Zombie Caterpillars: EGT Turns Caterpillars to Zombies Running On Treetops

By on Sep 10, 2011 in Animals, Education, Science, United States, World Comments

Zombie caterpillars are infected by a gene from baculovirus that turn these caterpillars into zombies running on treetops, according to a report published by Live Science on Thursday, September 8, 2011.

Gypsy moth caterpillars are the affected species as they are prevented from molting. They went up on tree leaves even on day time and die while waiting to molt. Kelli Hoover, Pennsylvania State University researcher said that the caterpillars “die there, and then they melt within hours after they die, and they are dripping virus down onto the leaves below. We knew before that this behavior benefits the virus, but we didn’t know how it was causing the behavior.”

Dead bodies of zombie caterpillars liquefy from the treetop and drop to other caterpillars below. Once the liquefied body of zombie caterpillars gets into contact with other caterpillars, the infection from the baculovirus starts.

Reports say that the behavior of zombie caterpillars was first observed 100 years ago and believed to be the effect of a virus. The research team of Hoover learned that only a single gene called egt causes the running on treetop effect. Egt reportedly affects the molting hormone of caterpillars.

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