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The worm “chooses” the time of day to turn ants into “zombies”;  Understanding |  Biodiversity

The worm “chooses” the time of day to turn ants into “zombies”; Understanding | Biodiversity

Nature is ingenious with its survival mechanisms, and when it comes to the microscopic world, tiny organisms can have great powers. Danish researchers analyzed the behavior of ants and discovered that the worm inhabiting these insects can “control their minds” to ensure their full life cycle.

the study, Published in the scientific journal Behavioral Ecology, Dicrocoelium dendriticum, after infecting ants, settles in the insects’ brains and prompts them to act “suicidal,” he explains. By making the ants climb to the ends of the grass blades, they end up being eaten by cattle and deer, animals in which the worm settles in the liver to complete its development.

The worm’s control over ants is complex: the insects climb grass leaves only at times of moderate temperatures, in the morning and at the end of the day, when mammals would like to host Dicrococelium on which they would naturally graze.

In addition to following the habits of their hosts, and increasing their chances of success in the reproductive cycle, the fact that ants avoid very hot times also ensures their survival, and with them the worms.

Once installed in mammals, the worm and its eggs are expelled in the animals’ feces. Slugs act as a second host, where the worm develops into larvae and is expelled in the mucus of these invertebrates. Then the ants arrive and eat this mucus.

“We found a clear relationship between temperature and ant behavior. We joke about finding a zombie ant click,” Brian Lund Fredensborg, study co-author and associate professor of organismal biology at the University of Copenhagen, said in a statement. .

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In an interview with Newsweek magazineThe researcher added the ingenuity of the natural scheme among living organisms.

“In our study, we found that temperature is the trigger that activates or deactivates variable behavior [das formigas]. However, we still need to determine the exact mechanism. Perhaps the parasite that migrates to the ant’s brain stimulates increased levels of neuromodulators [serotonina e dopamina] “In a temperature-dependent manner, but this must be verified.”

Although these worms can infect humans, they cannot control our brains the way ants do. “Humans are not part of this parasite’s natural life cycle, and when they do [raramente] “If that happens, it will be in the mammalian host niche, where no behavioral changes occur,” Fredensborg said.