Return of the Zombie Cockroaches and the Neurosurgical Wasps

By Carl Zimmer | December 1, 2007 9:50 am

Ampulex%20stinging.jpgLast year I wrote about the emerald cockroach wasp, Ampulex compressa, which injects venom into cockroaches to turn them into zombie hosts for their parasitic offspring. (More posts on Ampulex here.) The scientists I wrote about have been trying to figure out what exactly the venom does to the nervous system of their victims, and they’ve discovered that it interferes with a neurotransmitter called octopamine. New Scientist has an update. And they also have a link to a YouTube video that offers more than you may want to see of this awesome parasitic manipulation.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Brains, The Parasite Files
MORE ABOUT: The Parasite Files

Comments (1)

  1. Gal Haspel

    Ampulex and Cockroach is such a great story!

    We had some guesses about the neurophysiological mechanism but now Lior Rosenberg did a great job in this paper ( to show not only that Octopamine has this de-zombie-ing effect but also which other neuromodulators do not affect the stung cockroach.

    And mentioning evolution in action and parasitic systems, a paper in Nature reports an adaptive arms-race frozen in mud! (


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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