Billions of periodical cicadas have emerged in the Eastern United States and everyone and their dog is talking and writing about the mystery behind how cicadas time this event to happen at regular intervals. So I need to be original and mention in my blog something different about cicadas, something that people don’t often talk about; but what? As I was pondering this question, I saw a video by Anna Rothschild of the YouTube channel Gross Science, and I said to myself, "That’s it!" Watch the video below and learn all about butt-less cicadas!
As I have mentioned before, one of the defining characteristics of many parasites is that they modify the behavior of their hosts to their advantage. In the case of the fungus, it produces psychoactive drugs that not only make cicadas more sexually active, but also makes males cicadas imitate the behavior of female cicadas so other males will try to copulate with them. All this contributes to the spread of the parasite.
Again it’s time to spoil your appetite with another video by Anna Rothschild from the YouTube Channel Gross Science. This interesting video about Dracunculiasis, also known as the Guinea Worm Disease, shows that reality is stranger than fiction. What is not explicitly stated in the video is that what the worm does to perpetuate its life cycle is an example of how parasites manipulate their host’s behavior to their advantage.
While dracunculiasis is not fatal, removal of the worm is a slow and painful process that can be incapacitating due to secondary infections. Thankfully, the number of cases of the disease, which once numbered in the millions, have been reduced to a few dozen in a couple of countries in Africa. Attempts to fully eradicate the disease through sanitation have been hampered by insecurity and by the ability of the worm to infect animals such as dogs.
The parasitic way of life is a fascinating survival strategy that is actively studied by different types of scientists ranging from those interested in pest control, wildlife management, and human health, to those interested in evolution. As shown in the video below by the folks of SciShow, a number of parasites have life cycles that involve several hosts, and some parasites even control the behavior of their hosts and modify their bodies to maximize the parasite’s chances of survival (warning, you may not want to eat anything while you watch the video).
Parasites are also found in humans, and that, of course, includes you. No matter how much you clean yourself, you have probably quite a number of parasites living on or inside your body right now. In the video below, Anna Rothschild, the creator of Gross Science, talks about one of these parasites: face mites (warning, you should definitely not eat anything while you watch the video).