Several years ago, my son and I were watching a TV program about the complex life cycle of the small liver fluke. The design behind its life cycle leaves your head shaking and begs the question how on earth did this evolve.
Of course, it didn’t. It’s simply another sign of God’s creation.
The small liver fluke is a parasite common to North America, Europe and Asia.
Where do we begin?.
The zombie ant
Perhaps one of the most unusual influences of this microscopic parasite is its effect on ants. The ants eat the cercaria of the fluke which is essentially the fluke in its adolescent stage. Well, they don’t really want to eat it, however the temptation is so great.
But we will get to that in a moment.
Once ingested one or two cercaria — call them the pilot and co-pilot — make their way from the ant’s stomach to its brain. Once there, they burrow into the ant’s brain and take control.
At this point, the ant enters into what can only be described as a zombie-like state. It acts completely out of character for an ant.
When the weather cools off ants normally head underground deep into the nest, but not those being piloted by cercaria. They crawl on a leaf of grass, clamp on with their manacles and just hang there. Note: they don’t clamp on ground debris or sticks, only a green leaf will do.
Zombie ants also prefer the view at the top of the leaf. In this choice location, the cercaria sits and waits.
So why does the cercaria want the ant to do this? Well the answer is very simple — the cercaria wants the ant to be eaten, so the fluke can enter its adult stage.
Clamped on top of the blade of grass, the ant is positioned to be eaten by any animal that enjoys eating grass — sheep, cattle, rabbits — the list is endless.
Now for a bit of liverworts
Once ingested, the cercaria is ready to enter its adult stage. Inside the stomach of its new host, the cercaria leaves the ant’s brain, pulls out its compass and makes a beeline towards the liver of the animal via its intestines and bile ducts.
The Lancet Fluke is now ready to set up house. Inside the liver, the cercaria grows into the adult fluke and begins to lay eggs. This whole process takes about eight weeks.
However, as every self-respecting fluke knows a sheep’s liver is no place to raise a family, so the eggs are sent on a trip to the country.
Once the eggs are laid, they pass out of the liver via the bile duct into the intestines. From there they are deposited on the ground in the feces of the animal.
It’s time for slime
So you are probably thinking this is when the ants show up.
Nope, not yet.
Lying on the ground, buried in the feces, the eggs wait to be rescued.
Now it seems, snails enjoy eating the feces of animals (remind me to pass up the escargot). When they pull up to the table to gorge on this feast, they end up eating the fluke eggs.
Once in the snail, the eggs hatch into the adolescent form which we mentioned earlier — the cercaria.
Now the snail finds the cercaria quite irritating and covers it in snail slime. In fact it pours on multiple coatings and finally expels the cercaria on the ground in the form of slime balls.
Slime ball escargot
Now ask yourself one simple question: Who considers slime balls as nothing short of a t-bone steak with mushrooms? You guessed it — ants.
As the ant eats the slime ball, it consumes the cercaria and the cycle starts again.
Unfortunately, man’s fall into sin has not only shaken up humans but creation as well. The Liver Fluke can damage the host and even humans if we eat undercooked liver. Though the Liver Fluke speaks of design, it also shows it as one corrupted by sin.
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:20-23 NASV)
- Dicrocoelium dendriticum – The Lancet Fluke of Sheep: ( Newfoundland and Labrador Agriculture