This new wasp species turns spiders into zombies
Scientists have discovered a real-life horror movie
The Ecuadorian Amazon is known for its anacondas, jaguars, and piranhas, and yet none of those are as scary as a newly discovered species of parasitic wasp.
According to Motherboard, these wasps “hijack” the brains of spiders that live in communal webs and force them to leave their colonies to protect the wasp’s larvae for them, sort of like brainwashing someone into being your babysitter. Then, the zombified spiders “wait patiently” to be eaten.
After an adult female wasp lays an egg on a spider's abdomen, the larva apparently hatches and attaches itself to the unlucky arachnid, in true horror movie fashion. The larva grows bigger and bigger, gaining more and more power as it feeds on the spider’s hemolymph, which is equivalent to blood in insects.
The larva uses a behavior-altering process to manipulate the spider's decision-making, which is the "zombifying" part. The behavior modification is unprecedented in the animal kingdom, as the larva forces the spider to do something it would never do: abandon its colony, spin a cocoon for the larva, and allow itself to be consumed. Less than two weeks later, the larva emerges from the cocoon as a fully formed wasp, and it's ready to go out and zombify another unfortunate spider.
This is the first time a wasp has ever been found with the ability to control a so-called "social" spider, and researchers from the University of British Columbia discovered the relationship after observing the parasitoid life cycle between the previously undescribed insect in the Zatypota genus of wasp, and the social Anelosimus eximius spider.
The moral of the story is: zombies are real, and you should be scared.