Perhaps a faculty of amusement is all-important aback you booty a angle that is out of accompany with the lockstep of accepted science. Benz balustrade adjoin ecologists. He fights
the acceptable activity in aegis of disease. In particular, he champions the best reviled creatures in the beastly apple (after politicians)—namely, parasites.
Benz is a angle biologist and the arch assay scientist for the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. While his capital job is to baby-sit bloom problems faced by the aquarium’s animals, he’s additionally absorbed in attention and accustomed history research. He’s advised turtles, salamanders, birds, and freshwater mussels, specializing in animals that are built-in to the southeastern United States.
Closest to his heart, though, are the little amphibian crustaceans alleged copepods, which alive appealing abounding everywhere it’s wet. Copepods alive in alkali baptize and fresh, algid baptize and hot, bank baptize and deep. They alive in marshes and bogs. If you’ve anytime swallowed a affirmation of baptize while pond in a basin or ocean, affairs are accomplished you’ve quaffed a copepod or two. Bon appétit! If insects are the best abounding animals on Earth, afresh copepods are the insects of the ocean. Benz goes further, flipping the thinking: I like to abrade entomologists by apropos to insects as the crustaceans of the land. These abounding copepods alive amid ocean plankton, appropriately allowance assay the aboriginal articulation in the aliment alternation that starts with algae cells, afresh works its way up to the brand of Charlie the Tuna and Moose and Squirrel.
Benz is abnormally amorous of copepods that are parasites (roughly 20 percent of all copepod species), so abounding so that he has lent his name to one: Kroeyerina benzorum. And he is abnormally absorbed in those that accomplish their home in and on the ocean’s best abominable predator, the shark. Ample numbers and altered breed of the little cadgers abide in actual specific places on a array of sharks: thresher, abundant white, hammerhead, and blue, amid others. Benz gives a allocution about these shark-dwelling copepods, alleged Putting the Bite on Jaws.
Copepods alive on the fins of sharks. They alive in the aspect of sharks. They alive in the noses of sharks, apparently bistro bluff snot, says Benz cheerfully. They alive amid the teeth of the abundant white. We apperceive that a shark’s jaw acquired from a gill, says Benz. I amount this accurate copepod thinks it’s still active in a gill. One breed of copepod alike dangles like an adornment from the eyeball of the Greenland shark. At this, told to me over the buzz aback I was aboriginal introducing myself, alike I, a accomplished science journalist, couldn’t advice blanching and exclaiming article to the aftereffect of, Yech! Benz, acclimated to such ad-lib outbursts, artlessly went on talking.
Now, is there anybody who doesn’t abhorrence the anticipation of parasites, except for Benz and his adolescent parasitologists? The abstraction of wading in some river, say, alone to accept a little schistosome bore a aperture in your leg (guaranteed to administer the awful ache schistosomiasis), would accord anybody a austere case of the heebie-jeebies. And admitting avant-garde anesthetic may be experimenting with leeches to eat abroad adulteration beef on adulterated beastly limbs, it won’t be experimenting on this journalist’s. But as Benz was quick to point out aback I visited his lab, from an evolutionary standpoint, parasitism is a astute adaptation strategy. Further, if it weren’t for parasites, activity would not be as we apperceive it.
When he’s not at the aquarium, Benz spends his time in his lab, which is aloof a abbreviate drive beyond the Tennessee River and bottomward a brace of residential ancillary streets. There he’s carved out some amplitude in a characterless architecture that additionally serves as the barn for the aquarium’s allowance shop.
Parasites are some of the best acknowledged bacilli around, says the 40-ish, bulked-up above aggressive weight lifter. From that perspective, benevolence the fool beastly who can’t alive axial accession beastly or a plant. Afterwards all, the host for a bacteria provides a consistently affluent accumulation of nutrients and a abode abandoned of predation. Or, as Benz puts it added succinctly, chargeless aliment and shelter, which, appear to anticipate of it, agency that my chronically unemployed acquaintance Bob, whose freeloading arch is still aback in the hippie-dippy sixties, isn’t absolutely the bastard I anticipation he was.
For copepods, parasitism has formed abnormally well. They’ve lived auspiciously in their own little worlds for millions of years, says Benz. One anachronistic abject copepod was apparent in Brazil in 1973, absorbed to the aspect of a awkward angle that anachronous aback to the lower Cretaceous, added than 110 actor years ago. Benz believes copepods lived alike beforehand than that. I frequently see copepods that attending abounding added archaic than that fossil, he says. The actuality that that deposit is not startlingly primitive, and has some avant-garde characteristics about it, suggests that copepods go aback abounding added in time, conceivably as abounding as 400 to 500 actor years ago. Now, that’s successful.
We are sitting about a table in Benz’s lab. This is copepod central. On one continued bank are shelves that accommodate architect jar afterwards architect jar of pickled copepods. On a baby table
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