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Zombie Plants Help To Spread Bacterial Pathogen

Soulskill posted about 7 months ago | from the eschews-brains-for-sunlight dept.

Science 38

bmahersciwriter writes: "We've all heard stories about how parasites can 'zombify' organisms, getting them to mindlessly protect a brood or infect their peers. Now UK researchers have figured out how one bacterial pathogen co-opts the behavior of a plant, causing it to attract sap-sucking insects that help the bacteria spread to other plants. From the story in Nature News: 'The plant appears alive, but it's only there for the good of the pathogen,' says plant pathologist Saskia Hogenhout from the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK. 'In an evolutionary sense, the plant is dead and will not produce offspring.' 'Many might balk at the concept of a zombie plant because the idea of plants behaving is strange,' says David Hughes, a parasitologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. 'But they do, and since they do, why wouldn't parasites have evolved to take over their behavior, as they do for ants and crickets?'"

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what's next? Zombie Rocks? (2)

turkeydance (1266624) | about 7 months ago | (#46700131)

oh, yeah. pet rocks. sorry.

Re:what's next? Zombie Rocks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46702213)

Zombifying STDs.

Re:what's next? Zombie Rocks? (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 7 months ago | (#46705475)

oh, yeah. pet rocks. sorry.

Lichened unto Magic Rocks which help me break out and escape from Zombie Windows, fend off Zombie Mountain Lions and Snow Leopards, or even blind a spying Eye OS.

Rocking Penguins can even kill Zombie Androids or break the locks on their boots.

Rocks and Penguins rule. Don't have to worry about Zombie Penguins, their natural predators are Big Surly Daemons.

Cold/Flu makes us zombies? (2, Insightful)

AaronLS (1804210) | about 7 months ago | (#46700215)

The cold/flu causes us to produce additional muccus/sneeze/cough, altering our behavior which increases transmission rates. This doesn't mean we are zombies. I think it's a very interesting find, but a little ridiculous to involve the term zombie.

Re:Cold/Flu makes us zombies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46700249)

That's what it wants you to think.

Re:Cold/Flu makes us zombies? (5, Informative)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 7 months ago | (#46700329)

That's a immune system response, not common to any particular pathogen. Along with increased body temperature.
The extra snot in your nose contains virophages that actually attack other viruses before entering your body.

In this case the bacteria makes the plant turn its flowers into leaves. Making the plant sterile but attracting the insect vectors it needs to spread. One of the key parts of the definition of life has been removed - the ability to reproduce.

Re:Cold/Flu makes us zombies? (4, Insightful)

Harlequin80 (1671040) | about 7 months ago | (#46701297)

Similar analogy can be applied to virus infected computers which are often referred to as zombies. All they are doing, once infected, is trying to spread the infection. Depending on how aggressive the virus is the computer will become incapable of doing anything else. Which seems like a fair description of zombie behaviour.

Undead mules? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46702121)

Still seems a stretch to call it a "zombie" though. Wouldn't the same rationale mean that mules are also undead? Not zombies since there's no infection involved, but something.

  Aaah!!! Beware the undead pack animals! They'll eat your carrots and refuse to carry your burdens unless they feel like it!

Re:Undead mules? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 7 months ago | (#46704247)

Still seems a stretch to call it a "zombie" though.

You're missing the second part. The organism is transformed physically and behaviorally into a vehicle for spreading the parasite. That's classic zombie movie stuff.

Re:Undead mules? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46705339)

Hmm. Yeah, I suppose of late the whole mind-altering disease thing has horned in on the traditional risen from the dead definition of zombies.

Re:Undead mules? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 7 months ago | (#46706165)

Yeah, I suppose of late the whole mind-altering disease thing has horned in on the traditional risen from the dead definition of zombies.

It's been kicking around under that label for at least 40 years (with the movie, "Night of the Living Dead" kicking that off), so it's not that new an idea. And before that, there was "The Puppet Masters", a Heinlein book about parasites trying to take over humanity, which was published in 1951 more than 60 years ago.

Given that projected movies are around 120 years old and science fiction not much older than that, zombie parasitism is not a recent idea in these arts.

Re:Undead mules? (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 7 months ago | (#46708859)

From now on I'm going to refer to pack mules as Zombie Horses, may be Zombie Donkeys.

One of the key parts of the definition of life... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46703253)

One of the key parts of the definition of life has been removed - the ability to reproduce.

So anyone who's had a vasectomy or hysterectomy is by your definition a zombie? No, I think not. This is just a stupid, publicity-seeking use of the word zombie and you should not be trying to defend it.

Re:Cold/Flu makes us zombies? (1)

AaronLS (1804210) | about 7 months ago | (#46705025)

It's an immune system response that viruses leverage to spread. If you could create a similar virus that didn't cause an immune system response, its transmition rates would probably be lower. I would argue that just as the pathogen in the article has evolved to evoke a certain response in the article, cold/flu have probably evolved to maximize the immune system response(short of killing the host) as such variations of the virus would transmit more readily and pass that evolutionary trait to other viruses.

Regardless, how is any of that a counter argument to the application of zombie terminology? Is it dead? No, then not a zombie. It's a vogue term and it's silly for a study to use the term. Modified behavior != zombie.

Re:Cold/Flu makes us zombies? (1)

AaronLS (1804210) | about 7 months ago | (#46705043)

"to other viruses" should have read "to other generations"

Be prepared for the zombie plant apocalypse! (1)

HannethCom (585323) | about 7 months ago | (#46700501)

The cold/flu causes us to produce additional muccus/sneeze/cough, altering our behavior which increases transmission rates. This doesn't mean we are zombies. I think it's a very interesting find, but a little ridiculous to involve the term zombie.

