Driven to the drink of self-pickling by parasites.
February 21, 2012 9:10 PM Subscribe
posted by Cold Lurkey (37 comments total)
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A recent paper
* documents a previously undocumented strategy, fraught with human psychological parallels, of a potentially adaptive mechanism against parasitism: self-medication via alcohol intoxication.Parasitic wasps
prey on many species of insects, and many wasps have become quite specialized to their hosts. They have long been a source of insight, revulsion and moral sustenance to evolutionary biologists. Darwin himself wrote " I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent & omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidæ§ with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars…
Furthermore, as seen in many host-parasite interactions, the balance between host-defense and parasitism has led to some interesting evolutionary avenues of defensive strategy and offensive co-options
But don't worry, it's parasites all the way down
*Figures only at this point, for non subscribed persons...to synopsize: Parasites do not fare well in larvae that have been reared on high alcoholic (4-6%) food. D. melanogaster
is quite well adapted to such boozy conditions and has high survival rates with or without parasites. An interesting twist comes in with the comparison in survival rates between a generalist (takes any fly larva what looks ripe for laying) parasitoid species vs. a specialist (goes after Drosophila more specifically). The generalist is more vulnerable to the ethanol whereas the specialist is slightly more resistant. Thus, even the most understandable self-medication strategies are counteracted by devoted parasites.
§ also:Ichnueumon wasp with David Attenborough narration.
more videos upon request, however the squick
factor is exceedingly high.