Marine Mammal Parasite of the Month- July 2019


This parasite is not necessarily tricky; it is in fact very common. Not only does this parasite infect seals on the east coast but it is also found on the west coast infecting seals that are not its primary host. Sometimes this parasite will go into organs that it does not go into in its primary host, which can be detrimental to those seal populations. This parasite is also stumping scientists because molecular assays designed to pick it up are not picking it up. It is thought that because this parasite infects seals on both coasts, it is speciating.

Distinctive features of the males of this parasite are their bursal rays and spicules. This parasite has a transparent cuticle and an oral opening without lips. Another anatomical feature of this parasite is that it has a pharynx that is short and muscular.


What is this parasite?

What is its primary host? What other hosts does it infect?

What illnesses does this parasite cause?


Posted by Maddy G

Maddy is a summer 2019 intern at the National Marine Life Center. She is a recent graduate of Smith College.