Transfer over, Cordyceps, there’s a brand new “zombie” parasite to hang-out our desires

tiny ant on a blade of grass

Enlarge / An ant contaminated by the lancet liver fluke climbs up and clamps its highly effective jaws onto the highest of a blade of grass, making it extra more likely to be eaten by grazers resembling cattle and deer. (credit score: College of Copenhagen)

Parasites that management and alter the conduct of their hosts are well-known in nature. Most notably, there’s a household of zombifying parasitic fungi known as Cordyceps—greater than 400 totally different species, every focusing on a specific insect species, whether or not it’s ants, dragonflies, cockroaches, aphids, or beetles. In reality, Cordyceps impressed the premise of The Final of Us sport and subsequent TV collection. And earlier this month we reported on a examine of how a parasitic worm (trematode) targets a specific species of marsh-dwelling brown shrimp (amphipod), turning the shrimp an orange hue and altering the host shrimp’s conduct.

Then there’s the lancet liver fluke, whose difficult life cycle depends on efficiently invading successive hosts: snails, ants, and grazing mammals. (Some liver flukes have additionally been recognized to contaminate the occasional unlucky human.) Scientists on the College of Copenhagen in Denmark have found that the way in which the liver fluke “zombifies” ants to change their conduct incorporates a sort of “on/off” swap that, in flip, relies on temperature. The researcherse described their findings in a latest paper printed within the journal Behavioral Ecology.

“Traditionally, parasites have by no means actually been targeted on that a lot, regardless of there being scientific sources which say that parasitism is essentially the most widespread life kind,” stated co-author Brian Lund Fredensborg. “That is partially as a result of the truth that parasites are fairly tough to review. Nonetheless, the hidden world of parasites varieties a major a part of biodiversity, and by altering the host’s conduct, they might help decide who eats what in nature. That is why they’re necessary for us to know.”

Learn 6 remaining paragraphs | Feedback

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *