Evolution of the body snatchers: the secret lives of parasites
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In this lecture, Professor Robert Poulin will give unique insights and share some fascinating examples of the amazing diversity and bizarre lives of parasites. The mere mention of the word ‘parasite’ is enough to fill the average person with contempt and disgust. Even professional biologists think little of parasites, they are widely seen as degenerate organisms running counter to progressive evolution. Yet parasites are capable of amazing things, and the lives they spend in the nooks and crannies of their hosts are as full and complex as those of any other organism. Many parasites sense what is happening outside the host and adjust what they do inside the host accordingly. Others live in structured colonies with division of labour, a phenomenon we normally associate only with ants and bees, or with humans. Perhaps most impressive, parasites can take control of how their host behaves, turning the host into a puppet and making it do strange things for the parasites’ own benefit.