Saturday, December 01, 2007

Cockroach Slaves and Their Wasp Masters

There is a species of wasp found in tropical regions of Africa, India and the Pacific Islands that has a unique method of trapping prey. Their sting puts their prey, most often cockroaches, into a slave-like state that allows the much smaller wasp to lead the cockroach willingly back to its nest. The wasp will then lay its eggs on the cockroach so that the larvae will have food at hand when they hatch, and the cockroach is never able to resist.

Scientists have always assumed that the wasps' venom had some effect on chemicals on the brain to bring about this effect, but the mechanism was never known until now. Researchers have found evidence that demonstrates the venom blocks a neurotransmitter called octopamine. They started with an observation that the wasps often stung the cockroach first to subdue them, and then followed up with a second more precise sting directly to the brain. From there they were able to reproduce the effects of the wasp toxin by injecting an octopamine blocker into cockroaches. They were also able to reverse the effects of the wasp toxin by injecting the cockroaches with a chemical that restores octopamine receptors.

Posted by Jon Hicks (10)


At 1:47 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Very informative blog. It was well written and interesting. I liked how the reverse effect of the toxin proved that the toxin was indeed the cause of the slave effect. I would include a reference to where you found the information. Good Job!

Posted by: Scotty Fay

At 3:19 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Very interesting! I had actually heard of this happening and wondered exactly what it was that caused the slave effect to occur. I'd like to read more on this, perhaps you could include where you got this information. Great job :)

posted by: kayla carrero

At 5:17 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Wow, very interesting article. Never knew that animals can do that to other animals. Do you know if any other animals do this? And its also interesting these toxins affect the brain and the behavior. ALso could you include the site you got this information from. I would definetly like to read more on this subject. Good job on the post.
Posted By: Balkrishna Gantyala

At 6:57 PM, Blogger PWH said...

This is very impressive. I mean the fact that you can willingly make someone do what you want them to do. Ok, maybe thats not the right state of mind. But this is really cool and very well written.

Posted by: Andrew R. Thompson

At 8:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nature never fails to amaze me. It is incredible that the wasps have developed a toxin that basically creates zombie slaves out of their prey. The fact that the wasps also know that they must inject the venom directly into the brain is fascinating. Hopefully this effect isn't reproducible in humans!

Posted by: Ben Tummino (10)


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