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Tommy Leung


Too Much Of A Good Thing
Many of you would be familiar with crayfishes, but what you might not know is that they have little worms call branchiobdellidans living in them. These worms aren't exactly parasites - they actually keep the crayfish healthy by cleaning out their host's gill chambers - so that would make them more of a mutualist, right? Well, yes and no, because even though they might be good little helpers, sometimes they can become too much of a good thing. To find out more, follow the link below to the post on the always interesting and informative Parasite Ecology blog.
#scienceeveryday   #biology   #parasitology   #ecology   #parasitismeveryday  
In disease ecology, we divide parasites into two groups: microparasites and macroparasites.  I have a previous post about the differences between the two groups (spoiler: size isn’t everything).  B...
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+Stephen Yoder I actually wrote about the shift from commensalism (or even mutualism) to parasitism in a review paper a while ago. You can download a copy of that paper here:
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Blue Dragons
Earlier today, I recorded a segment on the local radio about the blue sea slug (listen here: - apologies for the audio quality, there was a technical problem with the recording studio and we had to do it over the phone).
Despite its fantasy-like appearance, the blue sea slug (in the genus Glaucus) is an actual real-life animal. They spend their lives drifting in the open waters of the world's ocean, eating jellyfishes (and sometimes each other). So how do they manage to eat jellyfish without being stung and how does a small, seemingly vulnerable creature like Glaucus protect itself against other hungry animals of the sea? To find out, simply follow this link
#scienceeveryday   #biology   #marinelife   #marinebiology   #seaslug  
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This entire thread of the Sea Slug Forum devoted to Glaucus atlanticus is well worth a look:
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Fungal Campers
When an ant becomes infected by the zombie ant fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, it leaves its nest at the late stage of the infection, just before the fungal fruiting body sprouts and start spraying spores everywhere. This might seem like an altruistic act on the part of the ant, to spare its nestmate from the fungus, but this is actually all a machination of the zombie ant fungus as you will see in this post by +Ed Yong
The fungus actually cannot sprout inside the ant's nest, and when the zombified ant leaves its nest, it doesn't go just anywhere - it place itself just above a location where all the worker ants have to pass through on their way in and out of the nest. The fungus is in fact using the ant to place itself in a prime spot to shower uninfected ants with infective spores. Basically, if this fungus plays online multiplayer FPS games, it is camping at the spawn points.
For more, I have previously written about a fungus which infects the zombie ant fungus here: and last year, I was on a radio segment talking about the zombie ant fungus, which you can listen to here:
#scienceeveryday   #biology   #parasitology   #mycology   #animalbehaviour   #zombies  
Somewhere in the Brazilian rainforest, a lone carpenter ant marches out of its nest towards its doom. The ant is infected with a fungus called Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, which has both infiltrate...
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Academia And Everyday Sexism
Earlier today, I was on a panel discussion by +STEM Women on G+ which was hosted by Dr +Buddhini Samarasinghe and Dr +Zuleyka Zevallos, where I was joined by Professor +Rajini Rao. To discuss everyday sexism in academia culture. The post below is a summary of that discussion by +The Other Sociologist
Everyday Sexism in Academia
Earlier today, I co-hosted a panel discussion by +STEM Women on G+ on Everyday Sexism in Academia, along with Dr +Buddhini Samarasinghe a Molecular Biologist from the UK. Our guests were Professor +Rajini Rao PhD  in Biochemistry who runs her own lab at Johns Hopkins University USA, and Dr +Tommy Leung, Evolutionary Biologist with the University of New England, Australia. 

We discussed the sociological definition of everyday sexism, which demonstrates how everyday social exchanges between individuals are connected to institutional discrimination. Specifically, how conversations between academic colleagues that are sometimes called "benevolent" or "unintentional" sexism, are actually the outcome of systemic issues of gender inequality. This includes "jokes" that play on a woman's gender and sexuality ("You're a cheap date"); complimenting a woman on her looks and propositioning a junior colleague at a conference; and critiquing a woman scientist for the way she speaks, such as saying she's "too aggressive" in negotiations or "not nice enough" when addressing sexism (this is often known as "tone policing").

We also covered the recent case where the Journal of Proteomics published a photo of a bare chested woman in an abstract to promote a scientific paper (more on this later but you can read our article on our STEM Woman website Finally we discussed how, even in professional contexts, people often discuss women scientists as mothers and wives first, rather than focusing on their professional achievements. For example in The New York Times obituary of rocket scientist Yvonne Brill (

Everyday sexism shows that women's gender is a both a barrier to professional recognition, as well as a heavily policed focal point of scrutiny.

People think these seemingly innocuous examples of sexism are subjective - that women should just take a joke and not be "so sensitive." We showed how social science actually connects these everyday comments to the professional barriers that women face in their scientific careers. This includes women's pay, their career progression and professional esteem, their publications, women's contribution and participation in STEM, and other more overt forms of workplace discrimination and sexual harassment.

