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A female of the species, going about her business.  All is fine, until suddenly, attack!  An ugly, insectoid creature leaps upon her.  It injects its eggs into her body, where the developing larvae happily eat the internal tissues and then burst out through the abdomen.

Sound familiar?

You think I’m describing the plot of a film, don’t you?

This is real.

The wasp Dinocampus coccinellae injects its eggs into the body of a ladybird, which plays unwilling host to them.  After bursting out of its hiding place, the larva builds a cocoon under the ladybird, which remains in place to protect it while it develops.  When exposed to lacewings, unprotected cocoons were devoured utterly, but so were 85% of cocoons protected by dead ladybirds.

Because this isn’t just a space-alien horror film.  This is a zombie space-alien horror film.

The ladybird usually remains alive – in fact around 25% of affected ladybirds survive the ordeal and completely recover – but is partially paralysed.  Venom released by the larva causes it to twitch and grasp, warding off predators.  In this state, only a third of cocoons get eaten by lacewings.

What’s your favourite nature-zombie story?

Sort of.

It’s not quite “So long and thanks for all the fish”, but this beluga whale has learnt to mimic human speech.  Go on and take a listen.

The whale doesn’t have a firm grasp of sentence structure, phrasing, or even vocab, but the sound patterns he emits are closer to human than beluga in rhythm and acoustic spectrum.

I’m reminded of the dolphins living on Anne McCaffrey’s Pern, which had been transplanted there with the rest of the colonists after humans recognised them as a sentient species and they learnt to speak English.

How long do you think it will be before that happens in reality?

The Author

Nicola Higgins is a 30-something martial artist who runs two Brownie packs and works full time. She somehow still finds time to write.

Her favourite genres are near-future and alternate world science fiction and fantasy.

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