This may be the ocean’s most horrifying monster

When I first learned about rhizocephalan barnacles I lost my appetite. I was taking a parasitology course, and even though I’d developed a thick skin, something about this insidious creature deeply disturbed me. Even now, the thought of one makes me shiver. I’ve never watched a movie monster, heard a fairy tale, or seen a video game with a villain more horrifying than this one. And unlike those monsters, this one is real. To understand the full terror of this monster, you have to put yourself in the place of another animal. These poor creatures are its victims, and you see them all the time. Imagine you’re a crab, and for full effect, imagine you’re male.

You’re lingering on the shoreline, the warm sun on your back, cool water in your gills. You’ve reached a large size, dodging the many dangers of youth. Life is going well. But today you begin to feel strange–maternal almost–as if there is something growing inside you, and in fact, something is…….

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