Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Friday, December 03, 2021

Bruce Rinker, who runs the Pinellas County Environmental Lands Division from his office at wild-and-wooly Brooker Creek Preserve, has the chops — and then some — to mess with wildlife at its wildest:

“In the cloud forests of Ecuador, there is something called the bot fly. The bot fly is a very big fly with hairy legs. They catch female mosquitoes with those hairy legs and glue their eggs to the mosquito. When the mosquito bites, the eggs of the bot fly are deposited on the victim.”

When Rinker returned to the United States from such a cloud-forest expedition in 1988, he noticed a nasty lesion on his wrist. One night he felt something alive - something alive under the bandage, inside of him.

“I took off the bandage and saw what looked like a tiny snorkel coming out of the wound.”

A tiny snorkel emerging from a wound would alarm most of us. But Rinker knew something about bot flies. For example, he knew he shouldn’t yank it out. The only thing worse than having a bot fly inside of you is having half a bot fly. A broken bot fly, oozing body fluids, can cause serious infection.

“Luckily, I’d just come back from the butcher with a nice piece of sirloin for dinner. I cut off a little piece of the steak and strapped it to my wrist with gauze. A few hours later - actually, about 12 hours later - I felt some movement. The bot fly larvae had traveled from my wrist into the steak.

“Great for dinner conversation!”

Gross-city. But at least he never had a dreaded candiru in his you-know-where:

Anacondas and deadly fer-de-lance snakes and piranhas and bird-eating tarantulas get all the glory, but the candiru, or vampire catfish, is probably the most feared creature in the Amazon.

“I caught this beastie in a dip net,” he says. “It had been one of my life goals to have one.”

The candiru in his basket looks like nothing out of a horror movie. It is about an inch long and hardly thicker than a strand of spaghetti.

“Candirus feed for the most part on the blood of fish. They’ll swim into the gills, throw out their spines to get secure and start feeding.”

A candiru’s philosophy might be described as “any port in a storm.”

“They feed on more than fish. For example, you don’t want to go skinny dipping in candiru habitat. If you are skinny-dipping, you definitely don’t want to urinate in the water.”

A nearby candiru, feeling the warmth and the flow of the urine, might come investigating. They aren’t the smartest fish in the jungle and make mistakes. Looking for a fish’s delicious gills, they sometimes end up swimming up the urinary tracts of human skinny dippers. Once a candiru is in place, spines erected, it can’t back out.

“It’s supposed to be excruciatingly painful beyond belief,” says Rinker, standing outside his office at Brooker Creek. “In fact, there are actually a few documented cases of men taking the most extreme measures to end their misery. They use machetes.”

I think I’ll limit my Amazonian visits to the well-known virtual version.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/03/2021 06:11:51 PM
Category: Florida Livin', Science | Permalink |

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