Thu. Jan 23rd, 2020

Terrifying new wasp can seize control of victims’ brains and turn them into zombie slaves

3 min read

A newly-discovered member of the Acrotaphus wasp family (Image: Kari Kaunisto)

A newly-discovered member of the Acrotaphus wasp family (Image: Kari Kaunisto)

Scientists have discovered a new species of wasp that can seize control of its victim’s brains.

Lurking in the dark depths of the Amazon rainforest is a ‘parasitoid’ wasp that can ‘manipulate the behaviour of the host spider in a complex way’.

The insects were among 15 members of the Acrotaphus family found during in the lowland jungle of the Amazon and the cloud forests of the Andes.

These wasps can grow up to several centimetres in length and can be ‘very colourful’.

Until now, we knew of just 11 species which belong to the Acrotaphus genus – meaning 15 new discoveries have significantly increased our knowledge of these tiny monsters.

The new horrors prey on spiders in various hideous ways.

The female of one species attacks spiders in their web and temporarily paralyses victims with a venomous sting.

One egg is then injected into the comatose creepy-crawly, which grows into a larva that slowly eats the unfortunate victim’s flesh.

Another species is capable of turning spiders into zombie slaves which work to build webs in a way which will protect the wasp as it slowly consumes its host.

Diego Pádua, author of a new study detailing the discovery, said: ‘The Acrotaphus wasps we studied are very interesting as they are able to manipulate the behaviour of the host spider in a complex way.

‘During the time period preceding the host spider’s death, it does not spin a normal web for catching prey.

‘Instead, the parasitoid wasp manipulates it into spinning a special web which protects the developing pupa from predators.

‘Host manipulation is a rare phenomenon in nature, which makes these parasitoid wasps very exciting in terms of their evolution.’

A famous recent example of mind-control is the ‘zombie rave snail’ pictured below which featured in a viral video last year.

Erm... nope?

Erm… nope?

The clip shows a snail infected by a parasite which controls its mind, takes over its eye stalks and takes the helm of its motor functions.

This allows the invader to make the snail look more like caterpillars and then attracting birds which swoop down and eat them.

It also overrides the normal behaviour of the snail, stopping them from hiding in dark spaces and making them slither out into the open where they can be scoffed up.

Biologist Mike Inouye stepped in the following explanation: ‘A parasitic worm called Leucochloridium has taken over its motor functions and eyestalks, making them into caterpillar mimics so birds will eat them.

‘The worm can then reproduce in the bird’s GI tract, eventually transmitting via its faeces.’

A tourist spotted the beast crawling across a hillside in Taiwan and said it looked as if it had ‘flashing lights’ turned on inside it.

Lin Ruian said: ‘The snail looked like it had multicoloured neon lights inside.

‘I don’t know what was causing it but it was very strange. I poked it with a stick and it rolled over.’

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