The last week or so, I have been on various highways, leading me to a parasitic tip of reality.
“you’re on a through route to the land of the different, the bizarre, the unexplainable…”
I have been on a route taking me to Louisiana and Florida where I have met some interesting characters, some could be explained as bizarre, and some are just unexplainable- some of the Cajuns and other rural people I have met are just hard to explain. And telling people what I am doing, why I am traveling across country, well, is just quite bizarre to them.
“Go as far as you like on this road. Its limits are only those of mind itself. Ladies and Gentlemen, you’re entering the wondrous dimension of imagination. Next stop….The Twilight Zone.”
I have travled from one end of the country to the other and am trying to go above and beyond even my own expectations to explore the world of alligator parasitism. Last year I arrived in Gainesville, Florida just to check out the similarities/differences between Florida and Louisiana alligators. However what I found I did not expect. In Louisiana, I have been finding intestinal parasites (particularly trematodes) in every alligator specimen about 98% of the time over the last three years. However in Florida, its different- its something out of the Twilight Zone. These damn alligators near Gainesville, FL don’t have any intestinal parasites! Diet, behavior, life-history traits are pretty much the same, the latitude is the same… so what is making the big difference? Could it be something in human or environmental impacts between the two different geographic locations???? This is something I am examining, and I am looking forward to what will be revealed. I believe the life cycles of the trematodes were (or maybe still are) killed off years ago when certain areas of Florida were having a huge problem with heavy metal pollution. Its also possible that these problems warded off or killed off intermediate hosts- thus the ecosystem hasn’t recovered. This is part of the wondrous dimension of the Gator Parasitism Twilight Zone I am entering…
So after a couple of days of gator blood in your eye, having a scent trail of death following you and sticking in your clothes for days, my undergrads and I are finished here in Gainesville. Next stop… the Panhandle of Florida.