strange behaviors

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  • Richard Conniff writes about behavior, in humans and other animals, on two, four, six, and eight legs, plus the occasional slither.

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When a Baby in the Oven Means Mom is Totally Cooked

Posted by Richard Conniff on January 24, 2015

This one goes out to all you happy couples stuck at home by the snow and thinking about maybe having sex and making a baby.  It’s a heartwarming little story about a species where mom’s blessed event is also always her funeral.

Don’t thank me. It comes from Matt Simon at Wired:

Ah, motherhood. I don’t know anything about it, but I heard there’s a lot of, like, sacrifice and stuff. Not only do you have to bring the brat into the world, but then you have to feed it for at least 18 years or you get in big trouble. That’s a lot of pressure.

But with all due respect to human mothers out there, their sacrifice is nothing compared to a momma strepsiptera. (Cue phone call from my own mother in 3…2…1…) This little parasite invades the bodies of all manner of insects, where she waits patiently as the young that fill her body consume her from the inside out. Eventually they

erupt out of their sacrificial mother and emerge from the still very much alive host insect into the light of day—as many as a million of them in one particularly large species that parasitizes big grasshoppers. Yeah, you can go ahead and throw away that “Mother of the Year” mug now.

The 600 or so species of strepsiptera are some of the cleverest, most brutal parasites on Earth. Unlike a lot of parasites out there, they have no interest in keeping their host alive for very long: They use them, abuse them, and explode out of their bodies, leaving gaping wounds that haven’t the slightest chance of healing. And their life cycle must be one of the strangest and most wonderfully complex among all parasites.

Read the rest of the story here.

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