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#SciFund Returns – A Climate for Castrators?

#SciFund, a month long initiative to raise funds for a variety of scientific research projects, is once again upon us. Project leaders post a project description and an appeal for funds, and members of the public are invited to make small donations to projects that they deem worthy. Donations come with rewards such as access to project logs, images from fieldwork, your name in the acknowledgements of publications, among other possibilities. Many of these projects are marine or conservation themed. Once again, we’re highlighting some of our favorite marine science proposals. Please take a look at these projects and, should you so desire, send some financial support their way. If you do make a donation, let them know how you found out about their project and leave a comment (anonymous if you’d like) on this post letting us know.

A Climate for Castrators?

If you were a crab in the ocean, your biggest fear would likely be the parasite I study. This parasite can invade crabs bodies and basically take over, using the crab as a baby parasite-producing machine. Female crabs are particularly suited for this as their bodies are already set up with a special space to keep babies (normally for crab eggs).

BUT, that doesn’t mean that male crabs are safe. If the parasite happens to get into a male crab it just makes it into a female! Literally changing the shape of the crab’s body so that the male can now hold parasite babies. Being infected by these parasites leads to complete castration. Not only are the crabs producing parasite babies, they can no longer produce their own offspring. As such, my lab-mates and I have dubbed it “the Neuterator” (the parasites scientific name is Loxothylacus panopeus).

Now, imagine if this parasite hasn’t always been around? Imagine, say, if this was an invasive parasite that just showed up in the water one day? In the oyster reefs in Georiga that is exactly what happened.The Neuterator showed up and started infecting mud crabs (their scientific name is Eurypanopeus depressus) around 2004. Right now, I find around 40% of these mud crabs infected in the reefs around Savannah.


Climate change, parasitic castration, parasite driven sex change? What’s not to love? This project, led by PhD student Alyssa Gehman will look at the roll environment plays in host parasite interactions. Head on over to Alyssa’s project page and send some rocket fuel her way!

Marine science and conservation. Deep-sea ecology. Population genetics. Underwater robots. Open-source instrumentation. The deep sea is Earth's last great wilderness.

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