Mind-encapsulating liver fluctuations change the habits of contaminated zombie ants to keep away from excessive temperatures

The infected Formica polyctena ant climbs up and clamps its powerful jaws onto the top of a blade of grass, making it more likely to be eaten by grazers such as cattle and deer. Image credit: University of Copenhagen.

Luck of the liver, scalpel for the mind Dendritic diploid Pay Formica polyctina Ants climb and chew crops with their mandibles in a brief tetany state, making them extra prone to be eaten by grazers equivalent to cattle and deer. Based on new analysis, Dendritic diploid It will probably additionally make ants crawl again below the grass when it will get too scorching.

An infected Formica polyctina ant climbs and attaches its powerful jaws to the top of a patch of grass, making it more vulnerable to being eaten by grazers such as cattle and deer.  Image credit: University of Copenhagen.

Contaminated Formica polyctina The ant climbs and attaches its highly effective jaws to the highest of a patch of grass, making it extra susceptible to being eaten by grazers equivalent to cattle and deer. Picture credit score: College of Copenhagen.

As soon as Dendritic diploid Impacts A Formica polyctina Ant, a number of hundred parasites invade the ant’s physique.

However just one makes its strategy to the mind, the place it may affect the ant’s habits. As for the remainder of the liver worms, they disguise within the ant’s abdomen.

“There might be tons of of liverworms ready for the ant to introduce them to its subsequent host,” mentioned Dr Brian Lund Fredensborg, a researcher on the College of Copenhagen.

“It’s encased in a capsule that protects it from the abdomen acid produced by the host, whereas the liver fluke that has taken over the ant dies. You may say it’s sacrificing itself for others.

“Animals contaminated with a number of helminths can endure liver harm when the parasite strikes across the liver and bile ducts of the host.”

Over 13 non-consecutive days throughout one yr within the Bedstrup forests close to Roskilde, Denmark, Dr. Fredensborg and his colleague Ph.D. from Wageningen College. Scholar Simone Nordstrand-Gaske noticed a complete of 1,264 particular person ants expressing the modified habits. They then individually marked a subset of 172 contaminated ants.

“It took some ingenuity to stay the colours and numbers onto the again components of the ants, nevertheless it allowed us to trace them for longer intervals of time,” Dr Fredensborg defined.

The researchers then noticed the habits of the contaminated ants in relation to gentle, humidity, time of day, and temperature. It was clear that temperature had an impact on the ants’ behaviour.

When the temperature was low, the ants had been extra prone to keep on with the very best patch of grass. When the temperature rose, the ants left the grass and crawled again down.

Dr Brian Lund Fredensborg, a researcher on the institute, mentioned: ‘Getting the ants excessive within the grass when cattle or deer are grazing throughout the cool morning and night hours, after which again all the way down to keep away from the solar’s lethal rays, may be very intelligent.’ College of Copenhagen.

“Our discovery reveals a extra superior parasite than we initially thought.”

There are numerous different examples of parasites that change animal habits. As such, parasites that management their host’s habits have a bigger function within the meals chain than many may suppose.

“Our new examine highlights a bunch of creatures which have been enormously underestimated,” Dr Fredensborg mentioned.

“Traditionally, parasites have by no means been centered on as a lot, despite the fact that there are scientific sources that say parasitism is probably the most widespread type of life. That is partly as a result of parasites are troublesome to check.”

“Nonetheless, the hidden world of parasites makes up an vital a part of biodiversity, and by altering host behaviour, they can assist decide who eats what in nature. That is why it is vital for us to know.”

the the findings It was printed within the journal Behavioral surroundings.


Simon Nordstrand Gaske and Brian Lund Fredensborg. The expression of trematode-induced zombie ant habits is carefully associated to temperature. Behavioral surroundings, printed on-line August 24, 2023; doi: 10.1093/beheco/arad064



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