Many of you have probably heard of one of the most bizarre and sinister adaptations in nature: the manipulation of host behavior by parasites in a way that not only kills the hosts, but makes them behave in ways that help spread the fungus’s genes.
This can occur through either fungi making ants climb up high on trees or grass before expiring, facilitating the spread of spores that grow from the ant’s corpse, or, in the case of worms, making an ant resemble a berry before it dies. This attracts birds, which, eating the berrylike ant, become the next host in the parasite’s complex life cycle.
The ability of fungi and worms to control the behavior of insects to the parasites’ benefit is, to me, one of the most remarkable results of natural selection—which acts, as always, to promote the passing on of genes. So, though a process of blind…
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