March 31, 2014

PARASITIC MIND CONTROL: Sexually Transmitted Virus Sterilises Insects, Turns Them On.

Why would a sterile male cricket mate with an infertile female? On the surface, this behaviour makes no sense: sex takes energy and effort, and there’s nothing in it for either of these partners. Neither one can foster the next generation.

Shelley Adamo from Dalhousie University has the answer. Her team have shown that one particular insect virus can sterilise crickets, but also change their behaviour so they continue to mate with each other. By doing so, they pass the virus on to uninfected hosts.

So it’s sort of like Cosmo for bugs then. More seriously, from the comments: “I do find myself wondering about how many STDs in humans also alter host behavior. And other pathogens too, for that matter. I know this isn’t easy to study and answers probably aren’t forthcoming any time soon. My guess is ‘more than we realize.'”