Gross-out time: toad with a worm in its eye

by Matthew Cobb

That’s about it really. Behold the wonder of nature! Only a truly divine spirit could have created such awesomeness!

Via @scicurious on Twitter


  1. Posted November 21, 2011 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    That’s nothing do a Google Image search for Loa Loa.


  2. Adam Felton
    Posted November 21, 2011 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    Reminds me of my time in Bolivia when my wife and I came across a small lizard, and on another occasion, a small rodent, both of which were heavily infested, to the point of bursting, with botfly larvae. It was horrific to observe.

    Far better to live in a universe where such livelihoods are the distasteful outcome of blind processes, than purposeful creation.

  3. Posted November 21, 2011 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    Assuming that toad can still see with that eye, all that wriggling is going to drive it nuts!

    Divine creator my backside!


    • Dominic
      Posted November 21, 2011 at 6:52 am | Permalink

      I think it must be blind in that eye – no obvious iris or lens. What I want to know is what type of parasite is it (a nematode worm ?); does it usually infest the eye or did it take a wrong turning; is it related to Onchocerca volvulus that causes Wolbachia to give people ‘River blindness’?

  4. Edward
    Posted November 21, 2011 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    Purpose. This must have a greater purpose. What say Haught et al?

    • blitz442
      Posted November 21, 2011 at 7:06 am | Permalink

      There is a purpose, and a very good and benevolent one, but of course we are lower level entities who cannot possibly grasp it.

      However, higher level entities look at worm doing its thing and come close to tears of joy at the beauty and goodness of what they are witnessing.

    • Steersman
      Posted November 21, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      Survival; the propagation of life.

      Tough that it’s a case of “live by the sword; die by the sword”; that “what you pick up on the swing you lose on the roundabout”.

      Reminds me of a somewhat different and, in my view, quite credible perspective of T.H. Huxley:

      … the ethical progress of society depends, not on imitating the cosmic process, still less in running away from it, but in combating it.

      Though I would argue that that “combating” is itself part of the “cosmic process”.

  5. blitz442
    Posted November 21, 2011 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    The relationship of the toad and the parasitic worm also looks irreducibly complex, as the worm seems intricately designed to exploit the toad. I can’t see how any of the components of this system could have evolved in a step-wise fashion – how could a parasitic worm function in the absence of something to exploit?

    Are we to actually believe that the worm’s specialized torture organs had precursors with different functions? Bah!

    Only an intelligent and malevolent creator could produce such a masterpiece. I now wonder why Behe didn’t choose parasites instead of that boring old bacterial flagellum to illustrate his case for intelligent design.

    • Katie
      Posted November 21, 2011 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      The bacterial flagellum theory has been disproven now anyway – there is a living precursor to the flagellum which does the job just fine with much fewer of the components.

      I really doubt the relationship between these 2 species is that complex. Even if it is, there are several ways it could develop.

      • blitz442
        Posted November 21, 2011 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        I know, this was my pathetic attempt at sarcasm.

        My point is that the ID folks could probably find examples of the coveted “irreducible complexity” in the nasty creatures of the world, but of course they tend to selectively choose examples from non-threatening or pleasant (to us) organisms.

  6. Dominic
    Posted November 21, 2011 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    I really have no problem with the idea that the nematode gets some advantage from this – that is it gets to reproduce (assuming as I said above that it is not stuck in the wrong place to meet a mate). Nature really does not care. I do not understand why people find that shocking. (Or maybe I am a heartless b*stard!) As Matthw, Edward, Adam & Norman say, it shows how ridiculous the idea of a benign god is.

  7. Posted November 21, 2011 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    I see that you’re on BBC Radio 4 today Matthew [16:30 hrs GMT, 11:30 hrs EST]: The Infinite Monkey Cage

    “What’s The North Ever Done For Us?”
    The Infinite Monkeys, Robin Ince and Brian Cox, return for a new series of irreverent science chatter with a host of special guests. In the first of the new series, they’re on Brian Cox’s home territory for a recording at the University of Manchester. They’re joined by impressionist Jon Culshaw, physicist Jeff Forshaw and biologist Matthew Cobb to look at just a few of the amazing scientific achievements that Manchester has given the world, from Rutherford splitting the atom through to last year’s Nobel Prize for Physics. And if you listen closely, a few other well known voices may also appear to have snuck onto the panel…who knew that even Alan Carr has an opinion on the Higgs Boson.

