Nov 3, 2008

Zombie Spiders

Want to read an article that will have you leave you squirming? Then check out this link, brought to us by Casey. It shows how in nature there are parasites, and then there are parasites who up the ante. And the world is more zombie-rich for it.

Behold the alien beauty (I'm stretching here, for the sake of this post) of a Costa Rican orb weaver known as Plesiometa argyra. This spider is known for its perfectly symmetrical and round webs.



















Ah, but what happens when a parasitoid wasp comes along and stings the spider? The spider goes comatose for about 15 minutes and wakes up and resumes its normal routine. But the spider is unaware that the attack it just *survived* resulted in it being inject with a wasp egg.

A little while later, that same little waspling will hatch and begin dining on the spider. Typical parasite behavior--until it gets time for the little larvae to pupate. It enlists the spider's help in that, by making it a zombie. The larvae hijacks the spider's brain and induces it to ply its web-weaving skills at pupae making. The orb weaver literally spins a cocoon for the larvae and suspends it above the forest floor, safe and out of the way of would-be predators. See the photo below: the left is of a normal web, the right is a zombie web.














And what does the larvae do to show its appreciation? It drains the spider dry and tosses aside its shriveled carcass. I'm afraid that's what my kids will do when they've used me up. I've already got a head start on the zombie thing after a couple of weeks of sleep deprivation.

7 comments:

Peter ├śrskov Madsen said...

Holy Crap!
That's some scary reading on the linked article, especially the last bit *shiver*.

alex said...

what the hell man...

gecklund said...

I wonder what the wasp will make us build.

Flartus said...

Hey, keep up the good work, Daddy Zombat! Maybe it would be easier for you to just string up some hammocks in the living room, though.

Bird said...

Well that's left me wanting to hurl my breakfast. I am sooo glad I am human and not wasp bait!

Peter ├śrskov Madsen said...

Hey Bird, read the link!
We're not ecxempt from these zombiefying crutters

Gareth said...

That was a great day. The day the Wasp figured out how to get out of doing his own spinning. Hmmm, if I tap into the lower cortex of the spider's brain...

bizarre!