There has been a rise in our fascination in zombie fiction and movies lately. I think such tales strike a deep chord in our psyche. But for much of the animal kingdom, such tales aren't fanciful. They're an everyday occurrence.
Dec 4, 2010
Take this poor yellow dung fly (Scathophagia stercoraria). It's been infected by a previously unknown (yet to be described) species of Entomophthora fungus. This parasite fungus causes its host to climb up a grass blade, stick it wings out, and position itself so that its abdomen is in the air, and then die. All of this is accomplished so the fungus' spores are better dispersed.
I'm assuming that zombification (a new word?) is more readily found in the insect kingdom because their nervous systems are more easily hijacked than those of higher order animals. Nevertheless, I've purchased a large supply of fungicide, and my wife has instructions to spray me down should she find me climbing up to the roof to stick my butt in the air.
Thanks for the fantastic photo, Dave. It's entomologists like you that show us how ugly and fascinating this world can be. I'm glad to be human.