A tiny parasitic wasp injects a virus in to a ladybug to turn them into zombie bodyguards from their young ones!
The discovery of Dinocampus coccinellae‘s secret biological weapon, and its bizarre effect on the spotted lady beetle Coleomegilla maculata, reveals a devious new “mind control” strategy used by parasites.
The newly described D. coccinellae paralysis virus (DcPV for short) marks the first known virus or other microorganism involved in a behavioral manipulation that benefits another species. After being injected into the ladybug along with the wasp’s egg, the virus replicates inside the growing wasp grub, which feeds on the insect’s fluids. Then, when the grub is ready to emerge and pupate, the virus infects the ladybug, causing paralysis.
Although the study team was able to detect the virus only in the ladybug’s brain, they believe it is able to infect the whole nervous system.
Once paralysed, the ladybug stands guard over the silk cocoon for the wasp. Since ladybugs are predators and contain toxic fluids, they make decent bodyguards, but the DcP virus may actually enhance their deterrent effect by making them twitch.
This phenomenon is indeed ‘fascinating’ and researchers suspect such viruses may be quite widespread.
This article is based on materials provided by National Geographic.