The creepiest thing about a parasite in the animal world is that the creature can get so close to the host, they may never notice its presence. To be a good parasite, stealth is highly valued, or else you could be detected and lose your steady funnel of lunch.
However, some parasites take it a step further. The critters below feed off of other animals and get away with it. They do this not because of stealth, but because they have control over their hosts” brains, almost like wizards who cast a terrible spell.
This creature is a barnacle with a penchant for castrating both male and female crabs. It will also alter the mind of a male crab (who doesn”t normally take care of his young) and force him to protect the sacculina”s offspring like a female crab would do for her young.
These parasites like to infect crickets, but must return to the water to reproduce. They tend to burrow deep into the brain, forcing crickets to walk to bodies of water and essentially commit suicide by diving in.
3. Insect iridovirus IIV-6/CrIV
This is a type of sexually transmitted virus that only effects a specific kind of cricket. It eventually kills the bugs, but it alters their brain to really want to have more sex, causing the infection to spread further into the cricket population.
4. Euhaplorchis californiensis
This parasitic worm burrows into the skulls of killfish and forces them to “dance,” jerking in such a way that it causes birds of prey to eat the fish. The parasite”s eggs are than transmitted through the bird”s feces back into the water.
5. Toxoplasma gondii
An infection of these parasites alter the sexual behavior of smaller warm-blooded animals. However, recent studies show it might also affect humans. Studies found that the virus causes introvertism in men and extrovertism in women, and is estimated that a third of the world”s population has been exposed to it.
6. Green-banded broodsac flatworm
Once this flatworm infects a snail, it controls its brain and causes the snail to climb to the highest leaves on the trees It then pushes its larvae into the eyes, making it more attractive to birds who can spread it further across the forest.
7. Hymenoepimecis argyraphaga
This is a Costa Rican wasp that lays its eggs in the belly of a spider. An injection causes an imbalance in the spider”s brain, forcing it to spin a web for the specific purpose of building a cocoon to hold the larvae.
8. Zombie fungus
This fungus infects the brains of ants upon contact and forces the ant to find a sufficient enough place on another plant to release its spores. Wherever the ant dies, more fungus will continue to grow, sprouting from its head.
This doesn”t make me feel any better about parasites, especially now that I know they have the power to control minds. What a roundabout and specific way to evolve as living organism.