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

Unknown Lamer posted about 5 months ago | from the nice-rotting-lesion-you-have-there dept.

Science 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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63 comments

I know! I know! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377347)

have debated foor decades

I know! Is it "Why are Slashdot editors so shitty"?

Pics or it didn't happen (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377349)

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

Re:Pics or it didn't happen (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377615)

Somebody has a foot fetish.

Re:Pics or it didn't happen (2, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 5 months ago | (#45377853)

Only a fleating one...

Re:Pics or it didn't happen (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45385875)

Is your handle pronounced KAY ESS KAI-YO-SUCK-EE? That is exactly what it looks like. If not, why do you pan faced, small penis/tit asians constantly misspell shit? Answer with respect, or I'll find you and beat the shit out of you, little "man".

It's more like GAY-ESS-GAY-YO-SUCKY. LOL! LOL! You are a fucking faggot bitch. I'd EASILY kick your ass, little asian "man".

Re:Pics or it didn't happen (1)

Smauler (915644) | about 5 months ago | (#45378063)

There are some pictures in the second link in TFS.

Re:Pics or it didn't happen (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 5 months ago | (#45378151)

I couldn't find a way to enlarge the thumbnails. When I click them, the same set of thumbnails just open into some kind of "workspace" at the right side of the page.

Re:Pics or it didn't happen (1)

naff89 (716141) | about 5 months ago | (#45381719)

They're also web-safe dithered gifs, which makes me feel like I'm viewing them in Netscape

Re:Pics or it didn't happen (1)

Toad-san (64810) | about 5 months ago | (#45378629)

Actually, the images are out there (just search, but here's one: http://www.fleabites.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/sand-flea-bites.jpg [fleabites.net] ).

The flea infection lesion isn't all that 'orrible. I suppose you have to work one up to a proper rotting lesion (as the department title suggests) to really ruin your appetite.

'ere ya go, mate .. another biscuit with your tea?

Re:Pics or it didn't happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45379689)

That might be regular ol' chiggers, which are also called sand fleas. Perhaps the article is more about this type of sand flea?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chigoe_flea [wikipedia.org]

Honestly I'd rather not have that thing on my foot. It was bad enough when I got some other unrelated mite from walking at some beach (likely scabies) and had to wet myself down with mouthwash before showering for almost two weeks to get rid of it. (Listerine seems to work best. And it's cheaper and/or less toxic than other treatments.) Those were more than itchy enough and they're microscopic, I'd hate to have anything bigger get under my skin.

Re:Pics or it didn't happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378709)

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

I would love to hear your argument for why it would have been better to not mention the photographs.

Please remove this article at once. (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377353)

Any discussion of "sex" is bewildering and frightening to the slashdot audience.

Re:Please remove this article at once. (5, Funny)

game kid (805301) | about 5 months ago | (#45377393)

On the contrary, it's the ultimate confidence booster. "If this goddamn flea from a big African island can get some ass-equivalent under some fool's crusty feet..."

Re:Please remove this article at once. (1)

oobayly (1056050) | about 5 months ago | (#45377633)

Better than referring to it as "making love" as the media seem to like doing at the moment. I think it's so they don't have to use the word sex - probably thinking of the children. The Daily Fail is particularly keen on referring to lions and tigers making love.

Re:Please remove this article at once. (2)

cffrost (885375) | about 5 months ago | (#45378265)

Better than referring to it as "making love" as the media seem to like doing at the moment. I think it's so they don't have to use the word sex - probably thinking of the children. The Daily Fail is particularly keen on referring to lions and tigers making love.

I also view the euphemism "pr0n" as another manifestation of puritanism. I'll see an entire paragraph written using proper spelling, with this sole word written in "1337 5p34k." Being too prudish to spell "porn" properly doesn't strike me as being particularly 'leet.

Re:Please remove this article at once. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45379791)

Being too prudish to spell "porn" properly doesn't strike me as being particularly 'leet.

But it isn't a prude thing - it's a humor through misspelling thing, similar to the ever popular, 't3h'.

t3h pr0n, i |-|4v t00 |\/|uc|-|!!!!!!!11111111113l3v3|\|

Re:Please remove this article at once. (2)

Richy_T (111409) | about 5 months ago | (#45380081)

Also to avoid prudish filters. Something the writer often has no control over.

I have an question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377365)

What is "foor"?

