Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Biotech Science

Scientists Create Zombie Cockroaches 243

Posted by Zonk
from the almost-as-good-as-'them' dept.
Reservoir Hill writes "Zombie insects might sound like a B-movie plot device (quicktime video) but to the emerald cockroach wasp (Ampulex compressa), they're a tried and tested way to provide food for their hungry larvae. The wasp relies on cockroaches for its grisly life cycle but unlike many venomous predators, which paralyze their victims before eating them, the wasp's sting leaves the cockroach able to walk, but unable to initiate its own movement. Researchers have discovered that the wasps sting the cockroaches once to subdue them, then administer another, more precise sting right into their victim's brain. The venom works to block a neurotransmitter called octopamine with a similar action to dopamine, which is involved in preparations to execute complex behaviors such as walking. Then the wasp grabs the cockroach's antenna and leads it back to the nest 'like a dog on a leash', says one researcher. The team found that they could restore spontaneous walking behavior in stung cockroaches by giving them a compound that reactivates octopamine receptors in the insects' central nervous system. Researchers were also able to create their own zombies by injecting unstung cockroaches with a compound that blocks the receptors producing a similar effect to that of the venom."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Scientists Create Zombie Cockroaches

Comments Filter:
  • by bruins01 (992422) on Friday November 30, 2007 @04:21AM (#21530003)
    The title should read: Emerald Cockroach Wasps Create Zombie Cockroaches, Scientists Notice
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jacquesm (154384)
      as if humans would ever take the credit for things found in nature...
    • by Plutonite (999141) on Friday November 30, 2007 @04:37AM (#21530087)
      This is the most awesome thing I've read in some time. In highly complex behaviors like these, I often wonder how the hell the evolutionary development [of the wasp] proceeded in order for the organism to deal with its prey like that. Not just one carefully administered sting, but two, then drags it home as if it knows what it just did. Hot damn.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by FredDC (1048502)
        The smallest creatures on this planet offer some of the most interesting behavioral patterns to study. I've always been fascinated with bees, ants, ... The solutions that nature has come up with for what appear to be impossible tasks are simply astounding!
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by ozmanjusri (601766)
          I've always been fascinated with bees, ants

          Hawk moth pupae?

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by gripen40k (957933)
          One of the most amazing adaptations that I have seen in nature come from Japanese honey bees and their ability to thwart attacks from hornets. Check out this [youtube.com], guarantee you will be amazed :).
      • by stranger_to_himself (1132241) on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:50AM (#21530415) Journal
        For more insect related awesomeness the BBC made Life in the Undergrowth [bbc.co.uk] a documentary series presented by David Attenborough. There's some really incredible stuff in there. Wasps especially seem to have evolved lots of these rather sinister behaviours.
      • by DerWulf (782458) on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:51AM (#21530421)
        It is highly complex but if you watch the video it becomes appearant that any form of sedation would have been an evolutionary advantage so the path could have been strength (wrestle the cockroach 'till it dies) > sedation > mind control. Once reduced to simple steps such complex behaviour is still awesome but less mind-boggling :-D
        • by olman (127310)
          And chime in short lifespan + great numbers and loooooong time.

          This is just one species of wasp with one specific cocroach (works on other insects too?) whereas great many species of wasps did not make the leap from "paralyze -> chew and/or drag on your own"

          Heck, spiders have nice living food storage thing going..
        • by sorak (246725)

          the path could have been strength (wrestle the cockroach 'till it dies) > sedation > mind control

          The next steps are:

          Make little hats > Wear little hats > wave little hats in air > learn to yell "yeehaw"

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by kalirion (728907)
          It's that mind control step that seems the biggest leap. Are you saying that a single random mutation (or sequence of mutations on the same individual wasp) just happened to give the wasp the right venom for mind control and the instinct to sting a second time and attempt to lead the beast home for dinner? How do you subdivide that into valid evolutionary steps?
      • Wow! So that proves that God is made of cake!

        Sorry, sorry.

