Okapis and the Nematode Worm
Okapis, the national animal of the Congo, are rare in the wild. The okapis natural habitat is the Ituri Forest in central Africa and is a dense rain forest. Okapis have very highly developed hearing and run from humans which is why scientists didn’t know they existed until 1900. Natives of the Ituri Forest knew of them because of the pit traps they set for hunting. Okapis are now an endangered animal. Currently, scientists estimate that there are only 25,000 okapis in the wild. Many okapi deaths are due to parasitism of the nematode worm. The nematode worm is described as “probably the most numerous animals on Earth.” The nematode worm can adapt to many different environments, fresh water, soil or even polar regions. The nematode worm has adapted to the liver of the okapi. The worm enters the okapi’s body and lives inside the liver. They feed on the blood of the okapi. This causes liver failure, leaving the okapi to die. Nematode worms range from microscopic to 5 centimeters, or two inches. These worms are usually 5-100 micrometers thick, at least 0.1 millimeters long and with structures like ridges or rings. This is a parasitic relationship because of the harm the nematode worm does to the okapi. The worm reaps all the benefits of this relationship.
References: http://www.micrographia.com/specbiol/helmint/nematod/nema0100.htm http://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/okapi