Absurd Creature of the Week: The Parasitic Worm That Turns Snails into Disco Zombies
via Wired’s Absurd Creature of the Week:
Mother Nature, you see, has cooked up an even more sadistic punishment for the humble snail. It’s called Leucochloridium, and it’s a parasitic worm that invades a snail’s eyestalks, where it pulsates to imitate a caterpillar (in biology circles this is known as aggressive mimicry—an organism pretending to be another to lure prey or get itself eaten). The worm then mind-controls its host out into the open for hungry birds to pluck out its eyes. The worm breeds in the bird’s guts, releasing its eggs in the bird’s feces, which are happily eaten up by another snail to complete the whole bizarre life cycle.
So there’s this parasitic worm see, whose sole purpose in life is for its larvae to be eaten by some birds, so that they can go forth and reproduce in said birds’ digestive tracts. Gross, I know.
Thing is, our worm is just a wee bit affected by the birds’ strong preference for caterpillars, as opposed to plain-old parasitic worms - they have standards, you know.
A weaker type of worm would have given up by now, but not our worm. No, ours is a fighter, and thus he puts in motion a brilliant brilliant little plan.
- He makes sure its eggs are eaten by a snail. Not just any snail, because standards, but a certain type of snail. Nevertheless, a snail.
- Said egg develops and develops, growing and growing, until it’s big enough TO CONTROL THE SNAIL’S MIND. Making it do crazy things like going out during daytime instead of nighttime, hanging out in elevated places, making them visible to potential predators.
- Just in case, it also castrates the poor snail, so that it doesn’t have to consume energy with activities that have suddenly become, useless.
- It branches out inside the snail until it gets to its eyestalks, and blocks the snail from retracting them. It also goes the extra mile and fills them with its larvae. Which start pulsating. Continually. Hypnotically. Making the eyestalks look like caterpillars.
- Which of course look delicious to the birds we mentioned before, who, realizing what a grave mistake they made and how gourmet that dish really is, swoop in and EAT THE SNAIL’S EYES OUT.
- Along with the delicious delicious meal, the birds also ingest the larvae cocktail, which get into its digestive system, lay eggs, which in turn get eliminated the usual way, the lion king smiles in the background, the circle of life continues.
- NAH, JUST KIDDING, did I tell you about the snail? You see, the snail is more snail than other snails. The snail doesn’t die. The snail regenerates both his eyestalks and his libido. The snail makes the android who wasn’t Arnold in Terminator 2 look like a wimp. The snail keeps on keeping on. Until one day, when once again he finds some worm eggs that look simply…irresistible.
The End End