Parasites & Odd Effects Caused By Parasites

EnolaGaia

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This March 2011 Live Science news item provides multiple photos of zombified ants' corpses - the aftermath of the ants' manipulation and exploitation by a parasitic fungus.
Mind Control: Gallery of Zombie Ants

In two sites in the Brazilian rain forest, researchers identified four new species of brain-controlling fungal parasites. These fungi infect carpenter ants and turn them into zombies, directing them to leave their colonies and die in places where the fungi can grow and spread. ...

The fungus takes control of the ant using chemicals that have not yet been identified, according to one of the researchers, David Hughes. It directs the ant to leave its colony and clamp down a leaf before the fungus kills it. ...

After the fungus kills the ant, profuse fungal growth erupts from the dead ant's skin, or cuticle ...

Scientists following seemingly drunk zombie ants, infected with a fungus in the species of Ophiocordyceps, found the fungi fill the ant's head with fungal cells and change the ant's muscles so the ant can grab a leaf in a death grip just when and where the fungus wants it. ...

SOURCE (With Photos): https://www.livescience.com/13045-zombie-ants-fungi-photo-gallery.html
 

EnolaGaia

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This May 2011 Live Science article provides more details on how the fungus zombifies the ants for the fungus' benefit.
How Zombie Ants Lose Their Minds

New gruesome details have emerged explaining how a parasitic fungus manipulates an unfortunate ant, filling its head with fungal cells and changing its muscles so the ant can grab a leaf in a death grip just when and where the fungus wants it.

Research in a Thai rain forest has shown the fungi, a species of Ophiocordyceps, forces an infected ant to wander drunkenly over the forest's low leaves before clamping its jaws around the main vein on the underside of a leaf in an ant zombie graveyard. ...

FULL STORY: https://www.livescience.com/14064-zombie-ant-fungus-parasite.html
 

EnolaGaia

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A similar parasitic / exploitative fungal infection affects goldenrod soldier beetles:
Insect Walking Dead: How a Fungus Turns Beetles into Killer Zombies

A fungus worthy of its own horror film is on the loose, taking over the bodies of goldenrod soldier beetles and turning them into contagious zombies that can infect their beetle brethren, a new study finds.

The fungus has a creepy but foolproof modus operandi: About two weeks after it infects the goldenrod soldier beetle (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus), it orders the beetle to climb up a plant and clamp its mandibles around a flower.

Then, the beetle dies, swinging like a scarecrow from the flower and giving the fungus ample opportunity to infect nearby beetles ...

FULL STORY: https://www.livescience.com/59493-fungus-turns-beetle-into-zombie.html

See Also:
Photos: Zombie Beetles Hang from Flowers
https://www.livescience.com/59494-photos-zombie-beetles.html
 

EnolaGaia

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The latest news in fungal parasites ... Danish researchers have discovered a fungus that zombifies flies and eats them up from the inside.
Newly discovered fungi turn flies into zombies and devour them from the inside out

Two newly discovered fungi species have a similarly macabre mode of action: They eat flies alive while using them to drop spores on new victims.

The related species, Strongwellsea tigrinae and Strongwellsea acerosa, attack the fly species Coenosia tigrina and Coenosia testacea, which look like ordinary house flies but undergo a horrific change once they're invaded by the fungi. The fungi eat one or more holes in the abdomens of the flies and then produce clumps of orange spores, which spread by dropping out of the holes.

The infected, now-zombie flies remain alive for days during this process, meaning they inadvertently spread the spores far and wide, particularly when mating with other flies. Meanwhile, the fungi continue to devour the flies alive. Finally, the fungi-ravaged insects collapse to the ground in spasms and die. Even after death, the flies can spread the spores of their killers: The flies' abdomens gradually crumble, releasing more spores from inside. ...

