TUESDAY, 4 OCTOBER 2022
Most parasites take root in the body of an animal and reproduce in the warm comfort of their host. But nature has also produced parasites that control their hosts’ minds, making them behave in reckless ways, and not with their best interests in mind.
L. paradoxum, a worm that lodges in the liver of snails makes their eyes swell and pulsate. The snail then hangs around in the open for birds to prey on. The parasite reproduces in the bird’s stomach, gets shat out again, and the cycle repeats. There are horsehair worms that induce crickets to dive into water so that they can eat their way through the exoskeleton and escape into the cool depths below. The eye fluke Diplostomum pseudospathaceum finds its way into the brains and eyeballs of unwitting fish which then bob around aimlessly on the water surface and get eaten, thereby propagating the cycle. There are even fungi that infect ant and fly brains, making them climb to high spots where their spores can burst out and spread far and wide.
There is a relentless procession of zombified animals dying in really quite undignified ways — forming a less glamorous ‘circle of life’ than what we’re used to.