Last Friday Mark Carnall from the Grant Museum of Zoology provided a guest mystery object in the rather unpleasant looking form of this:
It looks a bit like part of a spinal column, but it isn’t. It looks like a worm of some kind, but it isn’t. So what is it?
David Craven and Dave Godfrey came through with the goods on this one. It is a parasitic crustacean related to the tongue worms (a misnomer because they are not worms at all) and it is in the genus Armillifer Sabon, 1922.
These parasites are mainly associated with reptiles and their life cycle involves eggs being passed into the environment where they are eaten by rodents in which the larval stage lives in an encysted form. The rodents are then eaten by snakes or predatory lizards, where the adult stage emerges and migrates to the respiratory tract where it will live and distribute eggs.
Humans do get this kind of parasite and some have even died, but that is very unusual and requires a very heavy load of the encysted larval stage (~100) see here for more info on this neglected tropical agent of disease. You are only likely to get that level of infestation if you make a habit of eating snakes, so be warned!