Rumble Viral via Gizmodo

Watch parasites erupt from a dead cricket and start the orgy from hell on its body

A world of nope.

FIONA MACDONALD
7 NOV 2016
 

There are few worse ways to die than having a bunch of alien-like parasitic worms explode from your body.

Unless, that is, those worms immediately start mating with each other, forming some kind of disgusting, writhing orgy ball on top of your corpse - which is exactly what happens to this poor, unfortunate cricket.

 

The footage was captured after a hiker accidentally stepped on a cricket mid-hike - prompting the parasites within to erupt from its remains. 

RIP cricket. Trust us, it's better you weren't around for this.

It's not clear where the footage was filmed, and the species of parasite has yet to be identified. But as Rhett Jones from Gizmodo explains, they're most likely a type of horsehair worms, or Gordian worms, from the phylum Nematomorpha

Horsehair worm is the name given to the 351 or so species of freshwater worms that are known to infect insects such as crickets, and turn them into suicidal zombies.

These worms start out as tiny water-borne larvae that get eaten by mosquito or midge larvae. And these flying bugs are eventually eaten by larger insects, such as crickets or cockroaches, which is how the horsehair worms infect their hosts.

 

Once inside, they spend months in their host's digestive systems, "where they then grow from a tiny, tiny larva to something that’s now on the average of a foot [0.3 metres] long," parasitologist Ben Hanelt from the University of New Mexico told Matt Simon over at Wired.

When they're big enough, they'll control their host's mind using neurotransmitters and make them kill themselves by diving into water.

The worms then escape through holes in their host's exoskeleton and immediately start mating, so the females can lay more larvae into the water and start the whole, hellish cycle all over again.

While most crickets will only have one worm in them, it's not uncommon for several to emerge at once and start mating with each other. Hanelt's record was seeing 32 worms erupting from one unfortunate host. 

"The parasites end up in a tangled knot that can be as heavy as the tattered – and oftentimes very much alive – host they leave behind," writes Simon.

(Note: These worms are officially parasitoids, not parasites, because they ultimately kill their hosts as part of their lifespan rather than trying to keep them alive as long as possible. But the two terms are often used interchangeably.)

The poor cricket in the video above never made it to water. But his death triggered the horsehair worms to erupt and start their frantic orgy ball anyway, and it looks like there's more than a couple of worms tangled up in that mess.

The good news is that, even if they do successfully breed, their larvae won't make it to water this time, so it's some small comfort that this is one host they didn't get the better of.

But the bad news is that we now know that horsehair worms exist, and could be curled up and waiting to bang inside the gut of every cricket we come across. As if penguins fighting each other over cheating females wasn't bad enough, nature just got a little more brutal.

And if the footage above wasn't detailed enough for you, please enjoy the brutal gif below. But maybe put down your lunch first.

HHW movieBen Hanelt via Wired

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