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New species of parasitoid varp from Ecuador turn social spiders into zombies | Biology

Deep in the Ecuadorian Amazon, a newly identified species of the parasitoid wasp genus Zatypota Anelosimus eximius transforms one of…

Deep in the Ecuadorian Amazon, a newly identified species of the parasitoid wasp genus Zatypota Anelosimus eximius transforms one of only about 25 species of “social” spiders worldwide into a zombie-like drone who abandons his colony to make the beep’s bidding.

This is the adult scene of the parasitic warp Zatypota sp.nov. Photo credits: Philippe Fernandez-Fournier.

“Weapons who manipulate the spiders have previously been observed but not as complicated as this,” said scientist Philippe Fernandez-Fournier, University of British Columbia.

“Not only is this beep aimed at the spider’s social nature, but it leaves its colony, which rarely does.”

Fernandez-Fournier was in Ecuador and studied various parasites that live in the form of a species of social spider called Anelosimus eximius . These spiders are remarkable for living together in large colonies, collaborating on pro-catching, sharing parenting assignments and rarely deviating from their basket-shaped bonks.

When the researcher noticed that some spiders were infected with a parasitic larva and saw them wandering a foot or two away from their colonies to spin the confined tissue of tightly wrapped silk and pieces of foliage, he became puzzled.

Intrigued, he carefully took some of the structures known as “cocoon webs” back to his lab to see what would appear in the depths. To his surprise, it was a parasitoid species of the Zatypota genus.

“These wasps are very elegant and graceful, but then they make the most brutal,” said Samantha Straus, a doctoral student at the University of British Columbia.

Using data gathered in Ecuador, scientists began collecting the weapon’s life cycle and its parasitic relationship with spider.

“We found that equal parts were fascinating and intimidating: after an adult female wasp puts an egg on a spider’s belly, the larva clings and clings to its unfortunate arachnid host,” they said.

“It probably feeds on the spider’s bloodlike hemolymph, grows bigger and slowly takes over its body.”

“The now” zombified “spider leaves the colony and spins a cocoon for the larva before patiently waiting to be killed and consumed . After firing on the spider, the larva enters its protected cocoon, which grows fully formed nine to eleven days later. “

” In other similar cases of parasitism, wasps are known to target single species of spiders like orb tissue and manipulate them to behaviors that are within their normal repertoire. “

” The horse completely hijacks the behavior and brain of the spider and does it to do anything it would never do, like leaving a living and spinning a completely different structure. It’s very dangerous for these little spiders, “said Straus.

It’s not known how the wasp does this, the team believes it can be caused by an injection of hormones that makes the spider think it’s in another way of life or cause it should spread from the colony.

“We think the wasp targets these social spiders because it provides a large, stable host colony and food source,” Straus said.

“We also found that the larger spider colony is more likely Was it that these wasps should target it? “

The discovery is described in a paper published in the journal Ecological Entomology .

Philippe Fernandez-Fournier et al. . Behavioral Modification of a social spider of a parasitoid wasp. Ecological Entomology published online on November 4, 201

8; doi: 10.1111 / en.12698

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