The Wisdom of Parasites

On “the Loom”, Carl Zimmer presents a fascinating story about the Ampulex Compressa, a parasitic wasp who basically performs ‘brain surgery’ on her victim to provide for a food source for her off-spring.

Let’s explore this example of Intelligent Design

Is it specified? Yes, the wasp performs what seems to be ‘brain surgeon’ when carefully injecting a particular part of the brain with toxins.

Is it Complex? Yes, science is so far ignorance about how Ampulex manages to do these

Scientists don’t yet understand how Ampulex manages either of these feats. Part of the reason for their ignorance is the fact that scientists have much left to learn about nervous systems and metabolism. But millions of years of natural selection has allowed Ampulex to reverse engineer its host. We would do well to follow its lead, and gain the wisdom of parasites.

in fact human scientists have been unable to recreate this feat:

The Israeli researchers found that they could also drop oxygen consumption in cockroaches by injecting paralyzing drugs or by removing the neurons that the wasps disable with their sting. But they can manage only a crude imitation; the manipulated cockroaches quickly dehydrated and were dead within six days. The wasp venom somehow puts the roaches into suspended animation while keeping them in good health, even as a wasp larva is devouring it from the inside

Seem the Ampulex makes for a better showcase of intelligent design than the Bacterial Flagella, although if ID activists are to believed, the Intelligent Designer somehow created what would later evolve into the Type III secretory system used by such pest as the bubonic plague. Talking about Divine retribution…

Oh yes the original paper

Gal R, Rosenberg LA, Libersat F. Parasitoid wasp uses a venom cocktail injected into the brain to manipulate the behavior and metabolism of its cockroach prey. Arch Insect Biochem Physiol. 2005 Dec;60(4):198-208. Other relevant papers can also be found at the Libersat’s site