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TWiP 53 Letters

John writes:

Dear Vincent and Dickson,

I just heard your most recent TWIP. Please keep these podcasts going! I love listening to your podcasts and hearing your enthusiasm for my favorite biological topic, parasites. Remember that for every fan that takes the time to write to you there are probably 20 other fans who have not written. Plus many "new" fans are still catching up on the archived episodes (I began listening to TWIP at around episode 35 and it took months to catch up). These podcasts make an excellent teaching tool and I certainly plan to incorporate them in my Parasitology courses. And they expose the parasitologist to other areas of research that they may not otherwise have explored.

Let me suggest some topics and guest for upcoming shows.

Parasites and behavior: You've touched on this, but I think the topic deserves its own show. I recommend asking Janice Moore at Colorado State.

Parasites and Ecology: Again, you've touched on this topic (especially in episode 44), but it left me wanting more. I recommend asking Kevin Lafferty at USGS and Tommy Cheung at UNE (who has written to you previously)

Insect parasites: parasitoid wasps would be fun to learn more about. You could also focus more on fleas and lice as parasites (as opposed to vectors of parasites).

Plant parasites: not my area, but it's something I'd like to learn more about.

John Janovy teaches Field Parasitology at the Cedar Point Biological Research Station at U of Nebraska. I'm sure he would enjoy being a guest on your podcast.

And Shelly Michalski would enjoy talking about her work with FR3.


Saint Aardvark the carpeted writes:

Hi there -- I came across TWiP, TWiM and TWiV recently after following
a link from this article:


I downloaded the episode and was aghast...the idea of volunteering for a norovirus study was incredible. The entire episode was fascinating.
I could not stop listening, and ran around afterward telling everyone about what I'd learned.

I've added all three of your podcasts to my regular listening, and will be catching up on old episodes as well. I'm not a scientist, but
an interested amateur, and the level of detail is great -- I'm learning a lot, and I'm challenged to learn more. The atmosphere is
great, the guests are wonderful, and for the record I *love* the digressions and the weather reports...they make it feel comfortable
and casual.

I'm sending this to TWiP because I just listened to the episode about malaria and was sad to hear that you're considering giving it up.
Please don't! The episode was fascinating, and I'm currently downloading more back episodes. I hope you continue to produce more.

Thank you very much for your work, and the generosity of you and all your guests.

Tom writes:

A few months ago my wife asked me to look at and photograph a moribund grasshopper lying atop the leaves of a bush in our front yard.

It appeared to me that it was a grasshopper covered with eggs. My wife wanted no more such grasshoppers fearing they might eat some plant she treasured in our garden. I knocked it to the ground and stepped on it and the kicked it under the bush.

I did immediately send the photo to my friend who has a Ph.D. in entomology and she informed me that those were NOT eggs but a rare form of grasshopper mite. The mites had infested the grasshopper and killed it by sucking its vital juices. She wanted to know if I could find the dead grasshopper and stick it in a Zip-Lock bag and cool it with dry ice and give it to her. She had contacted the leading mite expert in the USA, I think some fellow in Michigan, who said he could only identify the species with certainty if he had one to examine.

By this time it was the next morning and while I did find the grasshopper's remains, alas, the mites were gone I suppose because the grasshopper was dead and no longer capable of giving them a delicious meal. I did provide her with the carcass with the hope that there might be a mite or two left on the carcass, but apparently there were none present.

Have you ever studied or become aware of mites of this type before? I did learn there are grasshopper mites but the common one[s] look nothing like these.

You just never know when you will find something rare.

I have added photos to my flickr account that you might enjoy, as you did last time I mentioned this site to you:




I have also attached a beaver I photographed a couple of days ago in one of the ponds near my house.


Rie writes:

Hello, professors. This is neko from NZ again.

I just listened to twip episode 50. You mentioned you haven't got any email and you might stop your podcasts. Now that you've mentioned it, I can imagine your mailbox is overflowing with email from all over the world, but here is another one, from land of the long white cloud.

When I started listening to twip, I was fascinated but also couldn't help feeling uncomfortable. I used to love steak rare but I no longer feel like risking it. I can't help but cook them well done for my family now. I now wash my hands and cutting boards often with detergent after handling raw meat. On the other hand, I can eat pork without hesitation after defrosting. All thanks to your educational podcasts. If you are looking for some ideas for future episodes, I'm really interested in food safety, just every day risk factors and preventive measures, associating with parasites.

At the end of episode 50, you talked about toxoplasma. One of my favourite podcasts from Japan mentioned toxoplasma being able to manipulate some neurotransmitter in the brain. I think he was talking about this article.

That Japanese host said that toxoplasma might be responsible for some suicidal cases if this article is true. That, the people committed suicide might have been infected by toxoplasma. He was wondering weather it will bring down the suicidal rate if we systematically carry out a test to find the infected and treat them. What are your thoughts on that?

Lastly, I don't mind if it's monthly, or bi-monthly, but please do continue educating us.

Thanks always,

Alexandra writes:

Dear TWIP,

I recently wrote to TWIV to express my admiration and ask a question about viruses of fungi. However, I have not previously written to TWIP, though I listen to it almost as often.

I am an undergraduate, and I work as a tutor for the biology survey class which all new biology majors must take. We're currently covering Biodiversity, and I cannot express to you how fabulous it has been to be able to enliven our discussions on Phylums Nematoda, Platyhelminthes, Apicomplexa and so on with the stories I've gleaned from TWiP. I take a particular (perhaps a little sadistic) pleasure in relating the story about how outhouses perched over lakes and rivers led to endemic fish tapeworm, or how toxoplasma gondii can cause radical behavior changes in rats (and maybe humans).

Every now and then, I even manage to turn on another person to TWiP, TWiM, and TWiV. Keep up the good work! You help to remind me of the inherently joyful and curious nature of science - which undergraduate coursework often obscures or obliterates entirely.

Peter writes:

Hi guys.
Another tool for field work.


202 specimens of Astronotus ocellatus (Oscars), were collected from a freshwater lake in the state of Amapá, northern Brazil.
A total of 6,308,912 parasites belonging to 11 different taxa were found. Protozoa was the most abundant; flukes, worms were also prevalent and abundant.

No Amazon sushi for me. 

I used to keep Oscars. Didn't realise the parasitic load would be that high.

In relation to parasitic species being 40% overall.
The link also examines the notion of the food web and the role of parasites.



peter w

Jim writes:

See http://www.smbc-comics.com/ for the latest, and you can go back to this one if you wish...

Oh - and thanks for the continuing podcasts, too!

Yet another Jim from Virginia

Maureen writes:

Another innovative idea used in Africa:

Scientists diagnose intestinal worms -- using an iPhone microscope


Robin writes:


also: How to pronounce Shankar. It's a name widely recognised in India. The first pronunciation is the Indian one, the second is akin to the way the British overlords butchered the local languages.

Robert writes:

Dickson's first two choices of people he would like to meet (Lincoln and Darwin) shared a birthday, February 12, 1809.

All the best,


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