In the course of writing DEEP BLUE HOME I followed a long tapewormlike thread about parasites, which consumed my vital nutrients and left me skinny of ideas for days. The thread never made the final cut. Maybe it'll hatch in larval form in a new book. For now, I pass it to you.
"Not all symbioses are beneficial for both partners—what biologists call mutualism. By far the most prevalent and most highly-evolved symbioses are parisitic (Greek para: beside; sitos: food; literally one who eats at another's table). In fact what we refer to as individuals—whether crabs, kelp or humans—are actually mixed-species aggregates sharing the body equitably enough, for the most part, to prevent the death of the host. Healthy sea lions can bear without seeming ill effect five pounds of parasites of at least twenty species. The fin whales roaming the Gulf of California, second largest of all living creatures at up to 88 feet in length, host equally gargantuan nematode (Greek nema: thread) worms reaching 23 feet in length."
Image (top): Formalin-fixed whole mount of a spiral nematode, multiple exposure (160x), Darkfield. / Jon D. Eisenback, North Carolina State University. Courtesy of Nikon Small World, a 1985 runner-up.
Image: J. Claire Hoving, Section of female Nippostrongylus brasiliensis (nematode) with eggs (200X), Nikon Small World