If creepy-crawlies gross you out, please read no further.(If whale penises gross you out, on the other hand, please don't visit this thread.)The Puppet Masters
is a novel written by Robert Heinlein. In the novel, a species of parasitic slugs from Titan invade Earth. The slugs are capable of altering the behavior of their hosts. Fortunately -- well, fortunately for the creatures of Earth, anyway -- humanity is able to fight off the invaders, and soon its biggest and brightest are heading to Titan on a battleship.
The novel is fiction, of course, but the notion of parasitic mind control is very real. Here are some examples of parasites that are able to alter their hosts' behavior:
When she's ready to mate, the female jewel wasp injects a specific venom into a cockroach's brain. This has the effect of nullifying the cockroach's escape reflex (apparently, anyway -- research is still underway). The jewel wasp then leads the cockroach by one of its antennae to her burrow; upon arrival she lays an egg on the belly of the cockroach. When the egg hatches, the larva burrows into the cockroach, eats its organs, weaves a cocoon, and finally breaks out as an adult.
[/youtube]Zombie cockroaches revived by brain shot
[/youtube]Congratulations, it's a boy!
And here are some articles about Ampulex compressa
:Zombie cockroaches revived by brain shotThe Wisdom of Parasites
is a large genus of parasitic fungi. One species, Cordyceps unilateralis
, uses ants to reproduce. After an ant breathes in its spores, the fungus extends mycelia into the ant's brain and apparently causes it to perceive pheromones differently. As a result, the ant climbs to the top of a nearby plant and digs in its jaws. Finally the fungus consumes the ant's brain and sprouts out of the ant's head. From this vantage point it will release its spores.
Would you like to read an article about Cordyceps unilateralis?
Awesome. Please try:Brainwashed by a parasite
At one stage in its rather complicated cycle of reproduction, the lancet fluke infects an ant. This compels the ant to wander away from its colony after sundown, at which point it will climb to the top of a blade of grass and wait to be eaten by a sheep, a goat, or another mammal. If it's not eaten, it returns to the colony at dawn, because both the fluke and the ant would die if they were exposed to the direct heat of the sun. Although it passes the day in a normal fashion, at sundown it heads out again...
You can find some more about the lancet fluke here
The female of this parasitic wasp lays her eggs in the body of a geometrid caterpillar. The eggs soon hatch. At first the larvae feed on the caterpillar's bodily fluids, but soon they exit through the caterpillar's skin, attach themselves to a nearby surface, and cocoon themselves. Rather than try to escape at this point, however, the caterpillar sticks around and evidently tries to protect the cocoons. When the adult wasps hatch, the caterpillar dies.
[/youtube]Zombie caterpillar controlled by voodoo wasps
And here's the article associated with the above video:Zombie caterpillars controlled by voodoo wasps
is a genus of barnacle. When the female Sacculina
larva finds a suitable crab, she slips into its body and infests it with tendrils. The crab is rendered infertile and now treats the Sacculina
's eggs as its own. And if the crab is a male, it begins to take on the physical and behavioral characteristics of a female crab.
You can read more about Sacculina here
Spinochordodes telliniiSpinochordodes tellinii
is a hairworm that infects grasshoppers and crickets. When the hairworm has reached adulthood, its host is somehow driven to find water and to jump into it. The hairworm then squirms out of the host's body; the host generally drowns.
Here's an article that discusses Spinochordodes tellinii
:Parasites brainwash grasshoppers into death dive
Toxoplasma gondiiToxoplasma gondii
is a type of protozoa. Although it can live in most warm-blooded animals, it reproduces in cats. Does it alter the behavior of cats? I don't know. Apparently, though, it can
alter the behavior of rodents. If a rodent has been infected, the parasite can cause said rodent to become less frightened of cats and, indeed, to even seek them out. Needless to say, this is bad for the rodent but good for cats -- and, naturally, good for the parasite, who just might end up inside a cat once more and get the chance to reproduce. It's interesting to note that the parasite doesn't affect the rodent's other fears.
More controversially, some individuals believe that Toxoplasma gondii
can affect the behavior of humans
. Considering the fact that an estimated one-third of the world's population is infected, this could be a big deal. Certain scientists, for example, have asserted that Toxoplasma gondii
makes men antisocial, jealous, promiscuous, stupid, boring, and generally less attractive. Others have asserted that it actually makes men more
intelligent. (As a lifelong cat owner who's likely to be infected, I'm obviously hoping for the latter rather than the former.) The ladies fare a bit better. Although scientists suggest that women do become more promiscuous, which some
people might regard as problematic, these same women also become kinder and more attractive.
Here's a radio segment about Toxoplasma gondii
on National Public Radio:Sneaky Parasite Attracts Rats to Cats
And here are some articles discussing Toxoplasma gondii
:Can a parasite carried by cats change your personality?The Culture-Shaping ParasiteParasite 'turns women into sex kittens'A Nation of Neurotics? Blame the Puppet Masters?
Some people are frightened by the notion of mind control. Some people are angered by the notion of mind control. Some people are turned on by the notion of mind control. (If the thought of being controlled does turn you on, please visit this site
.) What are your feelings about mind control, parasitic or otherwise? Do you find the above information frightening? Disgusting? Interesting? Which parasite do you find most frightening / disgusting / interesting? Would you play a roleplaying scenario based around the concept of mind-controlling parasites? Might you yourself be infected with a mind-controlling parasite?