FSEM 100G2 | Parasites: Monsters Within


Think zombies only exist in pop culture? Imagine another organism taking over your brain and leading you to certain doom. While it sounds like science fiction, animals such as cats, snails, and ants are frequently infected by parasites that do just that. Could a parasite manipulate your behavior? Are parasites all bad? Would you willingly consume parasite eggs to treat a disease? In this seminar we will explore the fascinating world of parasites, including the evolutionary adaptations that allow them to be some of the most abundant organisms on earth, outnumbering free-living species 4 to 1. We will use the parasite-host system to better understand the process of natural selection and evaluate current hypotheses related to parasites and evolution. For example, are parasites responsible for the evolution of sex? Is reduced exposure to parasites and pathogens responsible for the increase in allergies and autoimmune diseases? Are parasites to blame for the proliferation some human genetic diseases? We will explore these topics and synthesize and develop ideas through readings of primary literature and popular science, class discussion, and oral and written assignments.

Photo of Brad Lamphere, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

Brad Lamphere, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

I’m a biologist because nature is really, really weird. The diverse, ingenious, and downright bizarre ways that organisms make a living have always been a source of wonder for me. My research career has included chasing fish up Appalachian streams and down Hawaiian waterfalls, so I’ve been fortunate to see some remarkable natural history firsthand. That said, no way of life has as many strange tales to tell as the parasites, so I’m excited to teach this FSEM.