The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Caterpillar kung-fu

Parasitoid influences on host behaviours are crazy-cool…

That there is a caterpillar, with a clutch of recently-emerged parasitoid pupae (RECENTLY EMERGED FROM ITS OWN BODY), actively defending the parasitoids from a stink bug predator.

Cool beans.

(From Grosman AH, Janssen A, de Brito EF, Cordeiro EG, Colares F, et al. (2008) Parasitoid Increases Survival of Its Pupae by Inducing Hosts to Fight Predators. PLoS ONE 3(6).)

And that’s also the perfectly reasonable approach I’m going to take with TSPs and their stupid-hard questions tomorrow…I’m going to break out with the kung-fu action.

11 responses to “Caterpillar kung-fu

  1. dang November 24, 2010 at 11:50 AM

    Thanks for the chuckle, and knock ’em on their rears!

  2. Ruth Fitzpatrick November 24, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    I love caterpillars! I got to spend 12 days out in the jungles of Costa Rica with Dr. Lee Dyer (of Tulane University) hunting for caterpillars to study their parasites … and their life cycles… and their food… and their predators… and how to hopefuly control them in crops… it was WAY COOL (figuratively speaking, of course… in reality, it was almost unbearably HOT for an Alaskan Girl)

  3. Susannah November 24, 2010 at 10:28 PM

    So the caterpillar’s “mind” has been so taken over by the parasitoid (wasps?) that it actually defends its own enemies.

    Sounds like some people I know.

    • TGIQ November 25, 2010 at 6:44 AM

      That’s exactly it, Susannah…it’s likely a chemical reaction induced by the wasps, but the mechanism (in this particular instance, anyways), it not completely understood. Caterpillars who were NOT affected by the wasp didn’t move at all in response to the presence of a predator, even if the researcher stuck a clutch of wasp pupae within reach…

  4. jason November 25, 2010 at 1:32 AM

    I think learning about toxoplasmosis at an early age was the first time I was introduced to parasites that modify the behavior of their hosts. And since then I’ve found the whole idea to be so frackin’ cool! Especially when it involves kung fu.

    • TGIQ November 25, 2010 at 6:43 AM

      Funny, I hadn’t known that toxoplasmosis also could induce changes in host behaviour until yesterday, when a bunch of us grad students were discussing this article yesterday. There are actually a surprisingly large number of examples where viruses, parasites or parasitoids influence host behaviour in order to complete their life cycles. It really is incredibly fascinating (or, as we were calling it yesterday, “sexy”) stuff!

  5. biobabbler November 26, 2010 at 11:52 AM

    You have just totally FREAKED me out. Holy mind-control. Yikes!

  6. Pingback: A fungus ate this moth’s head « The Bug Geek

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