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Planet Earth

Flies and booze: strictly for medicinal purposes

The LoomBy Carl ZimmerFebruary 16, 2012 11:15 PM


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One mission of the Loom is to champion unjustly neglected forms of life. And so I spend a lot of time blogging about the sinister powers of parasites. But I don't want to leave you with the impression that hosts are simply helpless bags of grub. Hosts have evolved defenses to ward off parasites, and those defenses can be just as baroque and marvelous as the adaptations of their parasites. And so let me point you to a story I've just written for the New York Times. If you think you've got it bad with parasites, with your cold viruses and stomach bugs, just think what it's like to be a fly like Drosophila melanogaster. Wasps land on you, inject eggs in your body, and turn you into an extra on the set of Aliens. It now turns out that these flies have a secret weapon. It's booze. And it turns out to destroy the parasitic wasps in perhaps the most horrific way imaginable. This was the very first article I've ever written where I was able to quote a scientist who said--without prompting or reading off a cue card: "The flies self-medicate by getting schnockered." Enjoy.[Image: Photo by raysto - ]

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