Zombification: when parasites attack!

A jewel wasp injecting chemicals into a cockroach's brain. Image belongs to NewScientist.com

As I have alluded to before on this blog, I am really interested in the work of Prof Marlene Zuk and her collaborators on the response of cricket populations in Hawaii to an invasive parasitoid fly – well, it involves sexual selection and crickets, so why wouldn’t I be? But we shouldn’t forget that the behaviour of the fly itself is very cool, as it uses the mating call of the male cricket to zone in on potential hosts. Even more impressive are those parasites which actually manipulate the behaviour of their hosts, exhibiting a kind of ‘mind control’ over their victims.

Over at ‘The Scientist’, there is a really nice in-depth article of research going on in various systems, which I definitely recommend:

Animal Mind Control | The Scientist

The cartoons provided there are very nice, but it does strike me as a little strange that no photographs or video links are included – perhaps they worried that their readers are a little squeamish? Well, never fear, strong-stomached science pals – I have provided a video here of how the jewel wasp turns a cockroach into a chitinous bargain bucket for its larvae! A word of warning, however – it is from the History Channel. Thankfully, even their horrendous presentation style can’t ruin the sheer awesomeness of a wasp paralysing a cockroach, then injecting its brain with a MIND CONTROL SERUM (that’s not really what it is, I just wanted to write it), and then… well, you really should watch the video.

If all that has you fearing of a potential zombie cockroach apocalypse, then perhaps help is on its way… researchers have discovered an ‘antidote*’!

Zombie cockroaches revived by brain shot | New Scientist

* antidote only suitable for zombie cockroaches.


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