#sociology #gender #feminism #science #stem #stemwomen #womeninstem
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Thanks +The Other Sociologist and +Rajini Rao - just trying to be a decent person to the best of my abilities!
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The Killer Shrimp And Its Inescapable Nemesis
I have a new article in The Conversation - this one is about a "killer shrimp" from the Ponto-Caspian which has invaded western and central Europe. While it is tearing its way through the local freshwater fauna, this killer is not without its weakness - it had brought with it a muscle-melting parasite which might be one of the few things holding it back from causing even more destruction. It seems that you can never truly escape from your past.
#scienceeveryday   #biology   #parasitology   #ecology   #invasivespecies   #parasitismeveryday  
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Hot Maggots
"My maggots bring all the heat to the corpse, and they're like - we're hotter than y'all."
Here's a fascinating post by +Bug Gwen on how maggots bring the heat in a dead, rotting body and how they might even use it against their competitors.
#scienceeveryday   #biology   #entomology   #forensics   #maggot  
Maggots can generate their own heat. Scientists tested the amount of heat that a mass of maggots makes in order to better understand forensic investigations. The results could help police identify precisely when a body died as well as allow us to calculate the amount of maggots needed to turn into a flaming ball of insect larvae.
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Lol +Kam-Yung Soh
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It Runs In The Blood
I've written a new Parasite of the Day blog post! This is a story which involves blood flukes, rhinos, and faecal middens. To find out more, follow the link below!
#scienceeveryday   #biology   #parasitology   #rhinoceros   #parasitismeveryday  
A little over a year ago, I wrote a post about Bivitellobilharzia loxodontae - a species of blood fluke that lives in the African forest elephant. Today I am writing about a study on another species from that genus - Bivitell...
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+Gaythia Weis probably worse for virologists - among primate parasite, the helminths ("worms") have been found to have the highest level of host specificity, whereas the viruses have lowest level of specificity (thus more likely to jump host). See:
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Rabbuck, Vortex, and Lank
Ever wonder how life would have evolved if the end-Cretaceous mass extinction never occurred? Or what animals will populate the planet tens or hundreds of millions of years from now? Or what would life look like on another planet? Welcome to the world of Speculative Zoology (or more broadly, biology), a movement which combines the intersection of art, science, and speculation. In some cases, it has even infiltrated into mainstream, appearing in TV or cinema.
While your mileage may vary with speculative biology and the scientific validity of these fictional creatures varies wildly between all the different speculative biology projects out there, there is no question that this movement has encourage many people to think more deeply about how evolution works - particularly over geological timespans - and our place in the natural world. 
The person who can be considered as the "parent" of Speculative Zoology is Dougal Dixon - author of such books as After Man ( and The New Dinosaurs ( His work has inspired many others to explore such questions (including myself: through various different media. Recently, +Darren Naish was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to have a chat with Dougal Dixon. Below is his interview with the man who pretty much launched speculative zoology into the public's imagination.
#sciencesunday   #scienceeveryday   #evolutionarybiology   #sciart  
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The dinosaurs are still with us of course - cassowary, toucans, pigeons, hummingbirds - it's just that they look very different from the lineages that lived during the Mesozoic. The ecological role they held during the Mesozoic would largely stay the same, but they would be occupied by different species (think of the dominant large herbviores in the Jurassic vs Cretaceous). Mammals would still get sidelined, but that's not the only thing that would be different - the denizens of the sea would also differ from that of today, considering for example the acanthomorphs (spiny-ray fish), which are the most diverse group of vertebrate animals alive today (with >14000 living species), got their first evolutionary "break" so to speak thanks to the end-Cretaceous mass extinction:
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Crickets Gone Wild
By now, there are many documented examples of parasites that alter various aspects of their host's behaviour. In fact, the more we learn about nature, the more it seems that mind-controlling parasites are very much just a normal part of our world.
These master mind benders come in many forms, from wasps that take control of the brain of cockroaches (, to roundworms that turn hornets into mobile nurseries (, or even single-celled parasites that steer rodents towards cats (
Even viruses gets in on this mind-controlling action and in this post, +Ed Yong writes about a sexually-transmitted virus in crickets that sterilises its host, but instead feeling sickly, the virus make the infected cricket frisky and ready for a close encounter with the opposite sex.
Also at the end of the post is a video of a delightful TED talk which +Ed Yong recently gave about mind-bending parasites which is well worth 13 minutes of your time.
#scienceeveryday   #biology   #parasitology   #parasitismeveryday   #animalbehaviour  
Why would a sterile male cricket mate with an infertile female? On the surface, this behaviour makes no sense: sex takes energy and effort, and there’s nothing in it for either of these partners. N...
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Ugh why does my news feed never show my science OPs?!
+Tommy Leung, learning something new everyday with your grand posts. :)
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Hey Big Filter
The anomalocarids, or as I like to call them - "Demon Cuttlecrabs" - were the largest predators of the Cambrian period. Some of them like the giant Anomalocaris grew up to a metre in length (which is HUGE in a world where most animals are about the size of your finger or smaller) and had a sharp set of eyes that allowed it to track down its prey (
But not all of these "Demon Cuttlecrabs" were such vicious predators. One species - Tamisiocaris borealis might have been a filter-feeder which used its comb-like frontal appendages to sweep up tiny zooplankton from the water. So I supposed I should probably call this one the "Filter Cuttlecrab" instead...
#scienceeveryday   #paleontology   #cambrianexplosion   #biology  
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Yes, I believe the "lo" should be pronounced, as seen in this Nature Video of the find [ Gentle giants of the Cambrian ].

BTW, as the end of the video notes, one of the artists in the free book, "All Your Yesterdays" by Kosemen, Conway and Nash apparently drew a speculative image of such a filter-feeding anomalocarid as stated in this Facebook post: [ ]
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Evolutionary biologist, parasitologist
Parasitologist, Evolutionary Biologist, Researcher, Lecturer
Parasitologist and evolutionary biologist who also happen to write for a blog about parasites, and likes to draw things sometimes.

I am a biologist who conduct studies on various ecological and evolutionary biology aspects of parasitism/symbiosis. I also write for the Parasite of the Day blog, which I co-administrate with its founder, Susan Perkins of the American Natural History Museum.

Outside of my professional field, my favourite thing to do is drawing - some of which (but not all) are inspired by my scientific work. My drawings can be found on my dA account.
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