Nature can be cruel. In the wild world, creatures become slaves to all sorts of menacing mind-manipulators. Parasites, wasps and even trees are all capable of quite dastardly mind control.Share
THE ANTI-SAMARITAN – THE HAIRWORM
While plenty of small animals can be infected by the pesky hairworm, what it does to crickets is particularly notable, and particularly horrid. The worm will find its way into a cricket by its host eating infected food – and once on board its new vessel will convince the cricket to head for water – where it will swim free to breed, and the host will drown!
SLAVES TO A TREE – THE ACACIA TREE AND ANTS
While not an animal in any technical sense, the acacia has a brilliant way of dominating creatures that inhabit it – it secretes both a sweet, sticky nectar that ants adore – but will also release a repulsive deterrent that drives them away! This unintentional mind control allows the ants to crawl around the acacia’s trunk where it is needed, be it for ecological reasons or for defence against tree-munchers.
THE AQUATIC HITCH-HIKER – THE PARASITIC WORM
Some water-dwelling parasitic worms will purposely infect crustaceans such as gammarids to be able to get nutrients from another predator! This complex journey sees the worm affect certain elements of the crustacean’s behaviour upon ingestion, forcing it to float up towards the water’s surface where it can easily be eaten by a predatory bird. When the bird feeds on the zombified crustacean, the worms feed off the bird’s nutrients and mature in its gut – before being excreted as new life forms!
THE WALKING INCUBATOR – JEWEL WASPS AND COCKROACHES
The female jewel wasp is a true cowgirl – when she’s ready to lay her young she will hijack an innocent cockroach and inject poison into its brain to impair its thought processes and ability to move. What then, you ask? The wasp will lead the docile cockroach back by its antlers to her nest, where she will then lay an egg on the dawdling beast – before sealing the best away. The egg will develop into a larvae that will eat the cockroach alive, eventually emerging from it as a developed wasp. Lovely.
THE MUMMIFIER – GLYPTAPANTELES WASP
Here’s another wasp whose name is a mouthful to say – but whose young is a full body-ful for some unsuspecting caterpillars! Some wasps are content to just sting you – but this wasp will inject a caterpillar with its own eggs, allowing them to grow inside the host and eat them from the inside out! All the while, the caterpillar’s brain will be manipulated by the growing wasps to remain compliant until the process is over!”
THE PIED PIPER – TOXOPLASMA AND RATS
Like any good parasite, toxoplasma’s first host is never its ideal one. This cunning mind-controller will infect a rat’s muscular system and its brain, where it will amazingly convince the whiskered host to go in search of cat urine – without knowing for why – and, naturally, the rat will be eaten, and the parasite will get new nutrients out of a new predatory host to start its life cycle!
FRUIT FAKERY – ROUNDWORMS AND GLIDING ANTS
Roundworms are parasites that infect certain types of gliding ants in order to get passed onto unwitting bird hosts to complete their life cycles. How do they manage this? They infect the ants’ rear-end so that it swells up like a succulent red berry – which any random bird can come across and gobble up, assuming it to be sweet and nutritious! How the parasites convince the ant to be so compliant in this is a mystery.
DYING TO BE DINNER – THE SPINY-HEADED WORM
The spiny-headed worm is a parasite that feeds off of bird nutrients – and its eggs can be found in the bird’s faeces. These faeces are then eaten by an unsuspecting pill bug, who, similarly to the crustaceans affected by the water parasites – is then used as a makeshift vehicle towards a new bird host. The growing parasites effectively take over the bug’s mind and guide it willingly towards a bird’s willing mouth.