A larva of this sort of wasp turns the spiders into zombies in their service and then devours them

Spider Anelosimus eximius. Picture: Philippe Fernandez-Fournier

Parasites who control the behavior of their hosts for their benefit are the thing scientists have documented for years, but have now discovered a worrying relationship between the parasitic axis larvae and the social spider.

Some organisms correspond to the brains of some carriers, usually for reproductive purposes. Mushrooms O. unilateralisis, for example, controlling the ant's brain. Parasite Diplostomum pseudospathaceum It hides in the eye of the fish and leads them to their death.

Now a team of scientists from the University of British Columbia has discovered another interesting parasitic relationship and is one of the most unpleasant we have seen, both because of its complexity and its resistance. The new study, which was published today in Ecological entomology, researcher Philippe Fernández-Fournier describes how parasitic wasps are Zatypota uses and exploits the social spider Anelosimus eximius, first as a vehicle and then forcing it to build an incubation chamber. Oh, in the end, the spider eats it.

Fernández-Fournier met with this discovery in Ecuador, Amazon, studying several parasites who live in nests A. eximius. These arachnids are known as social spiders because they live in large colonies, work together to capture prey, share breeding tasks, and rarely go beyond the borders of their shaggy communal nests.

Larva Zatypota sticks to his host, spiders Anelosimus eximius, Picture: Philippe Fernandez-Fournier

These spiders have very predictable behavior, so Fernandez-Fournier quickly realized that some were infected with a parasitic larva to see how they deviated from the colony. This observation was by itself quite rare, but the scientist also watched as these spiders began to spin with dense silk buds and pieces of leaves.

"It was very strange because they usually do not, so I started writing notes," said Fernandez-Fournier in his statement.

He moved with curiosity and took the puppy to the lab. When he opened it, he saw to his surprise how the wasp was developing inside. Fernández-Fournier and his team explored more and discovered an interaction that has never been documented between the two.

Here's how it works: woman wasp Zatypota gives an egg to the belly of a spider Anelosimus eximiusWhen the larva hatches, it joins the spider and feeds. The larva grows gradually and begins to absorb most of the spider's body.

With time, the spider slowly becomes a "zombie" and no longer feels normal. Under the influence of the larva, the spider leaves its colony and undertakes to build a network of coconuts. Once this construction is completed as a slave, the spider stays motionless, allowing the larva to finish eating until death. When a larva is deployed inside a cocoon that has a woven spider, it uses it as an incubator for the next stage of gestation. After 9 to 11 days, a fully mature washer emerges from the hood. Then the cycle begins again, until the next spider's spider's shame.

This strategy, says researchers, is unique in that parasitic wasps were documented only as attacking solitaire spiders.

"This change in behavior is very serious," said Samantha Straus, co-author of the study. "The mosquito completely drives the spider's brain and behavior, and forces her to do something she would never do, like leaving the nest and creating a completely different structure, which is very dangerous for these tiny spiders."

He added: "We believe that wasps are aimed at these social spiders because they are a large and stable host colony and source of food. We also found that the larger the spider colony, the more likely it would be to focus its axes on it."

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Scientists believe the wasp injects a hormone that turns the brain into a spider to hypnotize it. This hormone causes the spider to think it is at a different stage of life, or acts as a signal that causes the spider to escape from its colony. Currently, they do not have an exact answer to how the process that changes the spider into zombies works. It's just a conjecture.

Fernández-Fournier and Straus now want to return to the forest in Ecuador to learn more about these diabolic waxes and their hosts. In particular, they would like to know if the wasps always point to the same spider colony, and if so, how to use them. [Ecological Entomology]

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