FULL STORY: https://www.livescience.com/fungus-turns-flies-into-zombies.html
 

IbisNibs

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Well, these guys won't turn your eyelashes into zombies, but an overabundance might lead to serious disease:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6118860/
"The Demodex mite – of phylum Arthropoda – comes in two forms, Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis. . . .These are the only two mites that affect the human eye, and in turn humans are the only mammals to host them. Both mites in their adult form are cigar-shaped with four pairs of legs to grip cylindrical structures such as an eyelash.
". . . infestation by these mites – deemed demodicosis – has been implicated in a variety of anterior segment conditions, where literature suggests a correlation between Demodex mites and blepharitis, changes to the eyelashes (loss and misalignment), conjunctivitis, keratitis, and basal cell carcinoma of the lid, among others.4,7 To bridge these findings, it has been suggested that density and overpopulation may play a role in tipping the anterior segment ecosystem from homeostasis to disease."

These mites eat dead skin (good), but an overpopulation is correlated with basal cell carcinoma?!!?
Yikes.
 

EnolaGaia

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A newly reported discovery of a fossilized insect in amber indicates fungi have been f**king up ants for at least 50 million years.
Mushroom Growing Out of 50-Million-Year-Old Fossilized Ant Reveals New Species of Fungal Parasite

Oregon State University research has identified the oldest known specimen of a fungus parasitizing an ant, and the fossil also represents a new fungal genus and species.

“It’s a mushroom growing out of a carpenter ant,” said OSU’s George Poinar Jr., an international expert in using plant and animal life forms preserved in amber to learn about the biology and ecology of the distant past.

... Poinar and a collaborator in France named their discovery Allocordyceps baltica. They found the new type of Ascomycota fungi in an ant preserved in 50-million-year-old amber from Europe’s Baltic region. ...
FULL STORY: https://scitechdaily.com/mushroom-g...d-ant-reveals-new-species-of-fungal-parasite/
 

brownmane

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A newly reported discovery of a fossilized insect in amber indicates fungi have been f**king up ants for at least 50 million years.

FULL STORY: https://scitechdaily.com/mushroom-g...d-ant-reveals-new-species-of-fungal-parasite/
The phrase "fruiting bodies" has always been a cringe inducing description, to me. I think it is because the phrase is usually used when describing parasitised creatures. Just the thought that a living host can become a "fruiting body" for a parasite. eeeew.
 

Comfortably Numb

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Peculiar parasitic fungi discovered growing out of the rectum of a 50 million-year-old fossilized ant

livescience com
28 June, 2021

It is the oldest example of an ant infected by a fungal parasite ever found.

ant_fungus~3.jpg


The mushroom of the newly discovered parasitic fungus A. blatica growing out of the rectum of a carpenter ant fossilized in amber. (Image credit: George Poinar Jr., OSU)

Scientists have identified a new species of extinct parasitic fungus bursting from the backside of a 50 million-year-old ant, all perfectly preserved in amber.

In addition to the bulbous mushroom protruding from the ant's rectum, evidence of the freaky fungus can be seen throughout the body of its unlucky host. The ant likely died as a result of its fungal infection and was fortuitously fixed in tree resin (which fossilizes into amber) shortly afterward. It is the oldest example of a fungal parasite ever discovered in ants.

The researchers named the new species of fungi Allocordyceps baltica — Allocordyceps translates to "new genus" in Greek and baltica refers to the Baltic region where the amber was discovered.

(...)

https://www.livescience.com/parasitic-fungus-infects-fossilized-ant.html
 

gordonrutter

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Peculiar parasitic fungi discovered growing out of the rectum of a 50 million-year-old fossilized ant

livescience com
28 June, 2021

The researchers named the new species of fungi Allocordyceps baltica — Allocordyceps translates to "new genus" in Greek and baltica refers to the Baltic region where the amber was discovered.

