Some links: 82

Some links, Creepy Parasite Edition:

  • Dodder (Cuscuta sp.), a twining plant parasite, can inject bits of microRNA into its hosts, blocking gene-based plant defense mechanisms. Summary of new research by Saima Shahid et al. at
  • We’re understanding more about how the fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis takes over the behavior, if not the mind, of its ant hosts, as Ed Yong reports.

    Once an infection is underway, he says, the neurons in the ant’s body—the ones that give its brain control over its muscles—start to die. [David] Hughes [at Penn State] suspects that the fungus takes over. It effectively cuts the ant’s limbs off from its brain and inserts itself in place, releasing chemicals that force the muscles there to contract. If this is right, then the ant ends its life as a prisoner in its own body. Its brain is still in the driver’s seat, but the fungus has the wheel.