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Scientists Turn Cockroaches Into Zombie Slaves

Israeli scientists have figured out how to turn cockroaches into zombie slaves.

They're replicated the mysterious power of the jewel wasp, also known as the emerald cockroach wasp, which incorporates the cockroach into its reproductive cycle in a most gruesome way.

Most parasitic wasps paralyze their victims, but the jewel wasp's sting mysteriously leaves a cockroach able to walk, yet robbed of all free will.

The wasp leads the zombie roach back to its lair, lays an egg in the poor creature and then lets the wasp larva eat the roach alive from the inside out.

• Click here to watch a video clip of a wasp zombifying a cockroach.

The Israeli team, led by Frederic Libersat of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, discovered that a synthetic form of the neurotransmitter octopamine freed stung cockroaches from their zombie-like state.

They then injected other roaches with compounds that blocked octopamine -- and turned them into docile zombies.

The study was documented in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

• Click on the highlighted links for longer reports in New Scientist and Nature.