    I’ll be listening.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted November 21, 2011 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      I see that you’re on BBC Radio 4 today Matthew [16:30 hrs GMT, 11:30 hrs EST]: The Infinite Monkey Cage

      An excellent programme, generally very entertaining in a sciency sort of way. Usually available on BBC iPlayer after a day or so. Robin Ince also does great stand-up – go see him if you get the chance.

      • Dominic
        Posted November 21, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink

        Oh poo – could have had one ear on it here at work!

  8. Evolution_rules
    Posted November 21, 2011 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    The frog is paying for its sin of watching Frog-Porn in its previous life.

    • Posted November 21, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      Dang…beat me to it. Now if the cursed toad would just repent and pray to Jesus, its eyesight might be restored.

      • TruthOverfaith
        Posted November 22, 2011 at 1:34 am | Permalink

        If we could just get Jesus to spit in the toads eye!!! Only the power of Jeezus can heal this toad!!!!-

  9. Biologist123
    Posted November 21, 2011 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Only a loving Creator that understands all the variables including the age of this toad, the meaning of biological death and the importance of these worms can provide meaning to this scene. To us it looks a cold and cruel irony but it may be that if this toad lived much longer it would develop viral diseases that would kill many more young toads in a much crueler fashion. Our problem as humans is that we cannot see the big picture. We make a big mistake when we try to read the ming of GOD.

    • blitz442
      Posted November 21, 2011 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      So the mind of God designs a system that produces a toad that will develop lethal viral diseases, with said viruses also being the product of the mind of God.

      So as a patch, he engineers parasites that often slowly and painfully eliminate toads infected with the viruses?

      Why not have a better patch that instantly eliminates the toad, or does it in a non-painful way?

      Oh, and while we are at it, maybe we could design the system so that it does not produce infectious agents in the first place!

      If a living system can ONLY be designed with disease, parasites, and misery, why bring a living system into existence at all???

      Maybe a theologian will be along shortly to explain why God was logically and morally obligated to produce a living system with bot flies, malaria, and children dying of the shits.

    • Simon
      Posted November 21, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      “…We make a big mistake when we try to read the ming of GOD.
      Obviously a merciless god!!

      • Steersman
        Posted November 21, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

        Residing on the planet Mongo. And it’s nice to finally know the name – that St. Augustine neglected to provide – for the City of God: Mingo …. 🙂

  10. FrankN.Stein
    Posted November 21, 2011 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    God really, REALLY hates Toads!

    • Posted November 21, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      Just the sinful ones. It is probably gay.

      • Marella
        Posted November 21, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Permalink


  11. sasqwatch
    Posted November 21, 2011 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Parasitic wormgod Quetzlwriggl mocks your inadequate attempts to guess its divine plan.

    • Ben
      Posted November 21, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      Maybe the pastafarians are on to something.

      By the way, did anybody else conflate FSM with Cthulu?

  12. NoAstronomer
    Posted November 21, 2011 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Curiously enough, when I looked at the page directly below the toad video was another one with Britney Spears.

    Considering the article’s title (“Gross-out time…”) this struck me as a good example of Jerry’s wry sense of humour.

    Then I realized that the second video was a commercial for Pepsi.

    • Dominic
      Posted November 21, 2011 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      …and posted by Matthew! Perhaps parasites explain Britney Spears?

  13. Steersman
    Posted November 21, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Reminds me of a statement by Darwin that really for me highlighted or summarized the issue of the “problem of evil” and more or less put a stake through the heart of God – Jehovah at least:

    What a book a devil’s chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering, low and horribly cruel works of nature!

    Interesting also that Dawkins tellingly published a collection of essays using that same phrase.

  14. Posted November 21, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    I have never seen this before, I know David Attenborough uses this worm to defend his atheism..glad to now have this clip in my armoury!

    ~The Dippylomat esq.

    Ps Come to Sweden for all your atheist needs!

  15. Peter Beattie
    Posted November 21, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone know what this parasite is and how it gets into the eye?

    • Joh Bjelke-Peterson
      Posted November 21, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

      It brings a tear of joy to an old Queenslander’s eye.

  16. Marella
    Posted November 21, 2011 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Mother Nature is a bitch.

  17. Posted November 22, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    I hate to express a negative aesthetic opinion on an organism that actually has a pretty cool and incredibly interesting life cycle, but that video is fucking revolting.

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] This, of course, as we all know, was Darwin’s conclusion too. He watched evolution in progress in the wasteful death and misery of his daughter Annie, and in the ichneumon wasp. He might have seen it in the toad’s eye, as Matthew Cobb says over at Why Evolution is True: […]

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