Saturday January 28, 2017

The mind control of the crypt-keeper wasp

The Perpetrator:  The Crypt-keeper wasp is a parasite that eats its way through the head of its host, another parasite.

The Perpetrator: The Crypt-keeper wasp is a parasite that eats its way through the head of its host, another parasite. (Ryan Ridenbaugh and Miles Zhang)

Listen 7:22

Hypermanipulation is a rare phenomenon in nature in which a parasite manipulates its host, then is in turn manipulated by another parasite. 

 

Crypt gall wasp

The victim: The Crypt gall wasp is manipulated into getting its head stuck in an emergence hole it makes in its host tree. (Andrew Forbes)

Researchers knew that the crypt gall wasp manipulates twigs of live oak trees by burrowing into them to lay eggs.  But a new study by Dr. Kelly Weinersmith has found that another wasp — the crypt-keeper wasp — also lays its eggs in the same crypt.  It then parasitizes the crypt gall wasp and manipulates it into leaving the crypt through a hole.  The result is that the infected wasp ends up plugging the hole with its head, and dying.  

The crypt-keeper wasp is three times more likely to die trapped inside the crypt without its gruesome escape plan.

Additional Links:

Research Paper: Tales from the crypt: a parasitoid manipulates the behaviour of its parasite host