June 6th, 2008


Make me a sandwich woman!

I didn't see this is previous tags but if I missed it I can delete it.

A little information about The Jumping Frenchman of Maine!

The Jumping Frenchman of Maine disease (yes, that is it's name), is a genetic mutation that prevent's "exciting" signals in the nervous system from being regulated. For an example an event which might simply startle a normal person may cause a sufferer of "Jumper" to react in a extreme manner without will such as cry out, flail their limbs, twitch and sometimes go into convulsions. Jumpers are susceptible to episode's as soon as the previous one ends.

Jumpers also cannot help but obey orders. Sufferer's have an automatic reflex to obey any order given suddenly. If you told a jumper to say, hit his brother, he would do so with no hesitation. In addition he will also verbally repeat the command, uncontrollably. Jumper's suffer from a phenomenon known as echolalia.

Hmm, I smell a new boyfriend.

Peter Vincent

Zombie Cockroach and Wasp VooDoo

A friend sent this to me.  I somewhat wish he hadn't.  It's fairly creepy and makes you wonder what bugs could do to us if one day they realized they outnumbered us by A LOT.
The Wisdom of Parasites

Category: The Parasite Files
Posted on: February 2, 2006 9:43 AM, by Carl Zimmer

Ampulex%20stinging.jpgI collect tales of parasites the way some people collect Star Trek plates. And having filled an entire book with them, I thought I had pretty much collected the whole set. But until now I had somehow missed the gruesome glory that is a wasp named Ampulex compressa.

As an adult, Ampulex compressa seems like your normal wasp, buzzing about and mating. But things get weird when it's time for a female to lay an egg. She finds a cockroach to make her egg's host, and proceeds to deliver two precise stings. The first she delivers to the roach's mid-section, causing its front legs buckle. The brief paralysis caused by the first sting gives the wasp the luxury of time to deliver a more precise sting to the head.

The wasp slips her stinger through the roach's exoskeleton and directly into its brain. She apparently use ssensors along the sides of the stinger to guide it through the brain, a bit like a surgeon snaking his way to an appendix with a laparoscope. She continues to probe the roach's brain until she reaches one particular spot that appears to control the escape reflex. She injects a second venom that influences these neurons in such a way that the escape reflex disappears.

From the outside, the effect is surreal. The wasp does not paralyze the cockroach. In fact, the roach is able to lift up its front legs again and walk. But now it cannot move of its own accord. The wasp takes hold of one of the roach's antennae and leads it--in the words of Israeli scientists who study Ampulex--like a dog on a leash.

The zombie roach crawls where its master leads, which turns out to be the wasp's burrow. The roach creeps obediently into the burrow and sits there quietly, while the wasp plugs up the burrow with pebbles. Now the wasp turns to the roach once more and lays an egg on its underside. The roach does not resist. The egg hatches, and the larva chews a hole in the side of the roach. In it goes.

The larva grows inside the roach, devouring the organs of its host, for about eight days. It is then ready to weave itself a cocoon--which it makes within the roach as well. After four more weeks, the wasp grows to an adult. It breaks out of its cocoon, and out of the roach as well. Seeing a full-grown wasp crawl out of a roach suddenly makes those Alien movies look pretty derivative.


I find this wasp fascinating for a lot of reasons. For one thing, it represents an evolutionary transition. Over and over again, free-living organisms have become parasites, adapting to hosts with exquisite precision. If you consider a full-blown parasite, it can be hard to conceive of how it could have evolved from anything else. Ampulex offers some clues, because it exists in between the free-living and parasitic worlds.

Amuplex is not technically a parasite, but something known as an exoparasitoid. In other words, a free-living adult lays an egg outside a host, and then the larva crawls into the host. One could easily imagine the ancestors of Ampulex as wasps that laid their eggs near dead insects--as some species do today. These corpse-feeding ancestors then evolved into wasps that attacked living hosts. Likewise, it's not hard to envision an Ampulex-like wasp evolving into full-blown parasitoids that inject their eggs directly into their hosts, as many species do today.

And then there's the sting. Ampulex does not want to kill cockroaches. It doesn't even want to paralyze them the way spiders and snakes do, since it is too small to drag a big paralyzed roach into its burrow. So instead it just delicately retools the roach's neural network to take away its motivation. Its venom does more than make roaches zombies. It also alters their metabolism, so that their intake of oxygen drops by a third. The Israeli researchers found that they could also drop oxygen consumption in cockroaches by injecting paralyzing drugs or by removing the neurons that the wasps disable with their sting. But they can manage only a crude imitation; the manipulated cockroaches quickly dehydrated and were dead within six days. The wasp venom somehow puts the roaches into suspended animation while keeping them in good health, even as a wasp larva is devouring it from the inside

Scientists don't yet understand how Ampulex manages either of these feats. Part of the reason for their ignorance is the fact that scientists have much left to learn about nervous systems and metabolism. But millions of years of natural selection has allowed Ampulex to reverse engineer its host. We would do well to follow its lead, and gain the wisdom of parasites.


Ghost Sickness

Weird disease called Ghost Sickness.  It apparently originated in the Navajo Indian tribe and the sufferer experiences a loss of appetite, fatigue, and a feeling of suffocation, a feeling of terror, and an obsession with death including nightmares.  What!

Some people believe that it's a manifestation of unresolved grief because there remains to be found an underlying condition.

Also see Briquet's syndrome.


Cute Little Salamanders

We all love salamanders and newts, right? Cute little, often brightly colored amphibions that eat bugs and worms. Sure, some have poisonous skin, but on a whole they aren't particularly menacing, right?

Sort of.

Introducing the Giant Salamanders:


Hellbenders are the largest species of salamander living in North America. They are native to the streams and rivers of the eastern US.

They aren't exactly cute: they get up to two feet long, have grey, wrinkly skin, and beady little eyes near the tips of their snouts. Interestingly, their feet resemble dog paws more than salamander feet, and have pads to help them grip riverbeds. They also bite, but aren't particularly dangerous. They eat worms, crustaceans, and small fish and are almost completely aquatic.


These are my favorite among the giants, because I grew up catching them up at the family farm.

And giant salamanders get even bigger....

The Chinese and Japanese Giant Salamanders are the largest salamanders alive today, each growing to a length of about 5-6 feet. They look and act similarly to the Hellbenders of the US, but are much, much larger. They also have a much more powerful bite, and can actually inflict damage.


Unfortunately, these titan salamanders are critically endangered :(

It would be a great shame to lose such incredible animals to human actions.
aye aye captain
  • drhoz

Mate or Die

Strolling through TV Tropes and reached the Mate Or Die page.

Naturally, my mind turned towards real life examples - not to be confused with Mate AND Die, ones where the unfortunate animal gets eaten by its girlfriend afterwards; or snaps off its genitalia and bleeds to death; or works itself into such a frenzy of reproduction it dies of exhaustion (i.e. Swamp Antechinus); or where they just wander off quietly and die instead of having a post-coital nap... but where the animal really must mate or find itself facing a horrible death.

Unfairly, the only example I can think of is female.

The ferret Mustela putorius furo is the only domesticated mustelid ( I'm excluding pet skunks, and mink farming - both recent developments ). They were most probably bred from European or Steppe polecats, and can still happily interbreed with either (hybrids are a ghastly threat to New Zealand native wildlife). Ferrets are kept for hunting rabbits, as pets, biomedical research, protecting grain stores, running electrical cables through buildings ( Freddie is a registered Electrician's Assistant in NZ ) and for putting down trousers.

but back to the sex.

Once a unspayed jill ferret goes into heat, she MUST get pregnant have sex - sex induces ovulation. If she doesn't ovulate, she'll die of aplastic anaemia. This is because going into heat is linked to greatly increased oestrogen in her blood, and she'll stay in heat until some helpful hob ferret comes along to help her with her little problem. And as long as her oestrogen is through the roof, her bone marrow stops producing blood cells.

Poor girls.

I don't know if the same situation applies to their wild relatives, but I doubt it made bringing black-footed ferrets back from the brink of extinction any easier.

EDIT : And I've just been informed, if the anaemia doesn't get them, "the swollen vulva during heat presents the opportunity for infection back down along the uterus, and if left untreated and resulting in fatal endometritis or pyometra will likely get the rest :("

ta Dellway.


EDIT: By popular demand, I made the text normal. BUT I DIDN'T LIKE IT! : )

For all of the weird animals we have on here, isn't it time we learned a little bit more about the critters we spend so much time with? Also, numbered lists are a fantastic way to learn a lot of information, quickly.

Thar be my own. Here is the Collapse )
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  • mokele

Snake Tears Apart Crab!

Snakes, as everyone knows, are to coolest damn animals *ever*, and do some really strange things, including swallowing tremendous items, gliding between trees, and having massive orgies in Canada.

In terms of swallowing huge things, most snakes are quite remarkable - all snakes are predators, and some quite spectacular ones, with an African rock python found by explorers having swallowed a 140-lb boar. Usually, the snake swallows the prey head-first, so all the limbs simply "fold down".

But some things are just too ungainly to swallow whole, such as crabs. So what do they do?

They rip the crab apart!

parasites - anim
  • drhoz

Zombie caterpillars controlled by voodoo wasps

blue ringed octopus


Hi everyone! I'm new to this community and did not see my special little friend in your tag list.


This is an almiqui. I don't know about you, but I think he's pretty freaking strange looking.

The almiqui is a Cuban mammal whose most noteworthy characteristic is that it secretes venom in its saliva. My favorite fact about the almiqui is that it was believed to be extinct for most of the 20th century. If you would like to read more about the almiqui, you can see one of my short essays on the subject here.
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  • maeda

hai guise

Been a while.

1 and 3 are obviously pelicans, not sure what 2 is. Never mind, all three are pelicans.

EDUMACATIONAL INFO on PELICANS!!! courtesy of emmycic:
Many pelicans fish by swimming in cooperative groups. They may form a line or a "U" shape and drive fish into shallow water by beating their wings on the surface. When fish congregate in the shallows, the pelicans simply scoop them up. The brown pelican, on the other hand, dives on fish (usually a type of herring called menhaden) from above and snares them in its bill. Pelicans do not store fish in their pouch, but simply use it to catch them and then tip it back to drain out water and swallow the fish immediately. The American white pelican can hold some 3 gallons (11 1/2 liters) of water in its bill. Young pelicans feed by sticking their bills into their parents' throats to retrieve food.

Non-WTF arctic wolf pup bonus because I love you:


Mutant Turtle?

The closest thing I could find that might be related to this animal was the Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle, that is supposed to be on the brink of extinction. I read that the Chinese gov't has on female in a zoo behind bullet-proof glass and it's a national treasure or something.