Do you remember the scene of The Black Mirror where the skull of Charles Babalola’s was infected by a Autonomous Drone Insect (ADI) which was later pulled out from its eye socket by a MRI machine? It was a very gruesome event right? Just imagining that an insect can burrow into your skull through your ear hole is terrifying, what if the insect also gets to command your brain according to its wishes and later escapes through your head?
It was named after the Egyptian god of evil and chaos by the scientists because of its malicious life cycle. From its native habitat of southeastern U.S. its malicious life cycle starts. This particular insect lays its eggs inside a small chamber which was hollowed by a different wasp variety inside a sand live oak tree.
When the egg of the insect hatches finally, the larva digs into the head of the gall was and then commands its mind as well as body. It then manipulates the gall wasp to act like a drill and dig through the tree bark to reach outside. Without using its host it would be very unlikely that gall wasp would have made it outside alive. There is an even creepier part of its act, the hole made by the wasp is only sufficient for the head of the larva. As a result of this when the larva is stuck it eats its way through the opening and makes its escape from the forehead of the wasp.
Kelly Weinersmith, who was the lead author of the case study of these wasps, showed the manner in which Euderus set reaps benefits from the parasitic relationship which it has with B. padilla. In an experiment they confined the crypt-keeper inside one of the small boxes similar to its nest without the host being present. This was done to test if the insect could escape. It was concluded from the experiment that the larva was like to die three times more if its host was absent to help them escape. In the journal named Proceedings of the Royal Society B the study was published.
These insects explain a phenomenon called hyperparasitism. These hyperparasites are those parasites which utilize other parasites for their advantage. One such example would most likely be the parasite which lays and hatches its eggs in the body of other parasites. The fact that sets E. set apart from all other parasite is its ability of manipulating the hosts functioning and behavior. Hypermanipulationis not a subject which is widely understood by everyone but there are evidences of various mind controlling activities amongst different species.
Planet Earth does not let a single moment pass by without amazing us with its wide variety of flora and fauna. Similar to the manner in which we interact with lots of different species, many such species do the same that too right in front of our eyes. This is even done sometimes in the most frightening of the ways.
featured image ©Ryan Ridenbaugh and Miles Zhang