Tales from the Crypt: a parasitoid manipulates the behaviour of its parasite host

I have a new paper out with Dr. Scott Egan, Dr. Andrew Forbes, and Sean Liu! The paper is Open Access in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Here is the abstract:

There are many examples of apparent manipulation of host phenotype by parasites, yet few examples of hypermanipulation—where a phenotype-manipulating parasite is itself manipulated by a parasite. Moreover, few studies confirm manipulation is occurring by quantifying whether the host’s changed phenotype increases parasite fitness. Here we describe a novel case of hypermanipulation, in which the crypt gall wasp Bassettia pallida (a phenotypic manipulator of its tree host) is manipulated by the parasitoid crypt-keeper wasp Euderus set, and show that the host’s changed behaviour increases parasitoid fitness. Bassettia pallida parasitizes sand live oaks and induces the formation of a ‘crypt’ within developing stems. When parasitized by E. set, B. pallida adults excavate an emergence hole in the crypt wall, plug the hole with their head and die. We show experimentally that this phenomenon benefits E. set, as E. set that need to excavate an emergence hole themselves are about three times more likely to die trapped in the crypt. In addition, we discuss museum and field data to explore the distribution of the crypt-keeping phenomena.

 

Rice University’s videographer Brandon Martin made an awesome video about our study system:

 

 

The absolutely amazing french cartoonist Boulet graciously did artwork illustrating our study system. The study system is a bit complicated, since it’s wasps infecting wasps and it all gets a little hard to follow. Boulet’s artwork does a fantastic job of laying the system out clearly:

 

We were blown away by all of the press coverage of the article. Below are some highlights:

Featured in:

The Atlantic

National Geographic

BBC World

Science

New Scientist (we made the front page!)

Rice University News

Popular Science

Gizmodo

Live Science

The Daily Mail

Phys.org

The Scientist

CBS News

Futurity

Postdoc with Dr. Ryan Hechinger (and me!)

We’re looking for a postdoc! See below!
——————
Postdoctoral Opportunity with the Marine Biology Research Division at SIO
Postdoctoral Scholar – Employee
Academic Division: Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Academic Department/Research Unit: Marine Biology Research Division
Disciplinary Specialty of Research: parasitology, physiology, behavior, fish, birds, ecology, estuaries
Description: The position will involve taking on a 1.5 year project in the Hechinger Lab at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. The project is part of a larger, international project. Collaborators include Dr. Øyvind Øverli (Norwegian University of Life Sciences) and Dr. Kelly Weinersmith (Rice University). The overall project weds parasitology, ecology, behavior, neurobiology, and omics. This post-doc will examine the impacts on estuarine birds by Euhaplorchis californiensis, a trematode parasite. The parasite uses birds as final hosts, but effects there are countered to unknown extent by the parasites modifying the behavior of the birds’ prey, the California killifish, making them easier to catch.
The current plan is for the post-doc to be lead a laboratory study using controlled exposures of final hosts (birds, rodents) to document the parasite impacts on those hosts. Impacts will be measured at least by growth rates and, likely, metabolic rates (respirometry). The post-doc may also be involved with other aspects of the project, including a field experiment using fish in enclosures to quantify how fish infection changes bird predation rates and success.
Salary/Stipend Information: NIH standard & based on years of postdoc experience
Qualifications and preferred academic background: Candidates should possess some or all of these attributes (some of which, including parasitological skills, can be learned on the job):
1. Ability to handle, maintain, and dissect birds and rodents.
2. Ability to do respirometry on air breathing vertebrates.
3. Ability to dissect fish, birds, and rodents, and quantify parasite abundance and body size.
4. Have good communication, organizational, collaborative skills.
5 viagra quebec. Have solid analytical skills. At least a working knowledge of general and generalized linear models. Dynamical modelling skills are a plus, but not required.
6. Proven writing/publication skills as indicated by published papers.
7. Experience or ability to deal with live, wild estuarine birds.
Appointment Length/Period: Appointment will start as early as 1 August 2016 and continue for 1.5 years.
Application procedure: Send an email with subject header “POST-DOC APPLICATION”, with an attachment of a single PDF file that includes a cover letter, CV, statement of research interests, and contact information for three references to Dr. Hechinger at rhechinger@ucsd.edu.
Application Closing Date: 24 Jun 2016

Science…sort of Episode 240: Moon Rocks Don’t Glow

I co-hosted an episode of Science…sort of recently. I pasted the show notes below, but you’ll have to head over to the Science…sort of page if you want to listen to it!

