8 animal parasites that specialise in mind control

These nightmarish parasites have evolved to change the behaviour of their unfortunate host


1. Insect iridovirus

This virus is transmitted between crickets through mating. It alters the insect’s brain chemistry to make it want to mate more, helping transmit the virus faster.

Insect iridovirus


2. Hairworms

These worms invade the brains of insects to feed, but return to water to reproduce. To do so, the worm forces the insect to drown itself.



3. Toxoplasma gondii

Known to infect small mammals, this disease causes male animals to become more introverted and makes females more outgoing.

Toxoplasma gondii


4. Euhaplorchis californiensis

After burrowing into the brains of killifish, this parasitic worm forces the fish to dance. The jerking movements attract predatory birds, which are the worm’s true targets.

Euhaplorchis californiensis


5. Zombie ant virus

This jungle-dwelling fungus releases spores that ants inhale. The spore puts the ant into a zombie-like state and causes it to climb a tree. The ant anchors itself to the stem and the fungus grows as it feasts upon the ant’s flesh and then releases more spores to infect more ants.

Zombie ant virus


6. Sacculina

Specialising in castrating crabs, this barnacle fills the reproductive organs of its host. It then prompts the crab to care for its own offspring.



7. Green-banded flatworm

After burrowing into a snail, this worm forces its victim to climb to high-up leaves. The worm’s larvae emerge from the snail’s body and attract birds to help disperse the gruesome grub.

Green-banded flatworm


8. Hymenoepimecis argyraphaga

A Costa Rican wasp lays its eggs in the bellies of spiders then forces them to construct cocoons designed to protect the wasp’s spawn.

Hymenoepimecis argyraphaga


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