Which of the following choices does not fit in with the rest?
A. Wingardium leviosa
B. Expecto patronum
C. Sternostoma tracheacolum
D. Piertotum locomotor
This multiple choice scenario ought to be a piece of cake for any wizards or witches out there reading this blog. The Patronus charm, the spell to levitate objects, and that to animate suits of armor are well-known among fans of the Harry Potter series and serve as wonderful distractors to the real answer. Choice C is none other than the scientific name for the air sac mite, a contagious parasite that may infiltrate the trachea, lungs, and air sacs of birds. This may cause difficulty breathing in several species of finch. Occasionally these mites can be visualized via tracheal transillumination in small birds, which can be done by wetting the feathers on the neck and shining a light source across the trachea.
I never took Latin in school but wish I had because it would have really helped in our first-year anatomy, parasitology, and microbial pathogenesis courses. Alas, I still had to memorize countless genera and species for which I had no particular association. Now, while I study for the NAVLE and try to re-commit to memory a plethora of parasites, I am using my favorite books from childhood to accomplish that endeavor. Sternosoma tracheacolum reminds me of Expecto patronum, in which a bolt of bright light emits from the user’s wand (typically in the shape of an animal). This bright light will remind me that transillumination is a good diagnostic tool to look for these mites. I’ll admit that it’s pretty lame, but I don’t really care. Should this question appear on the NAVLE, I will smile to myself and have Harry Potter to thank.