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New "Dementor" Wasp Turns Cockroaches Into Zombies

| 29 May 2015 01:20

A new report from the World Wildlife Fund has uncovered 139 new species - including a Harry Potter-inspired wasp which turns cockroaches into passive zombies.

It doesn't matter whether zombies are walkers, runners, or made up of dying stars, every example we imagine is fairly unsettling. A recently discovered version from nature is no exception - especially since they're created from a unique wasp species. Named Ampulex Dementor after the Harry Potter creatures, this wasp injects venom into a cockroach and transforms them into zombies with no control over their bodies. But don't worry, these cockroaches aren't the aggressive kind of zombie, just the kind the wasp can easily guide into a lair and devour.

Wait, that sounds more unsettling somehow.

The Dementor is one of 139 species introduced in a World Wildlife Fund report studying Asia's Greater Mekong region. What makes this particular wasp unique is that its venom disrupts neurons in the belly preventing spontaneous movement. "With this blocked, the cockroach is still capable of movement, but is unable to direct its own body," the report reads. "Once the cockroach has lost control, the wasp drags its stupefied prey by the antennae to a safe shelter to devour it."

This new species was discovered by Michael Ohl, Volker Lohrmann, Laura Breitkreuz, Lukas Kirschey, and Stefanie Krause - but they weren't the ones to call it Dementor. That honor went visitors at Berlin's Museum für Naturkunde, who noted the wasp's similarity to dementors from the Harry Potter novels. But rather than get annoyed that pop culture was creeping into their science, some of the researchers are pleased with the participation.

"I am convinced that events like this increase people's curiosity about local and global fauna and nature," Ohl explained, with the hope that interest in nature will encourage more of the public to take interest in its conservation.

The full report includes 90 plants, 23 reptiles, 16 amphibians, nine fish, and one lonely mammal - Hypsugo Dolichodon, the long-fanged bat. You can read the full report here.

Source: World Wildlife Fund, via Fox News

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