Zombie ants!

I found the craziest video on youtube this morning when I was searching for the clips Alessandra and Sam showed us at the beginning of class on Thursday. Weirdly enough, I came by another video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PB4SjX8QkA) which is equally as intriguing. It was done by Animal Planet, and it describes one of the most complicated life cycles on the planet – that of a parasite which infests the brain of ants. Although many important details are left out, such as the name of the parasite being discussed, the video does give a great overview of the amazingly complex set of steps needed for this parasite to continue existing. Basically, it happens like this:

-The parasite is consumed by the ant and travels to the ant’s brain

-The parasite causes the ant to climb to the end of a piece of grass and clamp on with it’s jaws, where it can remain dangling for up to 8 weeks (at this point, the ant is breathing but all other systems are paralyzed)

-A cute rabbit hops by and eats the ant

-Inside the rabbit, the ant releases lots and lots of eggs, which are then excreted in the rabbit’s feces

-A snail eats the eggs. The eggs are so irritating to the snail that it produces copious amounts of mucus to surround the egg

-There is so much mucus that the snail must cough it – and and the egg – up

-The ant loves snail mucus, and eats the parasite egg. The parasite travels to the ant’s brain. BAM.

Weirdest, most complex, smartest life cycle ever. Sapolsky was right, I feel dumb.

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One thought on “Zombie ants!

  1. At the end of class Melissa posed this question: who is more intelligent? Well seems to me that these parasites have the ingenious ability to manipulate several species. This makes me wonder what the equivalent is in humans, like if we’re the ant, who is our parasite? Who can generate this cyclical, complex phenomenon?

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