Cellphones are so ubiquitous now that we don’t consider them so much an external device as we do an extension of ourselves. Take a moment to reminisce in our digital appendage’s incredibly clunky origins and evolution.
The dirty little secret at the heart of nature is the parasite. For every animal we humans regard as noble—your tigers, your dolphins, whatever—there are thousands of these horrifying little monsters. So numerous are these microscopic tyrants that naturalists believe that an actual majority of animals might be parasites. It’s entirely possible that life on Earth exists solely to provide adequate hosts for our many, many parasites. And you thought looking at a starry sky made you feel insignificant.
Here are five of the weirdest that we know of so far.
Weird Parasites: Cymothoa exigua: Worst. Kisser. Ever.
Human beings can come to terms with some parasitic diseases. Malaria, for example, is refreshingly straightforward. You get bitten by an infected mosquito, you get sick and you (maybe) die. The parasite is just trying to weaken you to the point that you can’t swat the next mosquito that comes to drink your infected blood. It’s nothing personal.
Some parasites, however, despite being harmless to humans, make their living in such a gothic horror show manner that we really can’t be comfortable sharing a planet with them. Meet Cymotha exigua, the marine isopod that thinks it’s a tongue.
This exchange is the stuff of scientific and cultural legend. When Neil DeGrasse Tyson accepted Sagan’s invitation and spent a Saturday touring Cornell University labs with the famed astrophysicist, his life was irrevocably changed.
A 17 year old when he met Sagan for the first time at Cornell University, Tyson later described the encounter in this way:
“At the end of the day, he drove me back to the bus station. The snow was falling harder. He wrote his phone number, his home phone number, on a scrap of paper. And he said, “If the bus can’t get through, call me. Spend the night at my home, with my family.”