New "Dementor" Wasp Turns Cockroaches Into Zombies

New "Dementor" Wasp Turns Cockroaches Into Zombies

A new report from the World Wildlife Fund has uncovered 139 new species - including a Harry Potter-inspired wasp which turns cockroaches into passive zombies.

It doesn't matter whether zombies are walkers, runners, or made up of dying stars, every example we imagine is fairly unsettling. A recently discovered version from nature is no exception - especially since they're created from a unique wasp species. Named Ampulex Dementor after the Harry Potter creatures, this wasp injects venom into a cockroach and transforms them into zombies with no control over their bodies. But don't worry, these cockroaches aren't the aggressive kind of zombie, just the kind the wasp can easily guide into a lair and devour.

Wait, that sounds more unsettling somehow.

The Dementor is one of 139 species introduced in a World Wildlife Fund report studying Asia's Greater Mekong region. What makes this particular wasp unique is that its venom disrupts neurons in the belly preventing spontaneous movement. "With this blocked, the cockroach is still capable of movement, but is unable to direct its own body," the report reads. "Once the cockroach has lost control, the wasp drags its stupefied prey by the antennae to a safe shelter to devour it."

This new species was discovered by Michael Ohl, Volker Lohrmann, Laura Breitkreuz, Lukas Kirschey, and Stefanie Krause - but they weren't the ones to call it Dementor. That honor went visitors at Berlin's Museum für Naturkunde, who noted the wasp's similarity to dementors from the Harry Potter novels. But rather than get annoyed that pop culture was creeping into their science, some of the researchers are pleased with the participation.

"I am convinced that events like this increase people's curiosity about local and global fauna and nature," Ohl explained, with the hope that interest in nature will encourage more of the public to take interest in its conservation.

The full report includes 90 plants, 23 reptiles, 16 amphibians, nine fish, and one lonely mammal - Hypsugo Dolichodon, the long-fanged bat. You can read the full report here.

Source: World Wildlife Fund, via Fox News

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Ive heard a lot about this kind of thing in the last year.
Wasps especially seem to target beetles and caterpillars.

More: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-parasites-change-their-host-s-behavior-jaap-de-roode
http://www.ted.com/talks/ed_yong_suicidal_wasps_zombie_roaches_and_other_tales_of_parasites/citations

Not impressed.[1] This little dementor has nothing on the tarantula hawk and other spider wasps. These lovely critters have a life cycle not unlike the titular creatures in the Alien films, where a spider is paralyzed, brought back to a nesting site, and an egg is laid on its abdomen. The larva hatches and eats its way into the spider, where it will try to keep the spider alive for as long as possible while it feeds (by saving vital organs for last) for weeks. Then it pupates and pops out as an adult. Good thing they don't get bigger than a few centimeters.

I guess the new wasps at least keep the cockroach population in check.

[1] Ok. These are amazing discoveries. I'm just not a Harry Potter fan.

image

Wasps of all kinds freak me out, I don't want any new ones to give me nightmares!

*bad memories intensify*

...God that sounds horrifying! Let's hope no one ever finds a way to make it effect people! (Crosses fingers and knocks on wood)

Why does nature continue to make more monsters? Why did something need to evolve the ability to make it's victims willingly come to their deaths, rather than just kill?

FillerDmon:
Why does nature continue to make more monsters? Why did something need to evolve the ability to make it's victims willingly come to their deaths, rather than just kill?

It already made the monsters, we just keep discovering the ones that are already out there. As for why it wants the roaches to come willingly odds are it has to do with keeping an easier supply of fresh food. When you kill an animal it begins to decay causing vital proteins and fats that you want to feed on to break down, but if you keep it alive until you're done eating it then decay stops being an issue. It's why some wasps lay their eggs in live spiders since then the larvae have fresh food when they hatch.

... hope that interest in nature will encourage more of the public to take interest in its conservation.

This is a terrible way to make people want to conserve nature.
"Hey kids! The environment is important! Just look at this amazing wasp!" And then cue everyone screaming.

Still less horrifying than horsehair worms, mind you.

I spent more time that I should've trying to figure out what "including a Harry Potter-inspired wasp" meant. How does nature get inspiration from a book? Was this an article about fictional animals?

Also at least the cockroaches don't become the the wasps thralls or whatever.

Gatx:
I spent more time that I should've trying to figure out what "including a Harry Potter-inspired wasp" meant. How does nature get inspiration from a book? Was this an article about fictional animals?

Yes, I had the same problem. I read the title, and just like you, tried to figure out how the hell a wasp could be "inspired by" something but it turned out to just be a boring(read: terrifying) example of nature convincing us to never go outside again.

Also this week on Damn, nature! You scary! -

FillerDmon:
Why does nature continue to make more monsters? Why did something need to evolve the ability to make it's victims willingly come to their deaths, rather than just kill?

Well, to be fair, we domesticate animals for precisely that purpose.

Blech. Wasps are routinely among the creepiest insects around...

It's cute that they named a newly discovered member of the Ampulex family after the Dementors, but this isn't really new behavior. Still creepy, but we've known about the Jewel Wasp's reproductive habits (the J.Wasp does the full on lay-eggs-in-their-belly-and-leave-them-to-die routine) since, around about the 40's.

This /is/ a slightly different deployment of that 'skill', rather than something wholly new, and it's not surprising that this should happen more than a few times in nature across various venomous species.

It is, as they say, "a legitimate strategy."

Further scientific proof that wasps are dicks. "I'm not going to carry you off to your doom... I'm going to make you walk there yourself."

Hairless Mammoth:
Not impressed.[1] This little dementor has nothing on the tarantula hawk and other spider wasps. These lovely critters have a life cycle not unlike the titular creatures in the Alien films, where a spider is paralyzed, brought back to a nesting site, and an egg is laid on its abdomen. The larva hatches and eats its way into the spider, where it will try to keep the spider alive for as long as possible while it feeds (by saving vital organs for last) for weeks. Then it pupates and pops out as an adult. Good thing they don't get bigger than a few centimeters.

I guess the new wasps at least keep the cockroach population in check.

Ninja'd pretty much word for word, I was going to bring up those wonderful "xenomorph" wasps after reading the article to point out that this kind of behavior - while a different twist on things - isn't exactly new amongst the wasp community. Paralyzing prey is, after all, the primary use for their stingers.

[1] Ok. These are amazing discoveries. I'm just not a Harry Potter fan.

FillerDmon:
Why does nature continue to make more monsters? Why did something need to evolve the ability to make it's victims willingly come to their deaths, rather than just kill?

you can add human to list of monsters considering the way we produce our meat

Ew, ew, ew. Fuck bugs.

Seems like a mis-use of the word 'zombie', but that's still a pretty cool way of killing something. Guess it turns into an escort quest for the wasp.

Why do they need to turn them into zombies? Those things are already to survive anything!

Losing control of the body as it's being guided to a lair to be devoured alive... and still being conscious? I don't know about you, but that situation is one of the most frightening things I can picture in my head. Time to restock my wasp-repellent supplies...

Anything that offs cockroaches is fine in my book (the book is titled "Fuck cockroaches").

 

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