This nematode, or parasitic worm, is in the family Anisakidae and is the only species in the genus Sulcascaris. Most members of the family parasitize aquatic mammals, birds, and fish but this one parasitizes sea turtles including loggerhead, Kemp’s ridley, and green turtles of all ages. It’s been reported infecting turtles in shallow waters in the Mediterranean Sea, the Caribbean Sea, the Southern and Western Atlantic Ocean, and the Western Pacific Ocean. It’s also found in several species of gastropods and bivalves off the coast of the Americas, Australia, and in the Adriatic Sea. The parasite causes ulcerative gastritis, which is characterized by an inflammation of the stomach lining and the formation of ulcers, or sores, on the lining. Talk about a really bad stomachache! In sea turtles, larvae attach at the base of the esophagus and go through four molts three weeks after infection. First and second stage larvae develop in the egg after two and four days, respectively, and by day five they’ve already hatched into third stage larvae. Growth to the fourth stage takes much longer, about three to four months, and the larvae mature into adults by five months. Imagine if you were full grown at five months old! The first through fourth stage larvae are usually found in molluscs while fourth stage and adults are often found in sea turtles. What do you think this parasite is and how do you think it infects its host?
Posted by fall intern, Adrienne V-H.