Zombie roaches!

Roaches are bad. But you know what’s worse? ZOMBIE ROACHES! Zombie roaches are created by one of the many species of parasitic wasp – these wasps paralyze another species of insect or spider and lay their eggs in their living bodies. (The most well known of these is the tarantula spider.) When the eggs hatch , an adorable little wasp baby eats its way out of the fresh meat.

At least for one species, the paralyzing agent is not physical, but mental. The jewel wasp, which lays its eggs in cockroaches, injects venom into the place in the roach’s brain that essentially controls free will. Unable to walk, the roach is dragged into the wasp’s burrow to stay nice and fresh for the little waspling.

Now that I think about it, this is a bit disappointing. Zombie roaches are actually the opposite of the traditional zombie, which is dead yet running about – the roach is alive but paralyzed. I suppose we’ll have to turn to the robo-roaches for our dose of roach-related nefarious schemes.

Fortunately, there is a real zombie-creature in nature – my favorite parasite of all time, the rhizocephalan barnacle. It finds a crab, wraps around its nervous system, and turns it into a little crab-bot. The crab-bot carefully carries around and grooms the rhizocephalan until the rhizocephalan wants to reproduce. Then the rhizocephalan makes the crab-bot do the ocean equivalent of throwing itself under a bus – the crab goes out in the open and waves its claws around until it gets eaten by a fish. And the rhizocephalan life cycle continues…

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7 Responses to Zombie roaches!

  1. anna says:

    i was eating when i read “parasitic wasp” and saw the photo and really almost lost it.

    excited to see you tomorrow, though!

  2. Sam says:

    Ooh, have you read Peeps, by Scott Westerfeld? (I don’t remember if we’ve had this conversation.) It’s about people who have vampirism, which is in this story a parasite. (Peep = Parasite Positive) Some people are carriers, which means they get all the good stuff (super strength, heightened senses, virtual immortality) without the bad (insanity, a need to attack and eat people), and those people make up the Night Watch, an organization whose job it is to track down peeps.

    Anyway, interspersed with the story chapters are chapters about real-world parasites. I’m pretty sure the crab-bot is in there.

  3. I have read Peeps, and I was very happy that my rhizocephalan bros were in there. (though now I worry when my cat sits on my chest.)

  4. jebyrnes says:

    What always amazes me is how common this is in the animal kingdom – I think my favorite example is a cowrie parasite that forces them to come up to the sediment surface and graze there instead of down lower, and then they are more likely to be eaten by birds – the secondary host of this parasite.

    But, really, I ❤ parasitoid zombification.

  5. Martini-Corona says:

    What about zombie cat ladies?

  6. kevin z says:

    I ❤ Rhizocephalans! My thumb drive is named Rhizocephala cause it parasitizes my macbook with its little “sack” hanging out of the “point of insertion” (if you know what I mean…). My Ipod shuffle is called Planula… my macbook is called Cnidaria…

    Am I still cool?

  7. Martini-Corona – Clearly, this is the feline conspiracy. Why else have snooty demanding weird pets * toxo zap* that are so fuzzy and cute and loving…awwww, kitties.

    kevin z – THE COOLEST. Now I’m all jealous of your thumb drive name. (Of course, my ibook is named Medusa – as a pun on the cnidarian and the mythical monter, so I’m not sure I know from cool.)

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