Show Notes

00:00:00 – Kelly is back and she’s got an update on some scientists that seem to have found a way to stem the spread of the chytrid fungus affecting all those poor froggies. Hope on the horizon? Maybe, but it’ll be a hard technique to apply large scale. We also spend some time talking about a Civil War story involving glowing wounds the help soldiers survive. A science fair project may have found the answer, but Ryan still thinks a body farm experiment needs to be done.

Sso_White00:28:10 – A stiff drink used to be the only painkiller you might get. Kelly’s drink isn’t stiff but it still provokes a strong reaction: water kefir. After painstakingly explaining what is and how she made it, Abe and Ryan have nothing good to say. Abe tries to salvage the conversation with some Romantic Chemistry, but alas it falls a bit short. Ryan tries to avoid Kelly’s wrath when talking about the Pinchgut Hollow Buckwheat Moonshine his Dad gave him.

00:40:50 – Did you know China has a rover on the moon? Turns out China has a rover on the moon. And it did some science! Researchers have announced that they’ve found a new type of lunar basalt. Sounds straightforward enough but Abe explains the complexities.

01:01:58 – PaleoPOWs are a lot like Chinese lunar rovers; most Americans don’t even know they exist. Kelly has an e-mail from former guest of the show Zeka Kuspa, who wants to know if the now extinct Condor louse makes her list of eradicated parasites. Abe reads an e-mail from Steven who’s asking for some help tracking down a particular SoCal beer. We don’t have a specific answer, but it sounds like he just needs to keep trying Imperial Pilsners. Ryan rounds out the show with a new recurring donationfrom Leong all the way in Taiwan. Thanks, Leong! Ryan, of course, plugs his ongoing crowdfunding campaign, go watch the video and consider donating here!

Thanks for listening and be sure to check out the Brachiolope Media Network for more great science podcasts!

Books on parasites

I’m often asked by students to suggest books they can read about parasites. Below is a list of books that I’ve read and enjoyed. The list will be updated over time. Please feel free to suggest books that I should add to the list in the comments.

Textbooks or textbook-like books

 

 

Host Manipulation by Parasites edited by David Hughes, Jacques Brodeur, and Frédéric Thomas

 

Foundations of Parasitology (textbook) by Larry Roberts and John Janovy Jr.

 

Evolutionary Parasitology by Paul Schmid-Hempel

 

 

 

Parasitism and Ecosystems edited by Frédéric Thomas, François Renaud, and Jean-François Guégan (thanks to Alex Ley for reminding me to include this great book)

 

More pop sci-esque parasite books

 

 

This book played a huge role in my decision to become a parasitologist. Highly recommend.

 

 

Stories about how we become connected to our parasites through our long co-evolutionary history.

 

People, Parasites, and Plowshares by Dickson Despommier

 

This book is about one of my favorite topics: What have parasites “learned” through the process of natural selection about how human physiology works? How can we take the lessons these parasites have learned and use them to treat human disease?

 

 

Amazing stories of past and present parasites that jumped from wild hosts to human hosts. Also lots of stories about scientists being badasses.

 

 

Robert Desowitz talks about his experiences working with parasites (particularly neglected tropical diseases), and the people infected with these parasites.  He is an amazing story-teller, and really connects the reader with the human-suffering caused by these diseases.

 

 

More stories from Robert Desowitz.

 

 

The mind-blowing story about how D.A. Henderson led the battle against smallpox, and all of the hurdles he had to jump through in order to eradicate this disease.

 

 

An extremely well-researched overview of the Hygiene Hypothesis.  Moises Velasquez-Manoff provides a balanced view of the evidence for and against this hypothesis, and walks the reader through his experience with helminth therapy to treat his autoimmune diseases.

My talk from the Future is Here Festival

Rick Karnesky and Rebecca Cohen from Nerd Nite East Bay invited me to give a talk at an event called The Future is Here Festival. The event was run by Nerd Nite and Smithsonian Magazine, and the second day of the event was the Nerd Nite Global Fest. There were a bunch of really amazing talks, and I feel very lucky to have had an opportunity to speak with this amazing group of people. Here is my talk from the event: