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Science

Zombie Plants Help To Spread Bacterial Pathogen 38

Posted by Soulskill
from the eschews-brains-for-sunlight dept.
bmahersciwriter writes: "We've all heard stories about how parasites can 'zombify' organisms, getting them to mindlessly protect a brood or infect their peers. Now UK researchers have figured out how one bacterial pathogen co-opts the behavior of a plant, causing it to attract sap-sucking insects that help the bacteria spread to other plants. From the story in Nature News: 'The plant appears alive, but it's only there for the good of the pathogen,' says plant pathologist Saskia Hogenhout from the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK. 'In an evolutionary sense, the plant is dead and will not produce offspring.' 'Many might balk at the concept of a zombie plant because the idea of plants behaving is strange,' says David Hughes, a parasitologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. 'But they do, and since they do, why wouldn't parasites have evolved to take over their behavior, as they do for ants and crickets?'"
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Zombie Plants Help To Spread Bacterial Pathogen

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  • by turkeydance (1266624) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @06:31PM (#46700131)
    oh, yeah. pet rocks. sorry.
    • oh, yeah. pet rocks. sorry.

      Lichened unto Magic Rocks which help me break out and escape from Zombie Windows, fend off Zombie Mountain Lions and Snow Leopards, or even blind a spying Eye OS.

      Rocking Penguins can even kill Zombie Androids or break the locks on their boots.

      Rocks and Penguins rule. Don't have to worry about Zombie Penguins, their natural predators are Big Surly Daemons.

  • by AaronLS (1804210) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @06:42PM (#46700215)

    The cold/flu causes us to produce additional muccus/sneeze/cough, altering our behavior which increases transmission rates. This doesn't mean we are zombies. I think it's a very interesting find, but a little ridiculous to involve the term zombie.

    • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @06:56PM (#46700329)

      That's a immune system response, not common to any particular pathogen. Along with increased body temperature.
      The extra snot in your nose contains virophages that actually attack other viruses before entering your body.

      In this case the bacteria makes the plant turn its flowers into leaves. Making the plant sterile but attracting the insect vectors it needs to spread. One of the key parts of the definition of life has been removed - the ability to reproduce.

      • by Harlequin80 (1671040) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @09:35PM (#46701297)

        Similar analogy can be applied to virus infected computers which are often referred to as zombies. All they are doing, once infected, is trying to spread the infection. Depending on how aggressive the virus is the computer will become incapable of doing anything else. Which seems like a fair description of zombie behaviour.

      • Still seems a stretch to call it a "zombie" though. Wouldn't the same rationale mean that mules are also undead? Not zombies since there's no infection involved, but something.

          Aaah!!! Beware the undead pack animals! They'll eat your carrots and refuse to carry your burdens unless they feel like it!

        • by khallow (566160)

          Still seems a stretch to call it a "zombie" though.

          You're missing the second part. The organism is transformed physically and behaviorally into a vehicle for spreading the parasite. That's classic zombie movie stuff.

          • by Immerman (2627577)

            Hmm. Yeah, I suppose of late the whole mind-altering disease thing has horned in on the traditional risen from the dead definition of zombies.

            • by khallow (566160)

              Yeah, I suppose of late the whole mind-altering disease thing has horned in on the traditional risen from the dead definition of zombies.

              It's been kicking around under that label for at least 40 years (with the movie, "Night of the Living Dead" kicking that off), so it's not that new an idea. And before that, there was "The Puppet Masters", a Heinlein book about parasites trying to take over humanity, which was published in 1951 more than 60 years ago.

              Given that projected movies are around 120 years old and science fiction not much older than that, zombie parasitism is not a recent idea in these arts.

        • From now on I'm going to refer to pack mules as Zombie Horses, may be Zombie Donkeys.

      • by AaronLS (1804210)

        It's an immune system response that viruses leverage to spread. If you could create a similar virus that didn't cause an immune system response, its transmition rates would probably be lower. I would argue that just as the pathogen in the article has evolved to evoke a certain response in the article, cold/flu have probably evolved to maximize the immune system response(short of killing the host) as such variations of the virus would transmit more readily and pass that evolutionary trait to other viruses.

        R

    • The cold/flu causes us to produce additional muccus/sneeze/cough, altering our behavior which increases transmission rates. This doesn't mean we are zombies. I think it's a very interesting find, but a little ridiculous to involve the term zombie.

      I'll remind you of that when the zombie plant is eating your brains. "Don't worry, this is natural for the plants to be trying to eat you. Nothing to do with zombies."

    • Rabies might be a better example. It's not a coincidence that animals infected with rabies are more likely to engage in behaviors that spread rabies than they were before infection. So bacteria like the one in question are hardly unique.
    • I think it's a very interesting find, but a little ridiculous to involve the term zombie.

      It's a vogue term. Just like everything is in "the cloud" even when it's just remote on one system. Next month the plants will be taking selfies of themselves twerking.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This doesn't mean we are zombies.

      Maybe not the flu, but T. Gondii [wikipedia.org] infect rats causing them to be attracted sexually to cat urine so they will seek it out and be eaten such that parasite can infect it's intended host: cats. In Humans it has been linked to both depression and homosexuality. If mindlessly sticking things up your butt isn't zombie like behavior nothing is.

    • by userw014 (707413)
      The presumption of the article is that Zombies cause their host to permanently be no longer capable of reproduction, which the article mentions. That aspect of Zombiness is usually implicit (body parts falling off, etc.) in most Zombie stories. I certainly haven't heard of any stories where Zombie hosts are capable of reproduction, although the BBC series about cured Zombies seemed may have touched on that topic.
    • by khallow (566160)
      The cold and flu doesn't shut down your reproductive system permanently and transform you into a vehicle solely for spreading cold/flu viruses. Read the summary at least.
  • by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @07:38PM (#46700613)

    Or Plants vs Zombies?

    • Mother Nature is a serial killer. No one's better. More creative. Like all serial killers, she can't help but the urge to want to get caught. But what good are all those brilliant crimes if no one takes the credit? So she leaves crumbs. Now the hard part, while you spent decades in school, is seeing the crumbs for the clues they are. Sometimes the thing you thought was the most brutal aspect of the virus, turns out to be the chink in its armor. And she loves disguising her weaknesses as strengths. She's a b
      • I wish more scriptwriters would apply the "does anyone ever talk anything remotely like this in real life?" test before committing to a line of dialogue.

      • Mother Nature is a serial killer. No one's better. More creative. Like all serial killers, she can't help but the urge to want to get caught. But what good are all those brilliant crimes if no one takes the credit? So she leaves crumbs. Now the hard part, while you spent decades in school, is seeing the crumbs for the clues they are. Sometimes the thing you thought was the most brutal aspect of the virus, turns out to be the chink in its armor. And she loves disguising her weaknesses as strengths. She's a bitch. -Fassbach, World War Z

        In this case, she is a Cereal killer

    • They've teamed up to wipe us out.

  • I have it on good word from The Umbrella Corporation... Ahem... Monsanto, that there is nothing to worry about. This bacteria could in no way affect their GMO products. Nor did they have any involvement in it's creation. The reports of carnivorous plants attacking independent farmers and their families are simply not true. Their fields and homes were torched, ahem, sterilized simply as a safety precaution.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triffid

  • by T.E.D. (34228) on Wednesday April 09, 2014 @08:22AM (#46703879)

    Sensible. After getting thousands and thousands of zombies taken out by those damn plants, the sensible thing to do would be to subvert them from the inside.

    Yes, now there are truly zombies on your lawn.

  • "The plant appears alive, but it's only there for the good of the pathogen."

    The citizen appears alive, but it's only there for the good of the government.

    FTFY.
  • Or ants and cricket, or plants, or politicians...

The reason that every major university maintains a department of mathematics is that it's cheaper than institutionalizing all those people.

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