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Researcher Allows Sand Flea To Grow Inside Her Foot To Study It 63

sciencehabit writes "Marlene Thielecke came to Madagascar to study the sand flea, an insect that spends part of its life cycle burrowed into the human foot — but she wound up getting more intimate with the critter than she cared for. Months into her project, Thieleckewas bitten by a flea herself. She decided to make the best of it, by taking regular photographs and videos and keeping track of her observations. 'I thought it might be interesting' to watch what happened, she says. As it turns out, her experience may help resolve an question entomologists have debated foor decades: Where, exactly, does the sand flea have sex?"
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Researcher Allows Sand Flea To Grow Inside Her Foot To Study It

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 09, 2013 @12:13PM (#45377349)

    Seriously, Why even mention photographs and videos when they aren't available anywhere?

  • That sounds like the ultimate foot fetish to me. That flea should seek help immediately.
    • You don't support sand flea's right to the consensual sexual activities of its choice in the privacy of its own foot? Fascist.

      • Your right to consensual sexual activities ends at my foot.

        But, hey, if the entomologist is a consenting adult...

  • Two months? (Score:5, Funny)

    by egcagrac0 ( 1410377 ) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @12:21PM (#45377391)

    It's amazing that Madagascar didn't close the borders in that time.

    • Seriously! And aren't parasites easier to notice as well?

      *is likely going to waste the next few hours playing Pandemic 2, thanks to you*

  • by Anonymous Coward

    reminds me of an episode of Monster Inside me on Animal planet.

  • There's a great tradition of self sacrifice for the benefit of scientific knowledge the name Curie and Rutherford spring to mind although they are both what might be termed as "uninformed sacrifices" at the time - but have reaped a huge benefits for scientists and the general public at large. I'm also mindful of intentional infestation with hookworm as a cure for all sorts of ailments from asthma to IBD - all with a modicom of sucess that hopefully peer review that will better our experience of being human
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It is a shame that despite the lack of proper editing, there also is a lack of automated spell check.

    "As it turns out, her experience may help resolve an question entomologists have debated foor decades: Where, exactly, does the sand flea have sex?"

    • by pspahn ( 1175617 ) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @04:27PM (#45378663)

      I see it so often that it usually just irks me a little, but I think it's time to share...

      You use the word "an" instead of "a" when it precedes a word with a vowel *sound* at the beginning (not necessarily a vowel letter, though).

      I would like an apple.

      You would like a banana.

      I have a question.

      You have an answer.

      It will only take a minute.

      It ended up taking an hour.

      Please send me a PDF file.

      She sent me an EPS file.

      I wanted an emu, but instead I got a unicorn.

      • Based on your rule, shouldn't it be

        "instead I got an unicorn"?

        A unicorn sounds right to me, your rule seems right to me, but I can't quite reconcile them. Ah, cognitive dissonance :)
        • by Anonymous Coward

          y is a consonant (mostly), and the hard U sound is the Y sound. In the other romance languages the Y shares the J sound, absurd, no? jajaja..

      • And the headache inducer: do you put an "a" or an "an" in front of the phrase "SQL Statement"?
  • Awful (Score:5, Informative)

    by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @12:26PM (#45377429)

    OMG, she is much braver than I am. I would be totally grossed out and freaking out. Humans host a huge amount of bacteria, mites, virii, etc.... but there is something especially gross about visible parasites that just make my stomach turn.

    This was a tangent link and I really feel sorry for people who have to live through such encounters, especially a multiple infestation:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1477893913001695 [sciencedirect.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The paywall is strong in this one.

    Pics or it didn't happen.

  • I've had them (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Russianspi ( 1129469 ) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @12:50PM (#45377531)
    I lived and worked for years in a tribal village in Peru, and they were pretty common there. Studies seem to show that wearing shoes and socks helps keep you from getting bitten, but my anecdotal evidence seems to be that shoes and socks makes it worse. Sandals seem to be the best option. My kids always seemed to wind up barefoot no matter what they left the house wearing. Anyway, every night I would check each kid (waist down) for sand fleas with a flashlight. If we caught them early, they were no big deal, but if not...ouch! After 3 or four days, those suckers HURT! My son once had one when I went out of town that was probably a week and a half old, and it hurt so bad that he couldn't sleep. They almost had to anesthetize him to get it out (not a terribly safe proposition where we were) but with 5 adults holding him down, they were able to get it. Ugh. I would never let one of these grow in me on purpose.
  • by coughfeeman ( 608160 ) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @02:39PM (#45378115)

    Reading the photo's cation, "The sand flea Tunga penetrans, here in a scanning electron microscope several days after penetrating the skin. The abdominal opening protrudes on the right," I thought it was an image of the flea in situ with it's ass stuck through a chunk of the skin it was excised with.

    In fact, that giant doughnut around it's midsection is the part that "over 2 weeks [...] swells up to many times its original size, reaching a diameter of up to 10 mm." It's not even fully distended in the photo. Fully inflated [wikipedia.org], the flea looks like a pearl onion. A fecund pearl onion under your skin [natgeocreative.com] erupting with eggs [healthinplainenglish.com].

    When Satan was going through puberty, these were his blackheads.

  • On a sidenote, have you ever watched the videos on botflies on YouTube? It is some kind of tropical insect which lays eggs inside human or animal skin and the born maggots live inside the flesh eating it. Creepy yet interesting.
  • by harrkev ( 623093 ) <kfmsdNO@SPAMharrelsonfamily.org> on Saturday November 09, 2013 @03:53PM (#45378495) Homepage

    Just a note to confused people... like me.

    I used to live in Florida, and would often go catch "sand fleas" at the beach. These are crustaceans that vary from about 1/2" to 1-1/2" long. After a wave washes up on shore, when it recedes you can often see little "v" shapes in the water as it rushes back towards the ocean. Scoop up some sand around that area and you will often find a sand flea. They are perfectly harmless and useful as fish bait.

    These are NOT the same sand fleas as what this article discusses. According to Wikipedia, what I was catching for my kids to play with was a "Talitridae." This nasty bug in the article is a "Chigoe flea." Both can be called by the same name, but are completely different animals.

    • Never heard those called "Sand Fleas" before, I grew up by the beach in So Cal and they were always called Sand Crabs.
      Maybe it's an East Coast thing.

      • by harrkev ( 623093 )

        I have always heard of them as sand fleas. However, it appears that the internet agrees with you. I have tried vain searches for "sand flea" pictures before, but never really found them. It appears that what I was chasing was really an "Emerita talpoida" and not "Talitridae." In fact, not even the same order! Thanks for the info.

        • by flink ( 18449 )

          I'm from Massachusetts and we call those things sand fleas as we'll. the ones we have are pretty small though, maybe pinkie nail size.

  • by Jmc23 ( 2353706 ) on Saturday November 09, 2013 @11:03PM (#45380367) Journal
    she didn't actually discover anything and they just made a best guess about why the sand flea that infected her lived so long.

    Is this what we're calling science nowadays??

  • Plenty of other biologists have ended up hosting organisms that they're studying. Sometime they're studying the organism before they get parasitized ; sometimes they get parasitized first and then study the organism(s) living on or in them.

    Well-known evolutionary biologist and website publisher (it's not a bl*g!), Jerry Coyne falls into the latter category, as he relates on his website here [wordpress.com], which includes links to the original broadcast, [blocked by my firewall on this location, so I can't check if they'r

A consultant is a person who borrows your watch, tells you what time it is, pockets the watch, and sends you a bill for it.