formed by a tangle of tubes that somewhat resemble a twisted lattice or something like that.

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A specimen of Clathrina clathrus with its latticed appearance. Photo by Wikimedia user Esculapio.*

The shape and size of the specimens is quite variable, changing in a matter of hours by expansion, contraction and folding of structures and cells. In the same way, specimens often fragment into smaller ones or merge into larger ones, so that individuality is a dynamic process.

Recently, the common latticed sponge has revealed to contain some compounds, known as clathridimines, that show antimicrobial activities against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, as well as against the yeast Candida albicans. These compounds may be produced by the diverse community of bacteria that live in close association with this sponge, a community that is yet very little known.

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References:

Gaino, E.; Pansini, M.; Pronzato, R.; Cicogna, F. (1991) Morphological and structural variations in Clathrina clathrus (Porifera, Calcispongiae). In.: Reitner, J.; Keupp, H. (Eds.) Fossil and Recent Sponges. Springer-Verlag, Berlin. pp. 360-371.

Quévrain, E.; Roué, M.; Domart-Coulon, I.; Bourguet-Kondracki, M.-L. (2014) Assessing the potential bacterial origin of the chemical diversity in calcareous sponges. Journal of Marine Science and Technology 22(1): 36-49.

Roué, M.; Domart-Coulon, I.; Ereskovsky, A.; Djediat, C.; Perez, T.; Bourguet-Kondracki, M.-L. (2010) Cellular localization of clathridimine, an antimicrobial 2-aminoimidazole alkaloid produced by the Mediterranean calcerous sponge Clathrina clathrusThe Journal of Natural Products 73(7): 1277–1282.

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Friday Fellow: Sea Sparkle

by Piter Kehoma Boll

If you live near the sea or visit it often, you may sometimes have seen the waves glowing while breaking on the shore at night. This beautiful phenomenon is caused by the presence of bioluminescent microorganisms, the most famous of which is our newest Friday Fellow. Scientifically known as Noctiluca scintillans, it is populary known as the sea sparkle.

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Waves glowing blue at Atami, Japan. Photo by Kanon Serizawa.*

The sea sparkle is a dinoflagellate and is common worlwide. It is an heterotrophic flagellate and feeds on many other small organisms, such as bacteria, diatoms, other dinoflagellates and even eggs of copepods and fish. Having only a small tentacle and a rudimentar flagellum, the sea sparkle is unable to swim, making it a very unusual predator. Studies have suggested that it preys by bumping into the prey during water flow or by ascending or descending in the water column due to density differences. It can also produce a string of mucus attached to the tentacle that entagles prey and brings them to their horrible end.

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A single Noctiluca scintillans. Photo by Maria Antónia Sampayo, Instituto de Oceanografia, Faculdade Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa.**

In temperate waters, the sea sparkle is an exclusive predator, but in tropical water it may maintain some of the ingested algae alive and use them in a symbiotic association to receive nutrients from photosynthesis. Diatoms of the genus Thalassiosira appear to be one of its favorites.

The most striking feature of the sea sparkle, however, is its bioluminescence, from which it receives its names. The light that it emits is produced by a chemical reaction between a compound called luciferin and an enzyme, called luciferase, that oxidizes it, causing it to emit light. The phenomenon is clearly visible on the sea during blooms of the dinoflagellate, which usually happen right after a bloom of its food.

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References:

Kiørbe, T.; Titelman, J. (1998) Feeding, prey selection and prey encounter mechanisms in the heterotrophic dinoflagellate Noctiluca scintillansJournal of Plankton Research 20(8): 1615–1636.

Quevedo, M.; Gonzalez-Quiros, R.; Anadon, R. (1999) Evidence of heavy predation by Noctiluca scintillans on Acartia clausi (Copepoda) eggs of the central Cantabrian coast (NW Spain). Oceanologica Acta 22(1): 127–131.

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