Nature is a beautiful place with a diverse array of flora and fauna. However, hidden amongst the beauty are also some strange and creepy creatures that can’t help but make us shiver. Parasites are one such example – tiny organisms that feed off other living beings to survive.
12 Weird and Bizarre Parasites Found in Nature
The Tongue-Eating Louse
This parasitic crustacean lives its life inside the mouths of fish by attaching itself to its tongue, causing it to wither away. It then replaces the tongue entirely and feeds on the host’s blood- pretty gruesome, right?
The Jewel Wasp
Jewel wasps have an unusual way of breeding- they sting cockroaches precisely in the brain, paralyzing them just enough to become zombie-like. The wasp then proceeds to drag the immobile body back into its nest, laying eggs on top of it. The hatching larvae feed on the roach while it’s still alive!
These thin worms are often found in freshwater sources and enter their hosts- usually crickets or grasshoppers- by being ingested accidentally with water. They then grow inside their host, causing erratic behavior, only for it to burst forth from within their host when grown.
Botflies lay eggs on mosquitoes or other biting insects that attach themselves to unsuspecting animals’ skin via a mosquito bite. Once hatched, these larvae burrow deep into flesh until they’re big enough to drop out below.
Cordyceps fungus infects insects and takes over their bodies. The fungus grows inside the insect, eventually causing it to die. The fungus then sprouts out of the insect’s body, releasing spores that can infect other nearby insects.
The Candiru Fish
This tiny Amazonian fish has teeth and barbs, allowing them to anchor itself inside other fish as a protective strategy against predators. However, sometimes these fish get attracted towards human urine discharge (or sweat) when swimming in freshwater rivers or lakes for people who urinate in water bodies. If humans or pets have open wounds near those body areas, this predator can mistake our outer fluid parts as an inlet for prey and cannibalize from within!
Hairworms are thin parasite worms that primarily infect insects like crickets and grasshoppers, but only during rainy seasons when these menaces breed. There are even videos on YouTube showcasing this behavior! These worms make crickets drown themselves by controlling their motor skills to seek water sources that only suit them rather than beneficial drinking spots.
Heteropoda Maxima Spiders
Heteropoda maxima spiders, also known as huntsman spiders, are now known for carrying fledgling frogs on their backs to protect against predators while hunting for prey. Researchers found that these tiny frogs only jump off when they feel safe enough after learning optimal hunting practices from their hosts.
Cymothoa exigua is a small crustacean that enters a host fish through its gills. It becomes embedded in its mouth lining once it feeds on blood vessels there until replacing that function with becoming a feeding parasite there full-time.
The Zombie Ant Fungus
This fungus invades an ant’s nervous system. It forces it to climb atop foliage slowly to die while releasing spores from which new fungal spores grow —a perfect way for fungi with no other obvious way of spreading themselves.
Goblin Spider Parasite
A new spider species was recently discovered in Ecuador whose babies eat their mother alive while still inside her body. The female goblin spider lays eggs in a sac-like structure underneath her abdomen. Once hatched, the baby spiders start devouring their mother from within until she dies.
The horsehair worm or Gordian worm lives in freshwater habitats worldwide and uses insects as its host. The larvae enter into insects when they drink or feed on the water with worm eggs or larvae. When matured, this 4-inch-long parasite wriggles its way out through tiny holes in its host’s body.
These examples only scratch at what types of parasite mysteries exist in nature. It’s amazing how our world has so many different life forms. However, things like these parasites show something about nature always waiting beyond beauty that we can never predict or see coming!