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Baby Lagarto, meet Mr. Nematode, you have a lot in common….

Identifying Alligator ParasitesWeek 13 of pregnancy: I started to feel normal again… slightly. Fatigue began to fade away in comparison to the last several weeks. I didn’t necessarily feel like I need to take 1 or 2 naps/day for hours at a time. And if I wasn’t napping, I wasn’t wasting time working via the non-stop need to eat and drink. For someone that is physically active and LOVES their work, feeling tired ALL day even sleeping 8-9 hours/night was worse than having severe nausea or morning sickness all day! Not being able to get enough work done (for me at least) has been the worst part of pregnancy. But I do what I can, and I am ABSOLUTELY GRATEFUL that my symptoms are pretty much nil otherwise.

gator nematodesSo with the energy coming back, I was back on my microscope full force this past week identifying and getting up close and personal with parasites the Class Nematoda. Nematodes are one of the most diverse classes within the Kingdom Animalia, and are equally diverse in life styles. For example, there are free-living worms and parasitic worms; there are some species in which all are female (or parthenogenic), and there are others that are dioecious (male and female, like humans!).

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Ancylostoma duodenale

Necator americanus

Necator americanus

Nematodes, particularly parasitic nematodes, and humans have had a unique evolutionary history with each other, and this relationship has set cultural customs and stereotypes all over the world! Wanna know how people of the Southern US got that stereotype of people slow and dumb? You can thank the hookworms Necator americanus and Ancylostoma duodenale. This parasite which digs a hole into people’s skin and wiggles their way into the bloodstream, to finally settle in a human intestine, literally sucks the life out of its host, causing fatigue, anemia, nausea, pica, etc. This parasite was rapid in the south due to the lack of infrastructure or improper set-up of latrines, and the lack of wearing shoes. You see, the eggs of the parasite pass out of the human via human feces. The worm hatches out of the egg, and the life cycle (simply described above) begins all over again. So, what happened in the South was people continuously re-infected themselves by defecating in their backyards, and then pretty much Cletus_Spucklerwalking barefoot in their fecal backyard of paradise, increasing their chances of becoming infected, especially in high numbers. Around the early 1900s that the US government realized proper hygiene and infrastructure could help eradicate or reduce the amount of hookworm infections. Today, even though hookworm infection isn’t has highly prevalent as in the past, it definitely left a cultural stigma of the people of the South, that unfortunately, still remains today (think of the Simpsons!).

So given what I’ve read, even at 13 weeks my little Lagarto (that’s the nickname for the baby) can “hear” and sense vibrations. So I figured it was a good time to start educating this baby on what Mama does, and given my work task at the moment, it was time to learn about Nematodes! I read out loud about nematodes from a section in a book, and as I identified parasites, I talked out loud how Mama was deciphering and identifying the parasites. “The esophagus of this nematode is not a stichosome- a bunch of glandular cells free in the pseudocoelm, so it is not from the subclass Adenophorea, but Subclass Secerentea…” Yup, I was doing that. Never too early to start educating your kids!

Besides learning about nematodes, Lagarto got to hear Mama talk about her work in Belize, 10933856_772076249546598_8716868069182516369_nparticularly on Ambergris Caye, on a morning TV Show via Skype. I was asked by the running candidate for mayor of San Pedro from the VIP party in Belize to go on TV and discuss the problems of human impact on the island of San Pedro via my research results. It was 5am my time, and with my colleague and buddy Chris Summers from ACES, we talked about our concerns about the impact of pollution, rapid development, improper infrastructure on the ecosystem around Ambergris Caye, and how these factors can affect the economy and livelihood of the people, and wildlife, of San Pedro. From what I know, it was well-received and people are more aware of their impact, and the repercussions of their actions. Hopefully, the proper leadership will be put in place on March 4th, and make a positive change for the people, and the ecosystem, of Ambergris Caye.

So Lagarto and I have had a busy, yet productive, last week- learning, increasing our expertise of nematode parasites, and educating others about the negative impacts humans can have on the ecosystem and themselves. It was a good week. But I’m wondering, with all this talk of parasite and crocodiles that Lagarto is constantly bombarded with, what will be her first word???? Will it be “crocodile” or “parasimorelette”??????ragtime-alien

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