Re:I have an question (5, Funny)

Titus Groan (2834723) | about 5 months ago | (#45377443)

The foor is a little known keyboard elf that causes's typo, they like to live under spacebars as this allows them greater room to breed but it is not unknown for them to inhabit any key on a keyboard. They are a distant cousin of the Mouse-monkey that yanks your pointer to that link you really shouldn't have clicked - these are responsible for a large number of relationship breakups amongst humans.

Re:I have an question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377487)

More likely the typo is explained by the fact that the submitter had already typed the word "foot" twice and he was nervous because next he had to write about sex.

Oblig. (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 5 months ago | (#45377387)

That sounds like the ultimate foot fetish to me. That flea should seek help immediately.

Re:Oblig. (2)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | about 5 months ago | (#45377595)

You don't support sand flea's right to the consensual sexual activities of its choice in the privacy of its own foot? Fascist.

Re:Oblig. (1)

Pseudonym (62607) | about 5 months ago | (#45387595)

Your right to consensual sexual activities ends at my foot.

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

Two months? (5, Funny)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | about 5 months ago | (#45377391)

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

Re:Two months? (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about 5 months ago | (#45381627)

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*

Re:Two months? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45390639)

I am tickled pink that enough people got this joke to get it to +5 Funny.

eww (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377401)

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

well done to her (2)

Titus Groan (2834723) | about 5 months ago | (#45377407)

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 beings. Way to go, this is how to science!

debated for decades? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377417)

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?"

Re:debated for decades? (4, Informative)

pspahn (1175617) | about 5 months ago | (#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.

Re:debated for decades? (1)

MikeTheGreat (34142) | about 5 months ago | (#45381677)

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 :)

Re:debated for decades? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45381839)

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..

Re:debated for decades? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45381859)

Do you say "oonicorn"? Probably not, you say "yoonicorn". This is about vowel sounds, not letters.

As for "an" where it should be "a", could this be a Germanism? Trying to replicate the German accusative "-n"?

Awful (5, Informative)

markdavis (642305) | about 5 months ago | (#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]

Re:Awful (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377881)

I, too, am impressed by her devotion and objectivity. She is an exemplar scientist.

Show me the money? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377521)

The paywall is strong in this one.

Pics or it didn't happen.

I've had them (5, Interesting)

Russianspi (1129469) | about 5 months ago | (#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.

Re:I've had them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378541)

Good fucking god, sometimes google is terrifying.
This is one of the reasons that my preferred footwear is a good pair of steel toe engineer boots. So long as I don't step in anything more than 10 inches deep, my foot is *safe*. There's no openings save the one at the top for my leg, nothing bad can get in! They are also THE PREMIER footwear for any sort of repair work -- that's why they're called engineer boots, right? You kick things and they start working!

I have a terrifying track record of repairing things with a kick. It's like I'm some sort of Exorcist from the Church of Norris, driving demons from gadgets, fixing with my foot.

Re:I've had them (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 5 months ago | (#45378597)

Wearing only non-breathing boots in a tropical environment may protect you from the somewhat unlikely risk of sand fleas, but they are likely to lead to fungal infection. Sandals are in fact the best option for Madagascar.

Re:I've had them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378755)

You kick things and they start working!

You must be Army Corp of Engineers.

"Where, exactly, does the sand flea have sex?" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45377995)

Bitch, you've just been foot fucked! You liked it didn't you?

Clarifying the Photo in the Article (5, Informative)

coughfeeman (608160) | about 5 months ago | (#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.

Botfly (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 5 months ago | (#45378169)

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.

Not for curiosity or science (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378379)

silly bitch

And Marlene Sings... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378427)

There's a little sand-y flea,

That's now grow'n inside of me,

So that experimentation,

'Bout a flea's copulation can be...

Easier to study.

Just a note to confused people... (4, Informative)

harrkev (623093) | about 5 months ago | (#45378495)

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.

Re:Just a note to confused people... (1)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | about 5 months ago | (#45379059)

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.

Re:Just a note to confused people... (1)

harrkev (623093) | about 5 months ago | (#45379111)

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.

Re:Just a note to confused people... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45379177)

I grew up in Virginia and went to the outer banks a lot. I always heard them referred to as sand fleas.

Re:Just a note to confused people... (1)

flink (18449) | about 5 months ago | (#45380251)

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.

Re:Just a note to confused people... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45380487)

My friend from Florida says sand fleas, so it could be another east coast west coast feud! CRIPS AND BLOODS or whatever....

So... (2)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 5 months ago | (#45380367)

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??

Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45386485)

This question has kept me awake pondering the answer for years. Soon I can sleep.

Following a well-trodden path ... (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | about 5 months ago | (#45389757)

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're still live].

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