If the film The Happening and its mind-controlling neurotoxin terrified you, you definitely wouldn’t want to be a Danish shore crab or a jungle insect.
In the jungle, ants and other insects can become infected by a parasitic fungus that possesses their mind, disorients them and makes them climb to a high place so that the fungus can start growing out of their heads. Watch the process in action:
In the sea, a parasite is currently infecting Danish coastal crabs by making them female, regardless of their original gender (by castrating the males, no less) and then controls their behavior by making them act feminine and submissive.
The parasite invades the entire body of the crab by punching a hole in the underside of the tail, then spreads its own eggs and fluid throughout the crab’s body. Over a year, the parasite infects the whole crab and alters its behavior, making it even more “girly,” and likely to lose a fight. The crab also loses its sex drive and doesn’t do much other than to eat and supply the parasite with energy.
Labster loves these kinds of mind-warping, science-goes-beyond-the-classroom stories.
Pathogenic fungi and mind-controlling parasites provide fascinating studies for biologists and inspiration for films like The Happening, but they also are a way to remember how our minds and bodies intertwine. If one is infected, the other is definitely going to feel the effects.
If you think mind-control in biology is cool or creepy, please comment and share!