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An Animal Model for Our Zombie Times By Bruce Bennett
When scientists ae investigating drugs to treat a human disease, animal models are used, often mice. Here is a nice illustration of the plight of the West, with an animal model, metaphorical of course.
“Like a mindless zombie controlled by a menacing overlord, the spider scampers back and forth, reinforcing its silky web. Not long from now, the subservient arachnid will be dead, its web transformed into a shelter for the spawn of the creature that once controlled it, according to a new study. No, this isn't science fiction; it's the somewhat terrifying (but very real) tale of the orb-weaving spider Cyclosa argenteoalba and the parasitic wasp Reclinervellus nielseni, two species that carry out a strange relationship in Hyogo prefecture, Japan. Together, the wasp and the spider provide a perfect example of host manipulation — an ecological process in which one species (the parasite) and its young (the parasitoids) manipulate the behaviors of another species (the host) to their advantage. … The parasitic wasp's ability to manipulate its host in such a specific and subtle way is not unique. In Costa Rica, another parasitic wasp, Hymenoepimecis argyraphaga, ups the horror by depositing its eggs inside of its host arachnid (Plesiometa argyra), which builds a cocoon-worthy web before being consumed from the inside out by larvae. And, in Brazil (as well as other countries), there are fungi that infect many species of ants, turning these insects into a host of zombies. The ants climb to the highest point they can find and then die as fungal stalks shoot through their skulls, dispersing the fungus' spores into the wind. In the case of the fungi-entranced ants, scientists know that the fungi actually release a cocktail of chemicals into the ants' brains, inducing them to do the fungi's bidding. But entomologists are still actively studying the ways that wasps and other insect parasites might control their hosts. Takasuka suspects that, in the case of R. nielseni and C. argenteoalba, the mechanism controlling the spider's web-strengthening preferences is somehow related to the hormone that is naturally released in the spider just before molting. This hormone is what motivates the spider to start building a resting nest. In the near future, Takasuka hopes to study the chemicals present in the larvae to determine how those chemicals might be related to the resting-web hormone and others.
Yes, I can see that the animal model parallels the plight of the West. It is a tragicomic way for the West to end, basically reduced to a food source.