      • by jordyhoyt (1013713) on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:59AM (#21530463)
        If you find this amazing, check out the wikipedia article on these amazing parasites [wikipedia.org]!
      • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Friday November 30, 2007 @07:31AM (#21530923) Journal
        A simpler form of this behavior was observed by Charles Darwin. Wasps laying eggs on live caterpillars which were eaten alive by wasp larvae! That convinced Darwin that no moral, just, fair God would design such a system. It was one of his motivations in seeking natural explanations for behavior of animals. Darwin wanted to plug the hole, "I am bad because God designed me to be bad and sinful" defense for the sinners. Because if Paley's watchmaker God was true, then every immoral behavior is a designed behavior, specifically created by God. It is ironic that present day fundies paint Darwin in the darkest hue.

        The evolution is easily explained. Wasps sting and kill cockroaches and lay an egg on the dead roach to provide ready food for their larvae. Some wasps had less potent venom, strong enough to paralyze but taking longer to kill. These roaches would stay alive longer and provide better, less rotten bodies for the larvae. Now you can see the selection mechanism, give it a few million years and a billion generations, you can see behavior that is incredible.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by E++99 (880734)

          The evolution is easily explained. Wasps sting and kill cockroaches and lay an egg on the dead roach to provide ready food for their larvae. Some wasps had less potent venom, strong enough to paralyze but taking longer to kill. These roaches would stay alive longer and provide better, less rotten bodies for the larvae. Now you can see the selection mechanism, give it a few million years and a billion generations, you can see behavior that is incredible.

          Perhaps I'm missing something. How can a DNA mutation

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            It definitely did not happen in one generation. You could not have a mother wasp that killed and the daughter who carefully drove the roach.

            Let us start with wasps that stung a roach, killed it and laid eggs on the corpse. Some small variation in the gene that made the poison slightly stronger or slightly weaker. If it is so weak the roach took longer to die, the wasp larvae had better food so they were at an advantage. So they dominate and crowd out the wasps making stronger venom. It was probably not e

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by oni (41625)
            How can a DNA mutation make the wasp know how to locate the brain and lodge the stinger directly into it?

            A common tactic among people who don't believe evolution, is to use phrases like "DNA mutation" as if to imply that there was no brain locating behavior, and then a single mutation happens and (like magic) a fully-formed brain locating behavior exists. As if this one wasp named Neo was born and he was their savior. That's a straw man. You're arguing against something that no evolutionary scientist cla
        • It was one of his motivations in seeking natural explanations for behavior of animals.

          That doesn't seem to make sense. The following is based on my understanding of the religion which I think is consistent with any that believe the words of the Bible. Individual beliefs may vary

          Animals aren't governed by the moral guidlines that God placed on Humans. Animals do not go to heaven or hell. Animals where designed to be the dominion of humans. They have no consciousness or free will. They do what they are progr

      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        Zombie Cockroaches
        That was the name my band in high school. We used to play covers of late 60's rock. Despite rehearsing for 3 years, we never actually played a gig, unless you count our drummer's sister's bas mitzvah, and I got so nervous I hurled.
        • by rograndom (112079)

          Zombie Cockroaches

          That was the name my band in high school. We used to play covers of late 60's rock. Despite rehearsing for 3 years, we never actually played a gig, unless you count our drummer's sister's bas mitzvah, and I got so nervous I hurled.


          I can almost see this becoming a new meme, similar to "In soviet russia...".
      • by gurps_npc (621217)
        They developed the paralyzing strike via evolution, then they by chance stung them to death, and dragged the body home. One lucky roach managed to hit the zombification spot, instead of the regular kill spot. When they tried to drag the body home, it came easier. Those that hit the same spot time and time again, took less time to get the body home, so had an evolutionary advantage.

        Note, the insects do have a small brain, so it might have had a bit of "ah ha!" momemnt as well, intentionally trying for t

    • by StrawberryFrog (67065) on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:09AM (#21530245) Homepage Journal
      Almost, it should be: "Emerald Cockroach Wasps Create Zombie Cockroaches, Scientists Imitate".

