Marine Mammal Parasite of the Month- October 2021
This parasite is a helminth, also known as a parasitic worm, in the Trematoda class. It’s classified as a flatworm called a fluke and is found in cetaceans, primarily those in the family Dephinidae. It been found in bottlenose dolphins, dusky dolphins, Commerson’s dolphins, short beaked common dolphins, tucuxi, estuarine dolphins, Chilean dolphins, rough-toothed dolphins, and harbor porpoises. Most research into this parasite has involved dolphins that stranded or were accidentally caught in trawls. The parasite is usually discovered through necropsies and there is little to no evidence of their life cycle. However, it’s speculated that the dolphins pick up the parasites from the fish they eat. This parasite also has a signature heart shaped body surrounded by a membrane like structure on all sides except the underside. A large organ that is used to hold on protrudes from the underside and there is an appendage on the back end. What do you think this parasite is and where do you think it is found in the body of these cetaceans?