Creepy: Wasp Body Snatchers

My bro sent me this link which he called “Voodoo Wasps and Zombie Caterpillars.” I respectfully suggested he get back to the business of building high-tech weaponry to use on our country’s enemies (or whatever it is he does all day) instead of pestering me with links. But I have to admit, this is cool. Scientists have discovered a parasite that alters the behavior of the host to act as a bodyguard for the parasite…after the parasite has left the host’s body.:

The parasitoid wasp Glyptapanteles lays its eggs, about 80 at a time, in young geometrid caterpillars. The eggs hatch and the larvae feed on the caterpillar’s body fluids. When they are fully developed, they eat through the caterpillar’s skin, attach themselves to a nearby branch or leaf and wrap themselves up in a cocoon.At this point, something remarkable and slightly eerie happens.

The caterpillar, still alive, behaves as though controlled by the cocooned larvae. Instead of going about its usual daily business, it stands arched over the cocoons without moving away or feeding.

The caterpillar – now effectively a zombie – stays alive until the adult wasps hatch.

“We don’t know exactly what kills the caterpillars, but it is fascinating that the moment of death seems to be tuned to the duration of the wasp’s pupal stage,” says Arne Janssen of the University of Amsterdam.

Janssen and colleagues at the Brazilian Federal University of Viçosa noticed that when they moved a paintbrush towards parasitised caterpillars, the insects would thrash about, apparently in an attempt to protect the cocoons.

I think mind-controlled zombies moot the fast zombie/ slow zombie argument. We’ve got a real problem on our hands. Below the fold, Glyptapanteles parasitising a human host:

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~ by Gabriel Malor on June 5, 2008.

One Response to “Creepy: Wasp Body Snatchers”

  1. reason #4301 never to travel to the rain forest

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