September 23, 2022
Wasps are social insects that work together to benefit their hive. When a parasitic insect called Xenos peckii infects certain species of paper wasps, however, something incredible happens: the parasite manipulates the wasp’s brain so the wasp loses its social instincts and abandons its colony. The parasite also manipulates the wasp’s genes to increase the wasp’s lifespan.
This relationship between parasites and wasps makes them an ideal natural experiment for scientists such as Floria Mora-Kepfer Uy, a research assistant professor of biology at the University of Rochester. She aims to better understand what genes are involved in social behavior and aging, not only in insects, but also in human beings.