      From the blurb above:
      Researchers were also able to create their own zombies by injecting unstung cockroaches with a compound
  • Eh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fyngyrz (762201) * on Friday November 30, 2007 @04:23AM (#21530021) Homepage Journal

    "Scientists create Zombie Cockroaches"

    Yes, and then we elect them. Wake me up when the system changes.

    • Re:Eh? (Score:5, Funny)

      by PietjeJantje (917584) on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:49AM (#21530411)
      Ford Prefect, talking to Arthur Dent about an immense robot that came from a flying saucer (destroying a huge area including Harrods), and said "Take me to your Lizard.":

      "It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see ..."

      "You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?"

      "No," said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and
      coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced
      down him, "nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so
      straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders
      are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the
      people."

      "Odd," said Arthur, "I thought you said it was a democracy."

      "I did," said Ford. "It is."

      "So," said Arthur, hoping he wasn't sounding ridiculously obtuse,
      "why don't people get rid of the lizards?"

      "It honestly doesn't occur to them," said Ford. "They've all got
      the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government
      they've voted in more or less approximates to the government they
      want."

      "You mean they actually vote for the lizards?"

      "Oh yes," said Ford with a shrug, "of course."

      "But," said Arthur, going for the big one again, "why?"

      "Because if they didn't vote for a lizard," said Ford, "the wrong
      lizard might get in. Got any gin?"
  • Deja Vu (Score:5, Informative)

    by SetupWeasel (54062) on Friday November 30, 2007 @04:25AM (#21530031) Homepage
    I can't believe I remembered this. [slashdot.org]
  • by AlXtreme (223728) on Friday November 30, 2007 @04:28AM (#21530041) Homepage Journal
    Linking a 40MB quicktime movie from Slashdot somehow doesn't seem like a very smart idea...

    For the wasp this looks like a very useful move. Why haul your food when it can walk for you?
  • by jacquesm (154384) <j@SLACKWAREww.com minus distro> on Friday November 30, 2007 @04:37AM (#21530081) Homepage
    In other news, large hordes of nerds are being arrested all over the planet while injecting nubile females with what appears to be insect venom. Natalie Portman in intensive care after a severe allergic reaction.
    • When jocks inject large amounts of toxic liqued into women to get them to loose control over their bodies, that is just guys being guys, but when nerds do it "CALL THE COPS". For the humor impaired, alcohol is far easier to obtain in large doses then insect venom

      I say enough is enough, we have to strike back. Revenge of the nerds!

      Mmm, sounds like a good title for a movie, what is the number for hollywood?

      • by DrWho520 (655973) on Friday November 30, 2007 @07:52AM (#21531061) Journal
        Loose the italics next time. I know it is hard to resist, but explaining a joke just makes it !funny.
      • When jocks inject large amounts of toxic liqued into women to get them to loose control over their bodies, that is just guys being guys, but when nerds do it "CALL THE COPS".
        I dunno, I think it's still rape in both cases, it's just that the school administration will overlook it in the case of the jocks if the team is doing well this season. And a condom would eliminate the whole "injection" problem, too.
      • The real trick is getting the women to want to inject the venom into themselves.

        That's where the jocks have excelled (only with alcohol instead of venom). Force a person to consume any toxic substance against their will / knowledge and I'm pretty sure you'll be facing criminal charges shortly thereafter.
    • by sowth (748135)

      ...and Paris Hilton was standing on top of a huge phallic symbol yelling: "Hey guys! Why didn't you pick me?!?" The nerd who captured Nicole Richie was found hours later, his brain encrusted with neurosyphilis [nih.gov]. Lindsey Lohan and Britney Spears were found in a closet "lezzing out" with some butch roaches. When prompted for a statment, they replied "this doesn't mean we're gay. They're not even the same species as us."

  • Zombies? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by killmofasta (460565)
    ok. Let me see? Which are the Zombie Cockroaches, and which are the scientists? Is there are demonstrateable diffrence? Are they both vying for press? Didn't Mabel, the cow, see little diffrence betweem the Pigs and the Humans in the end of "Animal Farm"

    Must favor "unreasonably huge subsidies to the Zombie Cockroaches planet."