I'll remind you of that when the zombie plant is eating your brains. "Don't worry, this is natural for the plants to be trying to eat you. Nothing to do with zombies."

Re:Cold/Flu makes us zombies? (2)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 7 months ago | (#46700593)

Rabies might be a better example. It's not a coincidence that animals infected with rabies are more likely to engage in behaviors that spread rabies than they were before infection. So bacteria like the one in question are hardly unique.

Re:Cold/Flu makes us zombies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46700713)

People with colds and flu still have the ability to reproduce and live a basically normal life etc etc. These plants on the other hand, just want BRAINS!!!

Re:Cold/Flu makes us zombies? (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 7 months ago | (#46700751)

I think it's a very interesting find, but a little ridiculous to involve the term zombie.

It's a vogue term. Just like everything is in "the cloud" even when it's just remote on one system. Next month the plants will be taking selfies of themselves twerking.

Re:Cold/Flu makes us zombies? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46701047)

This doesn't mean we are zombies.

Maybe not the flu, but T. Gondii [wikipedia.org] infect rats causing them to be attracted sexually to cat urine so they will seek it out and be eaten such that parasite can infect it's intended host: cats. In Humans it has been linked to both depression and homosexuality. If mindlessly sticking things up your butt isn't zombie like behavior nothing is.

Re:Cold/Flu makes us zombies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46701067)

More in-depth [4plebs.org] .

Re:Cold/Flu makes us zombies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46701149)

If mindlessly sticking things up your butt isn't zombie like behavior nothing is

How about eating ... BRAINZZZZ!

Re:Cold/Flu makes us zombies? (2)

userw014 (707413) | about 7 months ago | (#46701599)

The presumption of the article is that Zombies cause their host to permanently be no longer capable of reproduction, which the article mentions. That aspect of Zombiness is usually implicit (body parts falling off, etc.) in most Zombie stories. I certainly haven't heard of any stories where Zombie hosts are capable of reproduction, although the BBC series about cured Zombies seemed may have touched on that topic.

Re:Cold/Flu makes us zombies? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 7 months ago | (#46704175)

The cold and flu doesn't shut down your reproductive system permanently and transform you into a vehicle solely for spreading cold/flu viruses. Read the summary at least.

Zombie plants? (4, Funny)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 7 months ago | (#46700613)

Or Plants vs Zombies?

Re:Zombie plants? (1)

ComputersKai (3499237) | about 7 months ago | (#46701253)

Mother Nature is a serial killer. No one's better. More creative. Like all serial killers, she can't help but the urge to want to get caught. But what good are all those brilliant crimes if no one takes the credit? So she leaves crumbs. Now the hard part, while you spent decades in school, is seeing the crumbs for the clues they are. Sometimes the thing you thought was the most brutal aspect of the virus, turns out to be the chink in its armor. And she loves disguising her weaknesses as strengths. She's a bitch. -Fassbach, World War Z

Re:Zombie plants? (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 7 months ago | (#46703255)

I wish more scriptwriters would apply the "does anyone ever talk anything remotely like this in real life?" test before committing to a line of dialogue.

Re:Zombie plants? (1)

staalmannen (1705340) | about 7 months ago | (#46703297)

Mother Nature is a serial killer. No one's better. More creative. Like all serial killers, she can't help but the urge to want to get caught. But what good are all those brilliant crimes if no one takes the credit? So she leaves crumbs. Now the hard part, while you spent decades in school, is seeing the crumbs for the clues they are. Sometimes the thing you thought was the most brutal aspect of the virus, turns out to be the chink in its armor. And she loves disguising her weaknesses as strengths. She's a bitch. -Fassbach, World War Z

In this case, she is a Cereal killer

Re:Zombie plants? (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 7 months ago | (#46703235)

They've teamed up to wipe us out.

Relax people (2)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 7 months ago | (#46700827)

I have it on good word from The Umbrella Corporation... Ahem... Monsanto, that there is nothing to worry about. This bacteria could in no way affect their GMO products. Nor did they have any involvement in it's creation. The reports of carnivorous plants attacking independent farmers and their families are simply not true. Their fields and homes were torched, ahem, sterilized simply as a safety precaution.

Triffids! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46700915)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triffid

If they already have the plants, then all is lost. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46701037)

This is probably why the CDC released the zombie preparedness plan [cdc.gov] .

megolaponera foetens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46701385)

Next time your in Culver City check out the megolaponera foetens exhibit at The Museum of Jurassic Technology.

28 Days (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46703529)

That's how long we have until doomsday.

If you can't beat em, join em. (2)

T.E.D. (34228) | about 7 months ago | (#46703879)

Sensible. After getting thousands and thousands of zombies taken out by those damn plants, the sensible thing to do would be to subvert them from the inside.

Yes, now there are truly zombies on your lawn.

update (1)

NikeHerc (694644) | about 7 months ago | (#46705243)

"The plant appears alive, but it's only there for the good of the pathogen."

The citizen appears alive, but it's only there for the good of the government.

FTFY.

Or... (1)

Dripdry (1062282) | about 7 months ago | (#46705535)

Or ants and cricket, or plants, or politicians...

sterility is not "dead" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46710019)

sterility does not equal "dead"

this sort of crap is why we can't have nice science.

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