Mind-Controlling Parasites Date Back Millions of Years
2010-08-18 0:00

By Charles Q. Choi | LiveScience.com

Mind control by parasite sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but not only have scientists revealed that it is real across a range of animals — including perhaps humans — they now even have fossil evidence suggesting it has taken place for millions of years.

An unnerving variety of parasites have evolved the ability to control the brains of victims to help the parasites spread. For instance, the protozoan known as Toxoplasma gondii makes rats love cat urine so that it can spread among its feline hosts — and it may influence human culture as well, making people more prone to certain forms of neuroticism.

Another case of parasite mind control involves the fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, which essentially turns ants into zombies. It maneuvers the insects into biting down on the major veins of the undersides of leaves just before they die — the fungus then rapidly grows a stalk from their victims’ heads, releasing spores to infect more ants.


A parasitic fungus stalk erupted from the head of a dead carpenter ant whose jaws are gripping the underside of a leaf’s major vein. Credit: David Hughes.

Now scientists have discovered what might be ancient evidence of such mind-control-induced death grips — scars on a roughly 48-million-year-old leaf.

"I thought it was a very, very long shot to find such a fossil, but indeed, as luck would have it, two paleobotanists, Conrad Labandeira at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and Torsten Wappler at the Steinmann Institute in Bonn, were sitting around wondering how that particular damage type might be explained," said researcher David Hughes, a behavioral ecologist at Harvard University.

The leaf fossil came from what once were subtropical forests around a lake in Germany. The leaf bears 29 dumbbell-shaped scars centered around its veins. These differ from the kinds of snips resulting when insects drink plant sap, and match telltale scars made nowadays by the death grips of carpenter ants (Camponotus leonardi) infected with the mind-controlling fungus O. unilateralis.

"We are now realizing that half of life on Earth is parasitic -- each free-living organism has at least one parasite," Hughes said. "But very few manipulate behaviors and there is a reason for that -- it is likely very costly. The fossil now challenges us to think of what past environments acted as selective forces for such cool tricks to evolve."

Hughes, Labandeira and Wappler detailed their findings online Aug. 18 in the journal Biology Letters.

Article from: LiveScience.com





Parasitic Mind Control

Video from: YouTube.com







Related Articles
Parasites—the new frontier: celebrating Darwin 200
Researchers find schizophrenia linked to parasite carried by cats
Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes Are 100 Percent Resistant to Malaria Parasite
Do Parasites Rule the World? (2000)
Asian Parasite Killing Western Bees - Scientist
Bacteria and Phytoplankton Affect the Weather


Latest News from our Front Page

Police Attacked by Mob in Cincinnati, Rescue White Man from Black Beatdown
2015-07-07 0:28
Cincinnati police form a line against mob violence July 4, 2015. Photo: Cincy vs Everyone Fireworks, rocks, bottles and punches were thrown at Cincinnati police by a mob of people gathered for a Fourth of July hip hop and electronica concert late Saturday night. Several officers were wounded including one who needed stitches after a thrown glass bottle struck him in ...
California Rabbi Calls on Amazon to Cease Selling Books on Holocaust Denial
2015-07-07 0:47
A Sacramento rabbi has called on Amazon to ban the sale of books promoting Holocaust denial, CBS Sacramento reported on Friday. “Blatant anti-Semitism,” said Sacramento Rabbi Mendy Cohen, according to the report. “To deny the Holocaust is another mask of blatant anti-Semitism.” Among the books for sale to Amazon customers are titles such as Did Six Million Die? The Truth at Last and The Myth ...
Inna Shevchenko: Naked Breasts Are Political Weapons
2015-07-06 23:46
Inna Shevchenko, the leader of the Femen movement, is not an obscure individual in Europe and much of the Western world. She once bragged: “I’m proud to say we brought the idea of feminism and women’s rights to a politically ignorant part of the world like Ukraine, Russia, Belarus. And I’m proud to say I think we brought feminism back on to ...
Cleric said to be behind Tunisian beach massacre is living on benefits in Britain
2015-07-06 23:11
Cleric said to be behind Tunisian beach massacre is living on benefits in Britain A leader of the terrorist group suspected of being behind the Tunisian beach massacre is living on benefits in Britain. Hani al-Sibai, an al-Qaeda cleric suspected of radicalising "Jihadi John", lives in a £1 million house leafy street in fashionable west London. He is said to be one of ...
Bakers Facing $135K Fine Over Wedding Cake for Same-Sex Couple Speak Out
2015-07-06 23:57
(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.3"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));A Daily Signal Exclusive: Bakers Facing $135K Fine Over Wedding Cake for Same-Sex Couple Speak OutPosted by The Daily Signal on Monday, April 27, 2015 From the video source: Bakers Facing $135K ...
More News »