Parasitic worm turns snail into Zombie

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Nature is so weird! A parasitic worm has turned an unsuspecting snail into a zombie and will now make it do its bidding, all in the name of survival.

Leucochloridium paradoxum, the green-banded broodsac, is a parasitic flatworm (also known as helminth). Its intermediate hosts are land snails, usually of the genus Succinea. This worm invades the snail’s eye, imitates a caterpillar and mind-controls its host into the open for hungry birds to pluck out its eyes. It does this because it needs to reach the bird’s intestine to breed. It reaches the bird’s guts, where it releases its eggs in the bird’s faeces. When the faeces are expelled they are eaten by another unsuspecting snail to start the cycle again. And while snails infected by the worm may continue to reproduce, Leucochloridium also castrates its host, snails infected by L. paradoxum often show a reduction of the sexual organs. Leucochlordium paradoxum is found in moist areas, such as marshes, where the usual intermediate host Succinea snails are found.

The worm Leucochloridium paradoxum was originally described based on its sporocyst stage, when it was collected from an island in the river Elbe at Pillnitz, near Dresden, Germany. Other known locations are Poland, Belarus, the St Petersburg area of Russia, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, the UK and Japan. It is also believed to be the species of Leuchochloridium infecting an endemic species of semi-slug on Robinson Crusoe Island in the Pacific, the only record from the Southern Hemisphere.

Video: Gilles San Martin/Wikimedia

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I am a Chartered Environmentalist from the Royal Society for the Environment, UK and co-owner of DoLocal Digital Marketing Agency Ltd, with a Master of Environmental Management from Yale University, an MBA in Finance, and a Bachelor of Science in Physics and Mathematics. I am passionate about science, history and environment and love to create content on these topics.

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