Parasitoid Wasps Turn Spiders Into Zombies

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Parasitoid wasps transform spiders into their obedient slaves that behave like zombies. A new study, published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, reveals exciting information regarding the way a particular species of wasps can take over spiders’ minds, controlling them in order to do their bidding.

Researchers theorize that the bizarre phenomenon involves the wasps injecting the spiders with a hormone called ecdysone that enables them to hack into the arachnoid’s system.

The first step in the zombifying process is wasps laying their eggs on the back of the spider. Later, the eggs hatch and the larvae latch on the spider’s abdomen, as external parasites. They inject psychotropic substances into the spider’s hemolymph, that transports it to the central nervous system.

Parasitoid Wasps Turn Spiders Into Zombies

The parasitoid wasps’ larvae are granted access into the spider’s brain. That’s when the psychotropic substances take action, compelling the spider to weave a special web where the larvae will remain suspended. Apparently, this type of web is very similar to the one the spider creates for its own molting cycle. After fulfilling its purpose, the spider suffers a quick death.

William Eberhand, one of the authors of the study, explained that the webs can offer them important information. The details of the lines in cocoon and molting webs give them insight into the zombification process. While the two types of the web can vary, scientists found that the variations can overlap, which is an interesting observation in terms of behavioral differences.

Eberhand came up with an explanation for the change in behavior. He believes the larva alters the spider’s weaving style in order to gain additional protection. Scientists concluded some of the mind-control mechanisms could be altered by factors like timing, amounts of ecdysone, modifications of ecdysone molecules and others.