    With Hunger, Global Warming and catostrophic ozone loss affecting the lives of billions, dont you think the scientests/Zombie Cockroaches have something better to do? Hmmm?
    • by dltaylor (7510)
      Science, some of it very, very old already did: it's called birth control. Can't get it practiced where and when it's needed most, though.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by StuckInSyrup (745480)

      With Hunger, Global Warming and catostrophic ozone loss affecting the lives of billions, dont you think the scientests/Zombie Cockroaches have something better to do? Hmmm?

      Oh, I love comments like this.
      "You are studying cockroaches, hm? Interesting. But MILLIONS are starving, are you going to feed them with cockroaches? Forget about your work, do something, HUMAN LIVES are on stake" ...and so on.
      You know, there is this thing called fundamental research. You never know when data like this will be useful.

    • by c6gunner (950153)

      With Hunger, Global Warming and catostrophic ozone loss affecting the lives of billions, dont you think the scientests/Zombie Cockroaches have something better to do? Hmmm?

      Are you sure that you're not a zombie cockroach?

      Seriously, you're right. I think it's very unfortunate that there are some very intelligent people starving in the third world, while mindless overfed idiots like you continue to lead a carefree existence. If there were a God, he'd have switched you around ages ago.

    • With Hunger, Global Warming and catostrophic ozone loss affecting the lives of billions, dont you think the scientests/Zombie Cockroaches have something better to do? Hmmm?
      With Hunger, Global Warming and catostrophic ozone loss affecting the lives of billions, dont you think you have something better to do than complaining about what others choose to do on Slashdot?
    • by Vexorian (959249)
      Mind control on cockroaches would allow us to have the perfect victim detection machine, much better than any robot on this generation. So, if there was any earthquake, hurricane, bombing, tornado and you had to find people as fast as possible a cockroach would save lives...
  • by F34nor (321515) * on Friday November 30, 2007 @04:55AM (#21530191)
    This one freaks the shit out of me for some reason. http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=53 [damninteresting.com]
    • by Loosifur (954968)
      "The parasite basically rewires the crab for its own ends, and the crab becomes a helpless vehicle, expending its energy caring for the young organisms that will move on to inflict themselves upon other crabs."

      Until, somewhere around age 50, after a loud, indignant and drunken therapy session with the other crabs at the pub, the crab calls a divorce attorney. Or buys a motorcycle.

  • by 427_ci_505 (1009677) on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:03AM (#21530219)
    Well, I for one am scared shitless of our new overlords.
  • Dupe (Score:4, Informative)

    by sentientbrendan (316150) on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:13AM (#21530259)
    http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/02/04/1649211 [slashdot.org]

    I wish they'd just google for the old title... that would catch most of these dupes.
  • Human Zombies (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Miratus (1196407) on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:29AM (#21530331)
    This reminds me of a bit of research done by the psychofarmacology department of the University of Rotterdam in the late eighties. They set out to discover if there was any substance to the reports from aid-workers and missionaries in Africa that 'zombies' were for real. Several well-documented cases existed, involving 'dead' individuals returning to their old villages, months or years after their burial, with only hazy memories of what happenend during their time away. With some help from anthropologists it was discovered that the 'zombies' were in fact poisoned with a complex witch-doctor mix of herbs and toxins, the only really important ingredient of which was a powerful neurotoxin of animal origin, which inhibited active thought and the forming of memories. The individual who was doused in this contact-poison would fall into a death-like coma soon afterwards. Then it was simply a matter of digging the body up fast and whacking it over the head a few times to get the person to wake up. If that failed (hitting the proper dosage is a bitch), the grave could be closed, no one the wiser. The 'lucky' ones woke up as addled 'zombies', with no will of their own and able to hear and obey simple instructions and could be sold as slaves. The toxin was recreated by science (without the unnecessary extra ingredients) and proved quite powerful when tested on lab-rats. The neurotoxin blocked key neural pathways, but turned out to be easily 'washed away' by a sufficiently large dose of Na+ ions, such as when the victim ingested common table-salt. Having proved that it there was a scientific truth to the zombie-myth, but finding no easy synthesis of the neurotoxin nor any medical use, the research group moved on. I was given their report while in high-school by one member of the team, who thought it was funny that I was VERY interested in this voodoo-zombie story that she had mentioned to me. I should go look up that report or contact her again for further details, but perhaps someone who is more skilled in research and farmacology can just pull this out of a database for all of us?
    • Re:Human Zombies (Score:4, Informative)

