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Zombies are creatures from video games and horror movies. For many of them, this way of life is the only way to survive and continue their family.
Strepsipterans. Although there are quite a few strange insects in the world, male strepsipterans stand out. These flying creatures are the size of a mosquito, they have huge eyes and highly developed senses. They live only a few hours. The life of males is devoted exclusively to one goal - the search for females for the purpose of copulation. However, such a task is quite difficult, because the opposite sex does not have limbs and eyes. It is essentially just one parasitic body that lives in the body of other insects, such as flies, bees or praying mantises. Only the head of the female sticks out of the owner, which she sticks out to breathe. To find a male, the parasite releases special pheromones into the wind and forces its host to wait patiently in a convenient and accessible place. For example, at the tip of a long leaf or branch. Imagine what it would be like to stand patiently for several hours, while someone living in you pulled his head out of his back and flirts with men! After a few days, the female will vomit a bunch of live larvae on the next flower - a great place to infect subsequent victims.
Fish parasites. For most fish, avoiding birds of prey is a natural activity and a condition for their survival. Pelicans and other hunters have few prey in the throats. The birds are on a strict diet, their main prey is not healthy and normal fish, but one that is under the influence of parasitic worms. For example, sticklebacks suffer from the tapeworm Schistocephalus solidus, which eventually grows so large that it makes the host plump and lethargic. Even the color of the fish changes, making it easier to spot. In the end, the behavior of the owner also changes, it begins to swim closer to the surface, where it gets into the beak of feathered predators. The worms feed the birds with fish, and the birds, in turn, help them spread to rivers and lakes with the help of droppings.
Gordian worm. This worm is also known as horsehair. The reason is his mysterious appearance in the horse trough. It goes through its parasitic larval stages in the organs of insects, especially crickets. But the adult nonparasitic stage of creatures takes place in the aquatic environment. The ability to swim has not been noted for crickets, but this is not a hindrance to the parasite. When the worm matures, it pushes its insect to look for the nearest body of water and dive there. At this point, the cricket or grasshopper is already partially digested and zombified. An adult individual of the worm crawls out of the skeleton of its host and swims away to find its mate. The very same helpless insect drowns. Each female worm lays up to 10 million eggs.
Cordyceps. Cordyceps is a kind of fungus that develops in the organs of various insects. Each species has its own host, ultimately the victim dies, turning itself into tiny mushrooms and releasing its spores. To reproduce better, many species take control of their victims shortly before the fungus begins to form, penetrating as deeply as possible into the body so that the spores spread as far as possible. The infection is even tied to the ideal time of day to infect preferred hosts. So, fly cordyceps kills its prey at dawn, when the air is as clean and humid as possible. This promotes germination and introduction of spores into new victims.
Sakkulina. This crustacean from the order of barnacles are actually congeners to their owners, crabs. At one time, sacculina was mistaken for a fungus. The female begins her life in a microscopic stage, like a floating shrimp. However, she will give up 90% of her body when she finds the crab she needs. The sacculina attaches to the underside of the host's abdomen and pierces it with filamentous processes that suck out all the juices from it. Over time, the sacculina opens a small opening for the male to mate with. If the host is a female, then the larva of a new parasite is introduced into it. It will be hatched by a crab and feed inside it, spreading out like its own child. Even if the owner is a male, the sacculina will in any case transform his body and mind to perform female functions.
Leukochloridium. This creature belongs to tapeworms. Leucochloridium lives in the body of a snail, but its life cycle ends in the body of a songbird. Birds cannot usually find snails, as they are usually unappetizing and hide in the shade, but the parasite completely changes the behavior of its host. The snail strives for the open sun, its appearance changes, resembling something much more delicious. Leukochloridium forms bright, pulsating outgrowths of its small larvae in the body of the snail, resembling fat striped caterpillars or larvae. Birds notice the bait by consuming the parasite. Tentacles torn off from the snail will grow back over time, and new outgrowths will get there. The worm enters its natural environment, living in the cloaca or hind gut of the bird. Over time, the newer larvae spread with the droppings, and the process is repeated over and over.
Ribeiroia. This tapeworm cannot boast of full control over the master's mind, but it has another feature - it perpetuates itself, turning its owner into a monster. The victims are tadpoles and larval parasites, which end up with a strange look. The tapeworm interferes with the development of a tadpole into a frog, creating gruesome body deformations. Infected animals can get extra limbs at unimaginable angles, making it difficult for them to move. The purpose of the worm is simple - such a transformation of the host is necessary for it to be eaten by predatory wetland birds, transferring the tapeworm and its offspring to the next pond.
Lancet Fluke. Unlike some other insects that completely subdue ants, the fluke initially lives in the body of a cow, introducing its eggs into the host's feces. The hot excrement attracts the snails, which will eventually eat the eggs as well, becoming infested with worms. Snails react to larvae by spitting them out in clots of mucus. These wormy balls have a tasty smell, attracting ants passing by. Having been eaten by them, the worm waits for the night when the coolness sets in, and the host's strength is running out. The fluke then makes the ant climb to the very tip of the blade of grass, lifting its body into the air. This is the perfect place for an ant to be swallowed by a cow, but what if it doesn't? The worm lets the ant out of its control in the morning without interfering with its normal daily life. At night, the owner again loses power over the body.
Humpback fly Pseudacteon. Although these flies are related to the common harmless fruit flies that breed in fallen and forgotten fruits, they have a much more ominous appetite. The female lays her eggs in the body of a live ant. There, a tiny worm will develop over time, and will move on to the head of its owner to eat his brain. However, this will not kill the victim, although he will actually become dead. The insect will simply start wandering aimlessly for days until its head simply falls off its body. It is curious that the parasite forces the ant to go as far as possible from its home (up to 50 meters!), So that congeners cannot help the infected individual. The worm will use the severed head as a pupation chamber, turning into a fly and looking for a mate. Now, far from the anthill, no one will interfere with the humpback.
Glyptapanteles. There are many parasitic wasps whose larvae develop in the bodies of other insects, especially caterpillars. Some "guests" can change the behavior of their hosts, but Glyptapanteles stand out even in this row. As is the case with other parasites, the female lays her eggs (up to 80 pieces) on the back of the caterpillar. Inside the insect, the larvae develop, feeding on the fluid circulating inside, but do not kill it. The larvae gnaw their way out, fixing themselves on the nearest branch and forming a cocoon. In a partially eaten caterpillar, a couple of eggs remain, which continue to control the poor insect. The still alive caterpillar stays in place, curving. She begins to guard the new home of the wasps. So, when bugs appear, hunting just for silk cocoons of wasps, the caterpillar begins to shake its head, throwing the aggressor from the branch or chasing him away. When the parasitic wasps finish their metamorphosis and emerge from the cocoon, the zombie caterpillar will die of exhaustion and hunger.
Emerald cockroach wasps (Ampulex Compressa). These insects can be found in the tropics of Africa, India and the Pacific Islands. Their zombie method is original. Wasps sting a cockroach, as a result of which it loses its will, but retains the ability to move independently. The wasp takes its prey by the antennae and transports it to its home. There she lays eggs on the belly of the unfortunate insect and leaves them in her burrow. The larvae that appear use the cockroach as their food, then pupate. Soon, a new generation of wasps is born. Scientists have found that such a wasp stings twice - first to reduce resistance, and then a very precise injection is made directly into the victim's brain. The poison blocks chemical signals in the brain, spawning zombies.