Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Zombie Fire Ants

The parasitic phorid fly attacks and lays its eggs inside the fire ant. The developing fly renders the ant zombie-like until the ant's head falls off and the new fly targets another ant. The flies are being used to counter the fire ant problem in Texas.

While impressive, the phorid fly's parasitism isn't nearly as elegant as the parasitic protozoa Toxoplasma gondii (that also infects humans) that causes mice to seek out cats, bringing the parasite back to its desired feline host.

Here is a great talk from Jim McKerrow on the bizarre world of parasites.

(image credit: Night of the Living Dead, wikipedia.org)