Monday, April 14, 2014

Parasites Controlling Host Behavior

An amazing window into the influence wielded by parasites in the animal kingdom:

A tapeworm infection on Artemia (brine shrimp) turns them into red-colored swarms that are easier for the Greater Flamingo to spot and devour. The flamingo, in turn, helps in spreading the tapeworm eggs across a much wider range.

The Gordian worm (horsehair worm) infection makes a type of cricket suicidal. It changes their brain circuitry so that whenever they are close to a pool of water, the crickets just dive in, and die. Once in water, the worm emerges...

Ampulex compressa (emerald wasp) stings its venom into two specific neuron clusters in a cockroach's brain. Now this allows the little wasp to lead the big roach, with its antennae, like a doggie, to a nest where it can lay eggs on it. The larvae that emerge eat up the docile cockroach alive, and the cycle continues...

A single-cell   parasite, Toxiplasma gondii makes mice run towards cats!


* Transcript of the TED Talk --

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