The Loom

Answers to your parasite questions

Ampulex%20emerging.jpgMy post on zombie roaches and brain surgeon wasps seems to have hit a nerve. There have been well over 100,000 hits on that post alone, and 175 comments have been posted. I imagine that most people haven’t read through all 175 (many of which have more to do with God than wasps). But I would urge any interested readers to check out
this one from Gal Haspel, who spent seven years in grad school contemplating the sinister glory of Ampulex compressa.

Update 2/15: Gal is now fielding questions in the comment thread, discussing new research on matters such as how the wasp knows where in the brain to put its stinger. Fascinating stuff. Please post any relevant questions for him. Bear in mind, though, that he’s a neuroscientist, not a theologian.

Many thanks, Gal.

Comments

  1. #1 Theodore J Price
    February 14, 2006

    If Dr. Haspel is still about, or if Carl cares to answer, if there is one, I have a few questions:

    1) Has a neuroactive chemical been isolated from the wasp venom? One would imagine it would not be a voltage-gated channel blocker (like most other venoms) because it would not have such a subtle effect but perhaps something like a monoamine receptor antagonist (although I don’t know alot about roach CNS pharmacology). A large number of venoms have been isolated and there are numerous examples of sodium, calcium and potassium voltage gated channel modulators as well as some serotonergic and nicotinic examples but I’ve never heard of a dopaminergic venom, which is what this example conjurs up. Of course i am likely way over speculating, but what is science without fun what ifs??

    2) The effect of the venom injection appears to be either quite long lived (for a receptor/channel modulator), a specific neurotoxin to a particular type of neuron (6-hydroxy-dopamine for roaches??), or the larvae also creates the chemical to keep the roach highly unmotivated for the full time course. Any clues as to which it might be.

  2. #2 Theodore J Price
    February 14, 2006

    If Dr. Haspel is still about, or if Carl cares to answer, if there is one, I have a few questions:

    1) Has a neuroactive chemical been isolated from the wasp venom? One would imagine it would not be a voltage-gated channel blocker (like most other venoms) because it would not have such a subtle effect but perhaps something like a monoamine receptor antagonist (although I don’t know alot about roach CNS pharmacology). A large number of venoms have been isolated and there are numerous examples of sodium, calcium and potassium voltage gated channel modulators as well as some serotonergic and nicotinic examples but I’ve never heard of a dopaminergic venom, which is what this example conjurs up. Of course i am likely way over speculating, but what is science without fun what ifs??

    2) The effect of the venom injection appears to be either quite long lived (for a receptor/channel modulator), a specific neurotoxin to a particular type of neuron (6-hydroxy-dopamine for roaches??), or the larvae also creates the chemical to keep the roach highly unmotivated for the full time course. Any clues as to which it might be.

  3. #3 Brian63
    February 15, 2006

    Tangientally related to this—

    CNN reports that wasps may be used in the war on terror:

    http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/anderson.cooper.360/blog/2006/02/wasps-enlisted-in-war-on-terror.html

    The have a great sense of smell, and can be trained to detect nerve gases.

    Brian

  4. #4 daen
    February 17, 2006

    My post on zombie roaches and brain surgeon wasps seems to have hit a nerve …

    Is that a deliberate joke, Carl? :-)