CLOSE

7 More Zombie Animals

Last week's post Invasion of the Zombie Animals proved to be "interesting" for many, even those who were grossed out. Further research has yielded even more interesting parasites that take over and change the body, mind, and life of their victims.

1. A Big Red Butt

A parasitic nematode named Myrmeconema neotropicum targets the gliding ant Cephalotes atratus in the Central and South America rain forests on its way to infecting birds. The nematodes travel to the ant's abdomen, and as they mature, cause the abdomen to grow round and bright red! The ants will hold their abdomens, or gasters, high as if to draw attention -which they do. The red gasters look like berries and are eaten by birds who normally don't eat insects. The nematodes then live in the bird's digestive tract.

2. A New Web Design

445spiderwasp.png

Hymenoepimecis argyraphaga is a parasitic wasp found in Costa Rica. It infects one particular spider species, Plesiometa argyra. An adult wasp lays an egg on the spider's abdomen. When it hatches, it attaches itself to the spider and sucks its blood. When the right time comes, it releases a chemical into the spider that causes it to spin a web unlike any it would naturally spin. This web is designed to protect the wasp instead of feeding the spider. When the web is ready, the wasp larvae will kill the spider, eat it, and set up a cocoon in the safety of the web the spider built under the wasp larva's control.

3. Back to the Cat

445_ratandcat.jpg

Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoa that is normally parasitic to cats, but can survive in other species of mammals or birds, including humans. It causes the disease Toxoplasmosis, which is usually mild or even asymptomatic in humans, but can be dangerous for a fetus or those with compromised immune systems. Toxoplasma gondii affects the behavior of rats in a curious way -it makes them less afraid of, and even friendly to cats! Therefore, a rat with the infection is more likely to be eaten by a cat, which is the preferred victim as T. gondii reproduce inside cats. Does the parasite change human behavior, too?

Some scientists believe that Toxoplasma changes the personality of its human hosts, bringing different shifts to men and women. Parasitologist Jaroslav Flegr of Charles University in Prague administered psychological questionnaires to people infected with Toxoplasma and controls. Those infected, he found, show a small, but statistically significant, tendency to be more self-reproaching and insecure. Paradoxically, infected women, on average, tend to be more outgoing and warmhearted than controls, while infected men tend to be more jealous and suspicious.

How this benefits the parasite is anyone's guess, but it may be chemically linked to the way T. gondii has evolved to get from the rat to the cat.

4. Fire Ant Foe

445phoridfly.jpg

The phorid fly (Phoridae) is also called a humpback fly due to its appearance, a scuttling fly due to its tendency to run instead of fly when disturbed, or a decapitating fly due to its habit of feeding on the brains of fire ants. Some species of phorid fly attack and then lay eggs in the body of a fire ant. The eggs hatch, and the larva make its way to the ant's head where it eats it from the inside out. The ant does not immediately die, but will walk around with no direction or purpose once its brains are gone. When the larva matures, it causes the ant's head to fall off so it can emerge as an adult fly.

Fire ants are an invasive non-native species in the US, and phorid flies have been introduced in the south as a method of controlling the fire ant population, most recently in Texas. Phorid flies have been in use in Alabama for fire ant control since 1998. Other species of phorid fly are called coffin flies. They lay eggs in human remains and can survive several generations inside a sealed coffin. Forensic pathologists study phorid fly infestations to determine how long a body has been dead.

5. A Fungus Among Us

445_cordycepsunilateralis.JPG

Cordyceps unilateralis infects ants for travel purposes in order to spread its spores. Oh, it eats them, too, but first the fungus will enter the brain and alter the ant's behavior over several days, making it climb to the top of a blade of grass. The ant will bite the grass for a secure hold. Only then will the fungus kill the ant and explode out of the head. The spores are then borne on the wind to parts unknown. See a video of Cordyceps in action.

6. Shrimp and Duck for Dinner

445thornyworms.png

Thorny-headed worms (Acanthocephala) are 1150 species of parasite with hooks on their probosces (they don't have real mouths). They use these hooks to latch onto a victim. A couple of species target the crustacean Gammarus lacustris, or blue shrimp. Once inside, the worm changes the shrimp's chemistry, possibly affecting serotonin levels. The shrimp loses interest in mating and swims dangerously close to the surface. It will bite onto and cling to plants at the water's surface, which makes it easy prey for hungry ducks. When a ducks eats the shrimp, the thorny-headed worm has found its home. It lays its eggs inside the duck, completing its life cycle.

7. Take Me To The Liver

445_liverfluke.jpg

Dicroelium dentriticum or Lancet Liver Fluke work in much the same way the thorny-headed worm does, only on different animals. The fluke infects three species in order, snails, ants, and sheep or cattle during its life cycle, but it only controls the behavior of the ant. One the fluke has settled in the ant's nervous system, the ant will go about its regular duties during the heat of the day, but crawl up to the top of a blade of grass in the cool mornings and evenings when it is most likely to be eaten by a sheep or cow. It will then spend its adult life inside the animal's liver.