      by Magada (741361) on Friday November 30, 2007 @08:43AM (#21531499) Journal
      They got the story just a wee bit wrong, your scientist friends did. Yes, the main ingredient for "zombification" is a venom - pufferfish venom or some other analogous neurotoxin) for the paralysis bit and clinical depression as an added bonus, but the traditional cocktails which have been studied also contain a lysergine and some THC to complete "operation mindfuck", plus additional bits of stuff that inhibit the autonomous nervous system and slow down metabolic processes - sometimes in non-obvious ways. This is something that's been in development since the stone age began. If some obscure herb is in there, it's in there for a reason.

      Btw, if you ever meet a zombie, make her a nice cup of St John's wort tea.
  • Brains? (Score:4, Funny)

    by FranklinDelanoBluth (1041504) on Friday November 30, 2007 @05:40AM (#21530375)
    But do they eat brains? I don't think so. So, technically they're not zombies.
  • Good (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2@eaRASPrthshod.co.uk minus berry> on Friday November 30, 2007 @06:04AM (#21530493)
    This should serve once and for all to dispel the myth of a benevolent creator.
    • Quite the opposite. I can already see the creationist bunch start ranting "See? Someone MUST have come up with that shit, nature CANNOT create such weird things itself."
    • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

      by One Childish N00b (780549) on Friday November 30, 2007 @07:37AM (#21530965) Homepage
      This should serve once and for all to dispel the myth of a benevolent creator.

      Alright, you've posted with your real account, which has no history of trolling, so either this is a genuine statement or you forgot to hit 'Post Anonymously'.

      I have to ask, at the risk of being modded troll myself... why?

      People have been doing worse things than this to one another for centuries, usually in the name of one God or another, and you are taking the existence of a zombie cockroach as your final proof of a Godless universe? Is there a justification here I'm just not seeing?
    • If Candide [wikipedia.org] didn't do it, nothing will.

      Anyway, benevolent in general doesn't mean anything about benevolence toward any one thing in particular. If you take that argument against a fundie, they'll say, "God works in mysterious ways."
    • by geekoid (135745)
      No. You can't falsify something that is made up and exempt from all tests.
  • I knew a gal once who had a similar schtick. Well, except it wasn't exactly the antennae she used ...
  • This sounds like it has remarkable parallels to Parkinson's, actually. Both conditions are characterized by an difficulty initiating voluntary activity, and seem to be caused in large part by a lack of/inability to process dopamine or equivalent neurotransmitter. I wonder if the section of the roach's brain which is stung serves a function analogous to the basal ganglia in a human?

    Some quick poking around shows that P. D. Evans, in OCTOPAMINE DISTRIBUTION IN THE INSECT NERVOUS SYSTEM (1978), demonstrat
  • by Kadmium (679058) on Friday November 30, 2007 @07:34AM (#21530947)
    I read the title as "Scientologists create zombie cockroaches" and actually caught myself thinking, "Yeah, they've been working up to this for a while now."
  • by longslash (1196447) on Friday November 30, 2007 @07:37AM (#21530967)
    Surely this opens up a whole new area of cockroach racing with wasp jockeys?
  • Evolution. Who would have thought that wasps could get so clever?

    1) The wasps learned how to paralyze and control the roach without a science degree!

    I assume the first wasp must have discovered this by mistake and written a book on it -- which must have been a bestseller, considering that all of these wasps now do it.

    2) The wasp larva eats the roach in an order which keeps the roach alive until the larva reaches the pupal stage.

    Now, how does the larva know how to do this, or is it coincidence that all larv
  • ...I'm not dead!!!
  • Just in time for upcoming elections.

  • I for one welcome our new zombified vermin overlords.

The idle man does not know what it is to enjoy rest.

Working...