(...)

https://www.livescience.com/parasitic-fungus-infects-fossilized-ant.html
Allo means “other” and cordyceps means club head
 

EnolaGaia

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Wow ... Here's a mind-bending story of an ecological experiment gone surrealistically wrong. A species of butterfly was released on a Finnish island so researchers could observe the species' ability to survive in the isolated harsh environment. They didn't know some of the butterflies they released carried a parasite lethal to that butterfly's larvae. To make matters even more complex they didn't know that this parasite carried two of its own species' parasites that were jointly lethal to it and (by extension) the butterfly larvae. The scientists are now confronted with explaining how this seemingly doomed combination of hosts and parasites managed to survive on the island for the last 30 years.
'Russian doll' set of stomach-bursting parasites released inside butterfly on remote Finnish island

The release of the butterfly brought four species to the island.

An ecologist's blunder led to the release of a "Russian doll" set of stomach-bursting parasites onto a remote Finnish island, a new study has revealed.

Thirty years ago, when ecologist Ilkka Hanski introduced Glanville fritillary butterflies (Melitaea cinxia) onto the island of Sottunga in the Åland archipelago, he planned to watch how a population of one species that had been placed inside a harsh habitat could survive.

But he had no idea that a trio of nested parasites would come along for the ride — with two parasites living inside another parasite, which was itself nested inside some of the butterflies. ...

The latter parasites, the larvae of the parasitic wasps Hyposoter horticola, eat the Glanville caterpillars they are injected into from the inside out — erupting from their host's abdomen to spin a cocoon around the caterpillar's corpse, for pupation.

Two more species of parasites nest inside H. horticola. The second is a "hyperparasitoid": parasitic wasps called Mesochorus cf. stigmaticus. The third species is a bacterium, Wolbachia pipientis, which makes H. horticola more susceptible to M. stigmaticus. If all three stowaways are aboard a caterpillar host, H. horticola kills the caterpillar before being killed by M. stigmaticus. The hyperparasite burrows out 10 days later — consuming its way through the bacteria-ridden flesh of the first wasp parasite and then the carcass of the caterpillar. ...
FULL STORY: https://www.livescience.com/russian-doll-parasites-released

See Also:
https://www.sciencealert.com/trojan...th-multiple-parasites-in-experimental-blunder

FULL RESEARCH REPORT: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mec.16065
 
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EnolaGaia

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Parasitologists have discovered a new species of nematodes that only infect tarantulas' mouths - causing the spiders to slowly starve to death, sometimes while walking on tiptoes. The new species was named for actor Jeff Daniels, but not because of his association with Dumb and Dumber.

Parasitic worm forces tarantulas to tiptoe, then starves them to death

Researchers have discovered a new species of parasitic worm that makes its home in the mouths of tarantulas — then slowly starves the spiders to death.

The worms first appear as white splotches around a tarantula's mouth, according to a new study published Jan. 17 in The Journal of Parasitology. After being infected, the arachnid host loses control of the appendages that control its fangs, then stops eating. Infected tarantulas may also show other strange behaviors, such as walking on their tiptoes, the study authors wrote. ...

"It may take months because tarantulas don't have to eat particularly often," study co-author Adler Dillman, a parasitologist ... , said in a statement. "However, if they get this infection, they will die of starvation."

Dillman and his colleagues first took note of the killer worms in 2018, when a wholesale tarantula breeder reported multiple unusual deaths among his stock. Each of the affected tarantulas showed a strange white discharge around their mouths. This wasn't spider spit-up, Dillman realized right away: It was a tangled mass of parasitic worms called nematodes, living inside the spiders' fly-holes. ...

The researchers also learned that the nematodes only infected their hosts' mouth areas, leaving the rest of the spider untouched and unharmed.

Still, because of the newly discovered worm's spider-slaying prowess, the team gave the species a name with a bit of Hollywood cache: Tarantobelus jeffdanielsi — named for American actor Jeff Daniels. ...

"When I first heard a new species of nematode had been named after me, I thought, 'Why? Is there a resemblance?'" Daniels joked ...

