Monday, December 12, 2005
Suicide Grasshoppers Brainwashed by Parasite Worms
Under this headline National Geographic News reported about a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B in August 2005. French biologists wondered why so many grasshoppers jump into swimming pools in southern France. They noticed that a parasitic worm swims away from each drowned grasshopper and soon they figured out that the worm makes the grasshopper jump into the water by releasing neuroactive substances. The worms find mates and reproduce in the water. They are members of a growing group of brainwashing parasites. The "brain worm" infests ants' brains and makes them sit at night on leafs of grass waiting to be eaten by sheep. Parasitic wasps can reprogram their spider-host into weaving a cocoon that protects the wasps' offspring. And toxoplasm makes mice unafraid of cats (because toxoplasm can't replicate in mice and therefore has to get into a cat somehow). I think everybody has one of these things and the purpose in life is to figure out what they want you to do. We just pass on the question to our brainwashing parasites and can live happily ever after.