Thursday, November 13, 2014

zombie bugs?

Run don't walk to the nearest newsstand. Or if this is still laying on your desk unopened, get out the scissors, but don't run with them.

This month's cover story in National Geographic is the creepiest, oddest, weirdest, strangest, most macabre, yet most fascinating—and you can arrange those descriptors in any order you like—I have ever read. It's a "Tales from the Crypt" kind of thing; and I have been reading the yellow-bordered Nat Geo for decades.

Real Zombies: The Strange Science of the Living Dead by Carl Zimmer is bizarre with a capital B.

I'm a naturalist, a fan/observer of all things in the natural world; how they interrelate, their connections. But somehow this goes beyond that. Parasite wasps that lay their eggs inside a host's body so that when hatched the young can eat their way out, but it goes one step further, the wasps infiltrate the host's brain to alter its behavior to do their bidding because they need to move their life cycle along. A to B to C, with B being an unwilling patsy. Otherwise the parasite does not successfully produce another generation of parasites. 

The host therefore becomes the living dead, a mindless zombie doing things to benefit the parasite and not itself.

Case history documented by Ben Hanelt: "The house cricket loses its will—and its life—to the horsehair worm. Larvae of the parasite infiltrate the cricket when it scavenges dead insects, then grow inside it. The cricket is terrestrial but the adult stage of the worm's life cycle is aquatic. [But somehow must get their larvae back on dry land to infest another cricket.] So when the mature worm is ready to emerge, it alters the brain of its host, driving the cricket to abandon the safety of land and take a suicidal leap into the nearest body of water. As the cricket drowns, an adult worm emerges, sometimes a foot long." 

Remember the scene in the 1979 Ridley Scott film Alien when the young alien creature bursts from the chest of its host, John Hurt? So this sort of thing can happen to humans but only if they are in deep space.

Creepy, creepy, creepy and yet, somehow fascinating at the same time.

But there's more: The Sting of Doom.

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