God really DOES have a sense of humor, doesn’t he?
Of all the places this could be discovered, what could POSSIBLY be more perfect than this city?
“All of a sudden, I started finding these things everywhere.”
And not just on her legs, where researchers in parasitic worms like Anna Phillips normally find them after a walk through marshes and swamps. Phillips describes the rare discovery of a new kind of leech in the latest edition of the Journal of Parasitology. In 2015, she and a team of leech collectors found, either in their nets or on their legs, several orange-spotted, olive-green leeches in a Maryland swamp near Washington (insert your ‘drain the swamp’ jokes here). Phillips is the Curator of Parasitic Worms at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, so she took the strange leeches back to her own office to study them.
It looks very similar to the ordinary freshwater leeches we’re all familiar with, only they’re olive green with orange spots and a somewhat different reproductive structure.
They’ve been around all this time, but they’ve been misclassified as the ordinary kind.
The new species is now known as Macrobdella mimicus. While there’s nothing really unique or revolutionary about the blood-sucking capabilities of Macrobdella mimicus, Phillips points out that they highlight the fact that there’s so much yet to be discovered in our world – often right around the corner.
“A discovery like this makes clear just how much diversity is out there remaining to be discovered and documented, even right under scientists’ noses.”
Don’t worry though, there are plenty of OTHER leeches in Washington that still need to be classified.