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Scientists discover a new parasitic wasp that creates zombie spiders


University of British Columbia

In the Ecuadorian Amazon, a newly discovered wasp regularly turns a social spider into a lonely, bulky zombie.

Spider species Anelosimus eximius, Create sophisticated bucket-like networks with thousands of family members. This is considered a “social spider” because it cooperates with other spiders in his communal home in the exchange of hunting, parenting and feeding duties.

That is, bye Zatypota a parasitoid wasp lays an egg on its belly.

As soon as the besieged egg sediments of the wasp appear, the larva appears, attaches to the spider and feeds on it, sucking the blood hemolymph to survive. At this moment, the behavior of the spider changes, and it becomes enslaved by the larva, moving away from its common nest to create its own cocoon network.

The larva feeds on the spider until it dies; in relative safety, the cocoon-form of the web its owner had just built, before tightening its own cocoon and eventually becoming a beautiful royal wasp.


Philip Fernandez-Fournier noticed the strange behavior of the spider and began an investigation. Annelosimus eximius usually do not leave their nests, but when he saw one crawling to create a completely new network, he was intrigued.

His study, published in Ecological Entomology, suggests that the larva Zatypota Wasp species are able to manipulate their activities of the owners, control their behavior and force him to build these unusual networks – and this may be the most perfect behavioral manipulation ever seen.

Fernandez-Fournier and his research team suspect that the wasp is making behavioral changes in the spider, “incorporating into some kind of ancestral distribution program” … which sounds very terrible, like brain control. Either this or the wasps causes the spiders to starve, which causes them to search for food on the periphery of the nest. As soon as they go out, they start spinning on the Internet, unlike those that they usually inhabit.

In the animal kingdom, the zombie abilities of the wasps are not new. Other species of spiders, such as Orb Weaver, also become reluctant hosts for wasps and there are species of wasps that do it with cockroaches, also. However, the recently discovered wasp appears to significantly change the web construction and social behavior of this spider species much more intensively than it was before.

How can this larva wasp? The answer to this question is not so easy to find, but several theories have been proposed, including the injection of hormones into the spider, which capture the owner's desire to create "reduced webs during shedding." Other types of parasitic wasps have bitten the hosts brain with a chemical cocktail.

The researchers also found that the size of the spider colony plays a role in the number of spiders that receive zombie treatment, with larger colonies seeing a greater number of parasitized spiders. This may seem like an obvious link, but it is important to establish the dynamics between the parasite and the host and can provide further insight into the evolutionary mechanisms that play in, admittedly, grim relations.


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