|Unfairly Hated Creatures - Parasitic Worms
|Photo credits unknown unless otherwise noted. Please e-mail me if you own these images.
|If you've read my first article on cracked.com, you may have gained a newfound respect
for roaches, rats, mosquitoes, wasps or bacteria, but a fair amount of additional content
was ultimately scrapped by the editors for various reasons. As an accessory to the article,
enjoy my un-used writeup on the animals who may or may not be wriggling through your
digestive system as we speak...
Alright, so we've established that such widely despised animals as the cockroach and the
maggot are useful or at least inconsequential to society, but if there's one thing in nature
the entire free world has unrelenting disdain for, it's parasites. The very word is hurled as
an insult for one who fails to justify their own existence, and even science once considered
parasites the very antithesis of evolutionary progress; a degenerate shortcut for species
that couldn't cut it outside of a lizard's anus.
While the timber wolf peeling gory chunks from the bones of a buffalo is an embodiment of
all nature's raw, poetic majesty, we can only look down our noses at the spineless,
brainless fluke that so quietly and painlessly hangs off its pancreas.
Strip away our abstract, objective romanticism for a moment, and that slimy little worm is
actually living the more demanding, more sophisticated lifestyle, wielding an arsenal of
biochemical trickery to cloak itself against the wolf's immune system, resist enzymes
capable of breaking down metal, compete with dozens of other parasites and eventually
pass its offspring to an entirely different animal.
Every non-parasitic species on the planet is believed to host at least one unique species
of parasite, and while some varieties do cause nightmarish agony and death, the vast
majority have evolved to cause as little discomfort as possible, and their hosts evolved
with their presence in mind all along; recent studies seem to link the prevalence of asthma
and other immune disorders to our self-imposed hookworm deficiency, one lead
parasitologist claims to have cured himself of allergies by giving himself tapeworm, and
one university is researching whip-worm as a treatment for bowel disease. These
creatures freely wriggled through our ancestor's entrails for tens of millions of years, so it
shouldn't be surprising that our bodies aren't really accustomed to an uninhabited colon.
|A healthy body is a happy body.
|Parasites are now thought to be one of the most widely influential forces in the entire
natural order. Predation may be what prevents a species from overcrowding and
destroying itself, but it's the parasites who make predation happen, effectively feeding
animals to other animals to such an extent that to purge them from an ecosystem would be
to plunge it into chaos. Without their subtle influence, many species would breed out of
control while others dwindled to extinction, and you could throw natural selection right out
Some have even proposed that parasites may have had a major hand (or sucker) in the
very evolution of sex, so it's entirely possible that we wouldn't enjoy porn if our ancestors
weren't crawling with pinworm. Sure, this all still boils down to our bodies attempting to
resist them, but think of it as a form of tough love; in the evolutionary arms race, parasitic
worms are a lot like the High School bully whose harmless but infuriating assaults were an
encouragement to do something better with your life. We may find them alien and even
disturbing, but in the end, it's parasites that oil the nature machine's hinges. Possibly with