Wasp Zombifies Ladybugs Using Virus as Bioweapon!

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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.

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Scientist-entrepreneur-manager-journalist: -Co-founder, Author; Former Assistant Editor and Director, Biotechin.Asia, Biotech Media Pte. Ltd.; -Founder & CEO, SciGlo (www.sciglo.com); -Programme Management Officer, SBIC, A*STAR (former Research Fellow). --Sandhya graduated from University of Madras, India (B.Sc Microbiology and M.Sc Biotechnology) and received her Ph.D from the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. She worked on oxidative stress in skin, skeletal, adipose tissue and cardiac muscle for a decade from 2006-2016. She is currently working as a Programme Management Officer handling projects and grants at Singapore Bioimaging Consortium (SBIC), Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). Earlier to this she was a Research Fellow in the Fat Metabolism and Stem Cell Group at SBIC. Sandhya was also the Vice President and Publicity Chair of A*PECSS (A*STAR Post Doc Society) (2014-2016). Recently she founded a platform for scientists - SciGlo (www.sciglo.com) and is a startup mentor at Vertical VC (Finland). She is an ardent lover of science and enjoys globe trotting and good vegetarian food.