In reality, the name is an homage to Daniels' starring role in the 1990 comedy thriller "Arachnophobia," in which his character saves a small town from a deadly spider infestation. ...
FULL STORY: https://www.livescience.com/tarantula-killing-nematode-jeff-daniels
 

PeteByrdie

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Parasitologists have discovered a new species of nematodes that only infect tarantulas' mouths - causing the spiders to slowly starve to death, sometimes while walking on tiptoes. The new species was named for actor Jeff Daniels, but not because of his association with Dumb and Dumber.


FULL STORY: https://www.livescience.com/tarantula-killing-nematode-jeff-daniels
Nature really does hate all living things.

'I'm a tarantula, and I've got a parasite specifically evolved to live in my mouth and starve me to death. It sucks!'

'If you think that's bad, I have to live in the mouth of a tarantula.'
 

EnolaGaia

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Well, these guys won't turn your eyelashes into zombies, but an overabundance might lead to serious disease:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6118860/
"The Demodex mite – of phylum Arthropoda – comes in two forms, Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis. . . .These are the only two mites that affect the human eye, and in turn humans are the only mammals to host them. ...

Demodex mites have become so closely wedded to spending their entire life cycles inhabiting humans that new research suggests they are transforming from transient parasites to permanent symbionts.
Skin Mites That Mate on Our Faces at Night Are Slowly Merging With Humans

Most people on Earth are habitats for mites that spend the majority of their brief lives burrowed, head-first, in our hair follicles, primarily of the face. In fact, humans are the only habitat for Demodex folliculorum. They are born on us, they feed on us, they mate on us, and they die on us. ...

So reliant is D. folliculorum on humans for their survival, new research suggests, that the microscopic mites are in the process of evolving from an ectoparasite into an internal symbiont – and one that shares a mutually beneficial relationship with its hosts (that's us).

In other words, these mites are gradually merging with our bodies so that they now live permanently within us.

Scientists have now sequenced the genomes of these ubiquitous little beasts, and the results show that their human-centered existence could be wreaking changes not seen in other mite species. ...

FULL STORY (With Photos): https://www.sciencealert.com/skin-m...aces-at-night-may-soon-become-one-with-humans
 

EnolaGaia

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Here are the bibliographic details and abstract for the accepted manuscript of the mite evolution study. The full manuscript (PDF) is accessible at the link below.


Gilbert Smith, Alejandro Manzano Marín, Mariana Reyes-Prieto, et al.
Human follicular mites: Ectoparasites becoming symbionts
Molecular Biology and Evolution, 2022, msac125
https://doi.org/10.1093/molbev/msac125

Abstract
Most humans carry mites in the hair follicles of their skin for their entire lives. Follicular mites are the only metazoans tha continuously live on humans. We propose that Demodex folliculorum (Acari) represents a transitional stage from a host-injuring obligate parasite to an obligate symbiont. Here, we describe the profound impact of this transition on the genome and physiology of the mite. Genome sequencing revealed that the permanent host association of D. folliculorum led to an extensive genome reduction through relaxed selection and genetic drift, resulting in the smallest number of protein-coding genes yet identified among panarthropods. Confocal microscopy revealed that this gene loss coincided with an extreme reduction in the number of cells. Single uninucleate muscle cells are sufficient to operate each of the three segments that form each walking leg. While it has been assumed that the reduction of the cell number in parasites starts early in development, we identified a greater total number of cells in the last developmental stage (nymph) than in the terminal adult stage, suggesting that reduction starts at the adult or ultimate stage of development. This is the first evolutionary step in an arthropod species adopting a reductive, parasitic or endosymbiotic lifestyle. Somatic nuclei show underreplication at the diploid stage. Novel eye structures or photoreceptors as well as a unique human host melatonin-guided day/night rhythm are proposed for the first time. The loss of DNA repair genes coupled with extreme endogamy might have set this mite species on an evolutionary dead-end trajectory.

SOURCE / FULL MANUSCRIPT: https://academic.oup.com/mbe/advance-article/doi/10.1093/molbev/msac125/6604544
 
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