Parasites often employ fabulously complex life cycles to cope with the diverse environments and stressors that they encounter at different stages in their lives. Rhizocephala, the little-known cousins of more charismatic acorn barnacles, do just that. As they parasitize decapods, such as crabs and lobsters, they manage to convince their hosts to divert resources and caregiving to rhizocephalan babies rather than their own. In fact, these crabs and lobsters wrongly believe they are tending to their own offspring, when they are actually facilitating rhizocephalan reproduction! All the while, the rhizocephala proceed through their remarkable life cycle, in which their adult form becomes reduced entirely to a network of roots and a sac of reproductive organs. This film tells the story of how these fascinating parasites manage to survive and reproduce within the recesses of decapods’ bodies.
This film features handmade cardstock cutouts and original illustrations, and uses music by King Vitamin, Lino del Vecchio, and Val under a Creative Commons license. The hand-drawn animations were photographed at the Brown University Science Center, and audio was recorded at Brown University's Granoff Center for the Creative Arts. Video was originally featured on CreatureCast.org.
Special thanks to Casey Dunn, Natividad Chen, and the Brown University Science Center.