A virus found in gypsy caterpillars turns them into suicidal zombies which spread the virus to others.
Is this how the great zombie outbreak begins? I’ve seen a lot of Zombie films and never though it would be the insect version of “The Happening” (terrible movie) that ended mankind. A new virus was discovered in gypsy moth caterpillars that causes them to act like zombies and kill themselves in order to spread the disease to others. Heres how it works:
- A caterpillar eats a leaf that is carrying the virus and becomes infected.
- The virus stops the caterpillar from molting and turning into a moth.
- Instead of cocooning, the virus causes them to climb to the tree tops during the day, something they would normally only do at night when it’s safe.
- Once they are up in the trees, they die and and the virus causes them to molt within hours.
- The liquefied caterpillar carcasse drips down onto the leaves below, spreading it’s diseased goo all over the leaves.
- The next set of caterpillars comes along, eats the leaves and the cycle continues.
“They die there, and then they melt within hours after they die, and they are dripping virus down onto the leaves below,” said study researcher Kelli Hoover, of Pennsylvania State University. “We knew before that this behavior benefits the virus, but we didn’t know how it was causing the behavior.”
The strange caterpillar behavior was first observed 100 years ago, and was blamed on infection from a virus. Now researchers, led by Hoover, have discovered that a single gene in the virus causes this effect. The gene, named egt, interferes with the caterpillar’s molting hormone and seems to play a role in the caterpillar’s urge to climb.
Image and Source: livescience.com