Scientists are learning more about zombie parasites.
There are a variety of parasitic species that infect another living thing and manipulate its behavior to benefit them.
Scientists have just discovered a genetic connection that allows a baculovirus from a leaf to control the behavior of a caterpillar that eats it, forcing the caterpillar to climb higher and higher until they die.
A gene called egt encodes an enzyme that destroys a hormone causing the caterpillar to also continuously eat and search for food.
Another parasite that controls their host’s behavior is a wasp in Costa Rica that infects a certain kind of spider, forcing it to build a shelter for the wasp larvae that are living inside of it.
The Toxoplasma gondii parasite that lives in almost a quarter of the human population without any symptoms can control a rat’s behavior by producing more testosterone in male rats, making them more attractive to females for breeding, and then spreading through the next generation of rats.
The parasite also causes rats to be less afraid of cats, and therefore more likely to get eaten, where it can breed in the cat’s digestive system.
Though most people that are infected with Toxoplasma gondii have no symptoms, there is reportedly a higher risk of suicide or schizophrenia in people that are host to the parasite.