Special thanks to Carl Zimmer for help on this post.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Keystone/Getty Images
arrow
History
84 Years Ago Today: Goodbye Prohibition!
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
Keystone/Getty Images

It was 84 years ago today that the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, repealing the earlier Amendment that declared the manufacture, sale, and transport of alcohol illegal in the United States. Prohibition was over! Booze that had been illegal for 13 years was suddenly legal again, and our long national nightmare was finally over.


A giant barrel of beer, part of a demonstration against prohibition in America.
Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Prohibition of alcohol was not a popular doctrine. It turned formerly law-abiding citizens into criminals. It overwhelmed police with enforcement duties and gave rise to organized crime. In cities like Milwaukee and St. Louis, the dismantling of breweries left thousands of people unemployed.


Photograph courtesy of the Boston Public Library

Homemade alcohol was often dangerous and some people died from drinking it. Some turned to Sterno or industrial alcohol, which was dangerous and sometimes poisoned by the government to discourage drinking. State and federal governments were spending a lot of money on enforcement, while missing out on taxes from alcohol.


New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of Prohibition.

The midterm elections of 1930 saw the majority in Congress switch from Republican to Democratic, signaling a shift in public opinion about Prohibition as well as concerns about the depressed economy. Franklin Roosevelt, who urged repeal, was elected president in 1932. The Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution was proposed by Congress in February of 1933, the sole purpose of which was to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment establishing Prohibition.


American men guarding their private beer brewing hide-out, during Prohibition.
Keystone/Getty Images

With passage of the Constitutional Amendment to repeal Prohibition a foregone conclusion, a huge number of businessmen lined up at the Board of Health offices in New York in April of 1933 to apply for liquor licenses to be issued as soon as the repeal was ratified.

The Amendment was ratified by the states by the mechanism of special state ratifying conventions instead of state legislatures. Many states ratified the repeal as soon as conventions could be organized. The ratifications by the required two-thirds of the states was achieved on December 5, 1933, when conventions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah agreed to repeal Prohibition through the Amendment.


Workmen unloading crates of beer stacked at a New York brewery shortly after the repeal of Prohibition.
Keystone/Getty Images

A brewery warehouse in New York stacked crates past the ceiling to satisfy a thirsty nation after the repeal of Prohibition.


Keystone/Getty Images

Liquor wouldn't officially be legal until December 15th, but Americans celebrated openly anyway, and in most places, law enforcement officials let them.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
arrow
Miss Cellania
10 Famous Birthdays in May
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Some of our favorite historical figures were born in May. We couldn't possibly name them all, so here are just a few of the notable people we'll be celebrating.

1. SIGMUND FREUD: MAY 6, 1856


Getty Images
Getty Images

Sigmund Freud is known as the Father of Psychoanalysis. The Vienna psychiatrist developed a theory of the unconscious mind, where the id, ego, and superego struggle to balance each other out in the human psyche. Freud attributed his patients' neuroses to childhood trauma, often cloaked in a sexual conflict. His work was at first deemed perverted, but his ideas started to spread after a series of lectures in the U.S. in 1909. After Freud's death in 1939, Freudian theory was hailed as genius in mainstream culture. But beginning in the 1960s, Freud's theories started to fall out of favor in academia and are largely discredited today. However, his attempts to map the psyche gave us the language we still use to discuss personality and mental health.

2. FRED ASTAIRE: MAY 10, 1899


Getty Images
Getty Images

Fred Astaire began dancing when he was just four years old. Soon he and his sister Adele were in a performing arts school and started dancing professionally. First came vaudeville, then Broadway, and when Adele married, Fred headed to Hollywood. Producers were at first reluctant to cast Astaire as a leading man because of his looks, but his dancing soon won them over. Astaire appeared in dozens of films between 1933 and 1981, 10 of them with with dance partner Ginger Rogers. Although his later films did not revolve around dance numbers, Astaire was seen dancing in an episode of Battlestar Galactica as late as 1979, when he was 80 years old.

3. MARTHA GRAHAM: MAY 11, 1894


Getty Images
Getty Images

Martha Graham wanted to dance from an early age, but her parents disapproved, so she didn't study dance until college. Her wildly emotional dancing led her to performances in New York, and in 1926 she established the Martha Graham Dance Company. Through the company, Graham promoted modern dance as a spiritual and emotional outlet. Over time, she came to be seen as a genius of the genre. Graham danced until she was in her '70s, and continued to choreograph dances until her death at age 91.

4. KATHARINE HEPBURN: MAY 12, 1907


Getty Images
Getty Images

Katharine Hepburn caught the acting bug in college and headed to the stages of New York upon graduation. She was spotted in a Broadway production and was offered the lead in RKO's 1932 film A Bill of Divorcement. That kicked off a movie career of more than 60 years, in which she was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won four. Hepburn was a certified box office draw, but off screen she refused to behave like a Hollywood star. She spoke her mind, wore pants, and even appeared in public without makeup occasionally. Hepburn was also known for her devotion to the love of her life, actor Spencer Tracy, who was separated from his wife but refused to divorce her. The last of nine films they made together was Guess Who's Coming to Dinner in 1967, just before Tracy died. Hepburn continued making movies through 1994, when she was 87 years old.

