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And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so, ad infinitum
April 10, 2011 5:27 PM   Subscribe

After my six-year-old read What's Eating You?, a kid's book about parasites, we had the question: Which animal has the most recursive number of parasites, and how many levels deep can it go?
posted by ShooBoo to Science & Nature (4 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
if you read John Baez's subcellular life forms, you can see that even viruses have parasites...
posted by oonh at 5:29 PM on April 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


Mitochondria are possibly built-in parasites! Also, are you only looking for parasites (organisms that benefit at the expense of their host), or are you including symbiotic relationships benefiting both?
posted by nicebookrack at 6:07 PM on April 10, 2011


So, naturalists observe, a flea
Has smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite ‘em;
And so proceed ad infinitum.


Apparently, this phenomenon is called hyperparasitism.

Cursory googling for quaternary hyperparasitism indicates that some insect parasitic relationships have at least four levels, so I guess that'd be a good starting point.
posted by zamboni at 9:10 PM on April 10, 2011


[hey folks -- OP is not anon, feel free to email them offtopic stuff, thanks]
posted by jessamyn at 8:49 AM on April 11, 2011


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