That's the headline (well, without the exclamation point) from Live Science. It's a report of some research that apparently has significance if you care about the specifics of how genes work. But it's also full of riches if what you're interested in is ugly animals and ugly animal behavior.
That's a close up of the face of a gypsy moth. Lovely, right? Also badly behaved. As an invasive species introduced to North America, gypsy moths eat the heck out of our trees.
But when you're mad at gypsy moths, you can take pleasure in thinking about a horrific virus that infects them. It changes their behavior, making them climb to the treetops when they'd normally be hiding in a protected spot. It also stops them from molting, so they'll still eat and grow bigger. Soon they die, and that's when the fun really starts: their bodies liquefy, spewing virus-laden goo all over the tree and through the air to infect more moth victims.
Foresters hope that understanding this virus may help them to control the invasive moths. But it may have implications for us as well:
"Who knew that a virus could change the behavior of its host?" study author Jim Slavicek, of the U.S. Forest Service, said in a statement. "Maybe this is why we go to work when we have a cold."
-barring the doors and windows,
Wombat (No Relation)