Science Zombie Virus Drives Caterpillars To An Explosive Death

The Helper

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Scientists recently discovered something that was causing European gypsy moth caterpillars to behave very strangely. The caterpillars were infected by a deadly baculovirus, and with their last bits of strength, they did something that would be out of the question if they were healthy: they climbed out onto the very highest leaves of their tree in the middle of the day.

There, their diseased bodies split open, raining infected caterpillar guts onto the leaves and branches below. The death ritual is so bizarre, that scientists started using the term ”tree top disease” to describe the virus that caused it.

In a recent issue of Science magazine, researchers reveal the cause of this odd final act: a specific viral gene that drives infected caterpillars to die in a way that offers the best potential for spreading the virus that killed it…just like a zombie (ScienceDaily).

The virus “ends up using just about all of the caterpillar to make more virus, and there are other genes in the virus that then make the caterpillar melt. So it becomes a pool of millions of virus particles that end up dropping onto the foliage below where it can infect other moths that eat those leaves,” study co-author Kelli Hoover told National Geographic.

 
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Dan

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I want to see a video of this so bad.
 

Varine

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So... don't eat caterpillars that you find on the top of a tree?
 

Varine

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It's not that they're on the top of a tree, it's that their dead infected guts are on the leaves below the top of the tree D:
AFTER they get to the top of a tree. What would happen if I took one from the top where it explodes, and moved it to the bottom? Will it still explode, or will scurry on back up to teeter on the leaves for a moment before suicide bombing itself?
 

Varine

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What do I look like, a guy that knows where to find a caterpillar in a tree?

And is anyone else curious as to what the caterpillar is sitting on in that picture?
 

Genkora

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looks like moss that it is sitting on.. There is a type of fungus that does pretty much the same thing to certain types of insects, but I can't remember what it is called.
 

xPass

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Wattafudge?!
It's somehow similar to a computer worm :eek: :eek:mg:
 

Siretu

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looks like moss that it is sitting on.. There is a type of fungus that does pretty much the same thing to certain types of insects, but I can't remember what it is called.
Yeah, I remember reading about something similar where a fungus infected ants and made them into zombies. They would go away from the fungus(to spread it further) and then stop, explode and spread spores all over the place.

Here it is: http://www.livescience.com/5631-zombie-ants-controlled-fungus.html

It's kind of creepy to be honest.
 

FireCat

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^ yeah, it's creepy as hell

Oh Crap. Scientists are working on modifying the virus to combat gypsy moths, eh? I don't think that's such a good idea .
 

Hatebreeder

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Nature, you scary :eek:

AFAIK there are also snails and Ants that are prey to a mindcontrolling fungus. Which are forced to be eaten by Birds, who in turn are infected as well and help colonize the fungus in various places :p
 

LurkerAspect

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Having just watched Land of the Dead last night, this kind of thing makes me kinda nervous O_O'
 

Vellu

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I remember some mushroom spores that infect ants' brains so they climb to somewhere high and then the mushroom kills them and grows through the ant's head to infect more ants. COOL!
 

Renendaru

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So it moved from ants to caterpillars? Scary.
 

Vellu

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So it moved from ants to caterpillars? Scary.
No. Catepillars have a virus while the ants are being murdered by a spore. There are many more lifeforms that turn the hosts into "zombies". Some parasites also do this.
 

Renendaru

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No. Catepillars have a virus while the ants are being murdered by a spore. There are many more lifeforms that turn the hosts into "zombies". Some parasites also do this.
I was mainly making a joke, but it does bring a question to the mind, will it ever reach more and more complex life forms? Who knows... It all depends on how the process itself works, and if it can adapt.
 

Varine

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Something kind of like this is in rats or mice.
 
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