5. PIERRE CURIE: MAY 15, 1859


Getty Images
Getty Images

French physicist Pierre Curie is often overlooked in favor of Marie Curie, his brilliant student and later wife. Together they discovered radium and polonium, and did extensive research into radioactivity. Pierre, Marie, and Henri Becquerel jointly won the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics for their research. Curie might have gone onto many further discoveries, but he was killed in 1906 when a horse-drawn cart ran over him in Paris. If he had lived longer, Curie might have also succumbed to illness caused by radiation, as did his wife, daughter, and son-in-law—all Nobel Prize winners.

6. MARY CASSATT: MAY 22, 1844


Mary Cassatt via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Renowned American painter Mary Cassatt wanted to become an artist, but her parents objected and her Philadelphia art school didn't take women students seriously. So she went to Paris and studied privately under teachers from Ecole des Beaux-Arts, as the school did not admit women. Gradually, Cassatt's works sold and her reputation grew. She drew the attention of Impressionist Edgar Degas, and worked with him for years. By 1886, she left the Impressionist movement behind, and afterward refused to be defined by any art genre. Cassatt's body of work often featured women and children in their everyday lives. Her most memorable painting, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, broke with tradition by portraying a child in a naturalistic, casual pose instead of a formal portrait.

7. SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE: MAY 22, 1859


Getty Images
Getty Images

Arthur Conan Doyle is best remembered for his many short stories and novels featuring the detective Sherlock Holmes. But Conan Doyle worked full time as a medical doctor until an illness convinced him he had to choose between writing and medicine. Years later, Conan Doyle volunteered with the British army to fight in the Second Boer War, but because of his age (40), he was only allowed to serve as a medical doctor. Upon his return from South Africa, he entered politics in Scotland, but he lost his only race. In 1907, Conan Doyle became involved in a real criminal case in which he helped George Edalji, a solicitor of Indian heritage, beat an animal cruelty conviction by employing the observational technique that Sherlock Holmes used. The fallout from that case led to the establishment of the appeals system in Britain. Conan Doyle also wrote a science fiction novel The Lost World, published in 1912. It was so successful that he wrote four sequels.

8. MARGARET FULLER: MAY 23, 1810


Getty Images
Getty Images

Born in Massachusetts in 1810, Margaret Fuller was a precocious child who learned several languages but was not welcome at college because of her sex. She became friends with both Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, who admired her philosophical thinking. Fuller became a literary critic for the New-York Tribune and a well-known intellectual.

In 1845, Fuller made history with Woman in the Nineteenth Century, often considered the first major feminist work published in the United States. This groundbreaking book began as an essay in Emerson's transcendentalist journal The Dial called "The Great Lawsuit. Man versus Men. Woman versus Women," in which Fuller argued that men and women must see each other as equals before they can transcend to divine love. Fuller reasoned that ignoring our commonality was the base of much of America's sins, from the slaughter of Native Americans to the slavery of African Americans.

Fuller went on to become a foreign correspondent and the first American female war correspondent, covering the Italian revolution. She also fell in love with an Italian man and had a child with him. On their return trip to the U.S. in 1850 aboard a merchant ship, a hurricane struck the ship near Fire Island, killing all three. Only Fuller's 20-month-old son was found.

9. SALLY RIDE: MAY 26, 1951

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to travel into space, aboard the space shuttle Challenger. Ride was a nationally ranked tennis player when she was a teenager. Billie Jean King urged her to turn pro, but Ride went to Stanford University instead. She earned both a bachelor of arts in English and a bachelor of science in physics in 1973, and a PhD in physics in 1978. Ride then immediately applied for NASA's astronaut program. She flew two shuttle missions, in 1983 and '84, and was scheduled for a third, but that mission was canceled after the Challenger explosion in 1986. After leaving NASA in 1987, Ride devoted her life to encouraging students to study science—especially girls. She founded the organization Sally Ride Science for just that purpose, and wrote five children's books encouraging interest in science. Ride died of cancer at age 61 in 2012.

10. "WILD BILL" HICKOK: MAY 27, 1837


Getty Images
Getty Images

James Butler Hickok was a farmer, soldier, stagecoach driver, spy, lawman, scout, sharpshooter, gambler, and Wild West showman. Many of those occupations came after "Wild Bill" Hickok gained publicity for killing three men in an 1861 shootout. The newspapers followed his exploits from that time on, often embellishing the details until Hickok was more of a legend than the adventurer he was. His various occupations took him to different parts of Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Wyoming, and South Dakota. Hickok was playing poker in Deadwood, South Dakota, when Jack McCall shot him in the back of the head and killed him in 1876. The hand Hickok was holding at the time—a pair of black aces and a pair of black eights—became known as the "dead man's hand."

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios