Marine Parasite of the Month Answer- December

marine mammal parasite of the month

This parasite is Sulcascaris sulcata and it infects its host through their food( e.g. mollusks such as mussels and scallops). First, infected turtles pass the eggs of the parasite into the water through their waste products. The eggs are negatively buoyant, which means they sink to the bottom, and they are sucked up by the siphon of nearby molluscs where they attach to the abductor muscle. For those who don’t know, the abductor muscle is the muscle that allows the mollusk to open and close its shell. Infected mollusks are then consumed by other sea turtles, which become infected. Fun fact: most nematodes can infect their final host as stage three larvae, but this one molts to fourth stage larvae before infecting the host. The parasite enters the intermediate hosts, mollusks, as eggs and then molts until it reaches the final stage, which can infect sea turtles. This parasite has been studied both experimentally, by feeding turtles infected mollusks or larvae, and in the wild. A lot of the research has included loggerheads that stranded or were caught in nets and were experimentally tested. Sulcascaris sulcata has also been reported and studied in various mollusks that are consumed by humans to find out what human food resources have the potential to be infected with the parasite. This helps with consumer safety and quality control of products containing these mollusks.

Posted by fall intern, Adrienne V-H.



Berry, G. N. & Cannon, L. R. G. (1981). The life history of Sulcascaris sulcata (Nematoda: Ascaridoidea), a parasite of marine molluscs and turtles. International Journal for Parasitology, 11(1), 43-54.


Marcer, F., Tosi, F., Franzo, G., Vetri, A., Ravagnan, S., Santoro, M, & Marchiori, E. (2020). Updates on ecology and life cycle of Sulcascaris sulcata (Nematoda: Anisakidae) in Mediterranean grounds: Molecular identification of larvae infecting edible scallops. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 7(64).


Santoro, M., Palomba, M., & Modica, M. V. (2022). Larvae of Sulcascaris sulcata (Nematoda: Anisakidae), a parasite of sea turtles, infect the edible purple dye murex Bolinus brandaris in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Food Control, 132.

Santoro, M., Marchiori, E., Iaccarino, D., degli Uberti, B., Cassini, R., Di Nocera, F., Cerrone, A., Galiero, G., & Marcer, F. (2019). Epidemiology of Sulcascaris sulcata (Nematoda: Anisakidae) ulcerous gastritis in the Mediterranean loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta). Parasitology Research, 118: 1457-1463.