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Thursday
Oct172013

Zombie parasites: Invasion of the Body Snatchers?

Zombies according to Wikipedia are animated corpses (originating from Haitian-Creole: Zonbi, and North Mbundu: nzumbe) who have been caused to rise by forces of witchcraft. This definition however has changed over time especially with the media’s new found love of the undead. Popular shows and movies depict zombies as those (animals and humans) who have been infected be either a virus strain or a parasite. Usually upon infection the infected “dies” but returns as an animated corpse who craves infecting the uninfected or eating the uninfected. Zombie have mindless adherence to the controlling figure.

So some of you may be wondering if the zombie apocalypse is imminent? The answer is yes. Maybe not in the sense that we may have originally thought but according to some it is already here in an Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) sense.

Many creatures today are affected by parasites that perform a sort of mind control to get the host to do its bidding. Although the afflicted victim may not die and come back as a zombie per se they can sometimes change their whole way of life to one. Here are some cases in which the bodies of different organisms are stolen unable to see reason (much like a zombie) as it destroys itself to benefit their mind controlling parasites.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Zombie Snail: Leucochloridium paradoxum parasite infection

The snail is one animal that has been affected by parasitic invasion. Some of you may have already seen the video of the ‘Zombie Snail’ that has been infected by the snail-manipulating flatworm. This pushes the snail’s tentacles to make its eyes bulge and appear as maggots and climb up to the sunlight to appeal to any hungry bird that may be hovering. Then the parasites continue their circle of life.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Zombie Ants: Cordyceps unilateralis parasitic spore infection

Cordyceps unilateralis is a parasitic fungus that affects tropical ants. The ant comes in contact with this spore by walking upon it perchance on the ground. Through time as the infection begins to grow the ant begins to act differently than unaffected ants. Under the parasites control they stray away from the trail and usually get lost and can’t find their way back. Then when the sun is highest in the sky the infected ant climbs up a leaf and bites down on a stem locking its mandibles on it and eventually dies there. After the ant’s death it is in the optimum position for the parasitic fungus to sprout to release more spores to the ground below for another unsuspecting ant to walk into.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Zombie Crab: Sacculina carcini body snatcher

Here is a creature that definitely resembles the crab version of the zombies on popular amc TV show The Walking Dead. The female sacculina larvae walk around until they find a host crab where they attach to one of the crabs joints. Then it sloughs in soft body form called a kentrogon, and injects itself into the crab’s body while its shell falls off. The Sacculina grows inside the crab eventually emerging as a sac called the externa where the crab’s eggs would be incubated. Once the body has been invaded by the sacculina, the afflicted crab will no longer possess the ability to molt or regrow. This ends up in its loss of nutrition for the hosting crab. Then the body snatched sacculina-crab eventually mates with a male crab. The male crab then cares for the sacculina babies as though they were his own and the sacculina restarts its circle of life.

By Bluebird Taylor

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