Zombies from the world of crustaceans

(ORDO NEWS) — Sacculina – a barnacle cancer that parasitizes in crabs. Once in their body, the parasite causes the crabs to bear and take care of his cubs, as their own. Moreover, in this way both the female and the male can become the mother of parasites.

As soon as the microscopic female sacculina senses the approach of the crab (for this, it has special organs on its feet that trap its smell), it begins to rush in the water until it reaches its prey. Once on the crab, it moves to the joint on its claw and through it penetrates the body.

Moreover, it does this in a very curious way: sacculina sticks a hollow spike into the crab joint, through which only a few parasite cells are transferred to the animal’s body, and the rest of it dies.

That part of the sacculina that fell into the crab soon moves to the lower part of its body and begins to grow, turning into a large swelling with outgrowths (roots) on the shell. These roots suck nutrients from the blood of the crab and often fill the victim’s entire body. However, despite this, the crab continues to lead normal life.

After some time, the swelling turns into a dense growth with a tiny hole, which is necessary for the male sacculina to penetrate into it. He does this in the same way that a female entered a crab.

And so, climbing into the very depths of the body of the female sacculina, the male begins to produce sperm, which fertilizes her eggs. And sometimes two males appear in the female at once, alternately fertilizing her eggs.

From this moment, the crab begins to change, because it will spend all its energy on maintaining the life of the parasites. So, an infected crab loses its ability to reproduce, stops shedding and growing.

Now, if the crab loses its claw, it will no longer be able to grow a new one, as healthy individuals do. From now on, he will spend all his strength only on eating and caring for the offspring of parasites.

As you know, healthy female crab carry their fertilized eggs in a special bag located on the bottom of the shell. And until the time comes for the larvae to leave the bag, the female will look after her, removing algae and mushrooms from her. The infected crabs are doing the same thing.

Only they do not care about the bag, but about the growth in which the parasite larvae develop. Moreover, both females and males of crabs do this. If a healthy male crab has a small belly, then for a male carrier of sacculina it becomes almost as large as that of a female.

When the parasite larvae are ready to go outside, the crab searches for a high stone, climbing on which begins to swing in different directions and swing its claws. Thus, creating additional currents with his rhythmic movements, he helps the offspring of sacculina finally leave his body.


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