A squirmy organism discovered in Sylvan Lake has many wondering if one of central Alberta's most popular tourist destinations is safe to wade into.
The short answer is yes. Completely.
The long explanation for what Breanna Knight-Davies saw in the water at Sylvan Lake on July 4 is that it's actually a fairly common thing.
"I work at the Central Alberta Humane Society, so I deal with worms a bit that our dogs have," she says. "Me and my friends didn’t know what it was at all at first until we started Googling it."
Dr. Heather Proctor with the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta says the wriggling creatureis a horsehair worm, also known as a Gordian worm.
She says visitors to the lake shouldn't be surprised if they find one in Sylvan Lake.
"The larvae and juveniles are parasitic inside insects such as crickets and grasshoppers, where they absorb nutrients from the host and eventually grow into the long, thin adults," she explains. "When the adult wants to get into water to mate and lay eggs, it induces the host insect to be thirsty. The insect approaches water to drink and sometimes even flings itself in. Then the adult nematomorph bursts out of the host and swims away to search for a mate. The adults do not feed."
Proctor says the worms are not all dangerous to humans or pets, unless you have a pet cricket, Proctor jokes.
"They don't even have mouths."
As for Knight-Davies, whose Facebook video has surpassed 160,000 views and 1400 shares as of July 12, she says, "I left after finding it, but I’m sure I’d go back."
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