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Zombie snail parasite

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The adorable Leucochloridium paradoxum - everyone's favourite mind-bending parasite. Parasites that manipulate the behaviour of their host always get one of those "Wow, freaky nature huh?"-reaction from the general public. Then they move on, taking note of that story to save for a cocktail party or something. However, for those of us in the know, the less palatable truth is that parasites that take control of their hosts appears to be the norm rather than the exception.

Leucochloridium paradoxum is a digenean trematode which uses a land snail as both their first intermediate host (where they undergo clonal multiplication) and second intermediate host (the means to reach the definitive host - where it can get up to hanky panky with other worms of its own species). Our intrepid parasite first castrates the unfortunate snails, leaving intact only the organs necessary to keep it alive, then takes control of its behaviour to try and convince a bird that it is in fact a pair of tasty caterpillars.

Here's a fun fact - there are over 15000 described species of digenean trematodes (with many, many more undescribed species) and they all (except for half a dozen or so species) use either a gastropod (e.g: a snail) or a bivalve (e.g: a clam) obligately as first intermediate host in their life-cycles. And all of them, all FIFTEEN THOUSAND of them, zombifies their molluscan first host completely - at least in body, if not in their mind as well.

You think you are looking at a snail? Hah! You're looking at a worm in snail's clothing, a parasite *wearing* a snail.

Body-snatching monsters in fiction holds no horror for me - they exist in reality, and I confront them on a daily basis - after all, it's my day job.
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Marlenatelep2Loader's avatar
This snail it hurts (maybe), unless by parasite has disturbed nerves, or "inactive".

This art is from 2010, What am I doing here.
Heytomemeimhome's avatar
I feel terrible for snails now, it must be in so much pain... :(
MesmerizedByNature's avatar
ahaha, that's hilarious! :giggle:
joffeorama's avatar
ok this made me laugh way more than most parasite-themed parody songs do
The-Episiarch's avatar
Thanks! I didn't even know that "parasite-themed parody songs" was a thing - but regardless, I'm glad that you were amused by my little drawing. :)
scythemantis's avatar
I had uploaded it, but somehow forgot to update my Leucochloridium page all this time! [link] it's there now :)
The-Episiarch's avatar
Cool, that's great! Thanks!
muffin-wrangler's avatar
Damn right, it's cata-pillahs,
They can eat you,
Take the parasites far!

My favourite is the multiple levels of parasitism you get in wasps (specific of a parasite of a parasite of a parasite of a host, anyone?)
The-Episiarch's avatar
Ha! Nice. Yeah, parasites of parasites = hyperparasites

"Yo dawg, I heard you like parasites - So I put a parasite in your parasite, so it can get parasitized while it parasitizes!"

And it's not just in wasps either, there are many other examples. I actually wrote about one such hyperparasite for the Parasite of the Day blog here: [link]
muffin-wrangler's avatar
Great blog, thanks for the link :)
EluanTupy's avatar
Whoa, that's preety awesome, I should watch Animal Planet a little more :/
The-Episiarch's avatar
Thanks for the fave! Animal Planet barely scratch the tip of the iceberg when it comes to parasitism - but that's already plenty to deal with if you aren't already familiar with the wonders of parasites.

You should check out this link here: [link]
EluanTupy's avatar
There's a program about killer parasites, but I'm not sure if it was on Animal Planet or Discovery Channel.
greenzaku's avatar
Oh wow, someone actually drew this! When I first saw this in a documentary, it was so creepy, like a horror show >_>
The-Episiarch's avatar
Actually [[link]] above has collected a whole gallery of them on his website here: [link]

My main contributions were simply; (a) I'm actually a parasitologist so I can explain this thing in more details, and (b) I matched it up with that Kelis song which is oddly appropriate!
Banvivirie's avatar
I read this comic called Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, and in one of them there were people getting infected - I remember it so well because it was the only book that was so scary that I literally screamed and threw it across the room because of how graphic the full-page spread was. :noes:
scythemantis's avatar
Hilarious, and I love its slobbering zombified expression! I'll add it to my gallery :D
The-Episiarch's avatar
Cool! Cheers for that!
collinbollin's avatar
lol i heard of these theres also one that can control an ant lol i remebers captain Higgins right now
The-Episiarch's avatar
Yep, that's the lancet fluke - Dicrocoelium dendriticum
[link]

There are *so many* different species of mind-controlling parasites - the general public only hear about the tip of the ice berg like Captain Higgins, Leucochloridium, and Toxoplasma gondii
Omnicenos's avatar
Oh God, I remember these things from my biology textbook. Dx Nature can be such a reprehensible bitch.
The-Episiarch's avatar
Life's a bitch when you're a snail living in a world full of trematodes
Omnicenos's avatar
Damn those trematodes. :shakefist:
The-Episiarch's avatar
I feel sorry for the snails, but...

Hey, trematodes are cool - they're just trying to make a living like everything else, once you've seen enough of them, you'll realise there's a huge variety of different forms...maybe I should draw some of them...
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