Voracious, Cannibal… er Shrimp?

Researchers have recently found a “zombie” parasite lurking among freshwater shrimp in Northern Ireland. They found the tiny parasite, Pleistophora mulleri, not only significantly increased cannibalism among shrimp, it also made infected shrimp more voracious, taking much less time to consume their victims.

While cannibalism is actually fairly common in nature and has been recorded in more than 3000 species. Dr Dunn and co-authors said in a new study that although consumption of juveniles by adults is a normal feature of the shrimp Gammarus duebeni celticus’ feeding patterns, shrimp infected with Pleistophora mulleri ate twice as much of their own kind as uninfected animals.

They attacked juvenile shrimp more often and consumed them more quickly than did uninfected shrimp.

Our work is the first study to ask if cannibalism is affected by being parasitized,” said Dr Alison Dunn of the University of Leeds, UK, the senior author on the study.

To be honest the zombie link here is a bit tenuous! but still …  while the research does not suggest any link between parasites and human cannibalism Toxoplasma gondii has already proven that parasites can affect human behaviour, so there.

Prawn cocktail, anyone?

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