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No. 52: Jul-Aug 1987

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Parasites Control Snail Behavior

A species of estuarine snail bearing the larvae of the trematode parasite Gynae cotyla adunca behaves radically different than it does when not infected. It lets itself become stranded high on beaches and sandbars, where it becomes easy prey to crustaceans living in this region. These crustaceans serve as the parasite's next host. Somehow, the parasite is able to modify the snail's behavior in a way that enhances its own chances for success. The question, as always in such cases, is how? And if it is a chemically induced change in behavior, how did it evolve?

(Curtis, Lawrence A.; "Vertical Distribution of an Estuarine Snail Altered by a Parasite," Science, 235:1509, 1987.)

Comment. Is present human behavior, thought by some to be irrational or suicidal, controlled by some unrecognized parasite that will ultimately benefit? Someone must have written a science fiction story on this theme.

From Science Frontiers #52, JUL-AUG 1987. 1987-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987