Intelligent Design Viruses

Virus manipulates caterpillars into killing themselves

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Is this an instance of evil intelligence in the world?:

Entomologists have long known that a group of insect viruses known as nucleopolyhedroviruses induce the larvae of moths to migrate to the top of plants before they die—a behavior which is thought to aid the virus’s transmission by enhancing its spread over the foliage and increasing the chances a new host will encounter it.

Alejandra Manjarrez, “Virus Alters Caterpillars’ Vision to Trick Them into Climbing” at The Scientist (March 25, 2022)

The suggestion is that, as the caterpillars are dying from the virus, the virus manipulates them to die in a place more convenient for itself.

Another aspect yet to be addressed is how behavioral modifications like the one observed in these caterpillars benefits the virus—if indeed it does—says University of British Columbia ecologist Judith Myers, who was not involved in the study. In the paper, the authors hypothesize that the death of caterpillars at elevated positions may favor viral transmission by bringing them closer to younger larvae, which spend more time at the upper parts of the plants than older animals. Based on experiments performed in Liu’s lab, the team says that younger larvae appear to be more vulnerable to the virus.

But as of yet, there isn’t clear evidence that the caterpillars’ climbs aid viral transmission. “It’s very hard to study the impact of this behavior on the spread of virus,” Myers explains. Still, she says future work should also address this part of the story.

Alejandra Manjarrez, “Virus Alters Caterpillars’ Vision to Trick Them into Climbing” at The Scientist (March 25, 2022)

The virus actually changes the insect’s behavior quite significantly:

NPVs are known to drive their caterpillar hosts to the top of plants before dying, whereas the more natural behavior is for the caterpillars to sink to the earth before pupating…

All of which means these nucleopolyhedroviruses appear to hijack the insects’ natural affinity for light and use it against them. The next question for scientists is exactly how these genes are manipulated by the virus – but that’s a story for another study.

David Nield, “How a Zombifying Virus Can Manipulate Caterpillars Into Killing Themselves” at ScienceAlert

The paper requires a fee or subscription.

You may also wish to read: Neuroscientist: Even viruses are intelligent. Antonio Damasio says, in the excerpt from his new book, that — based on the evidence — we cannot deny viruses “some fraction” of intelligence. Researchers who study viruses, including the one that causes COVID, note similarities between viral strategies and those of insects and animals.

4 Replies to “Virus manipulates caterpillars into killing themselves

  1. 1
    JHolo says:

    Very interesting. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth I remember a parasitology course where we were taught about a parasitic flatworm that would infect an ant as it was eating sheep dung. The flatworm would migrate to the ant brain and cause it to climb to the top of grass blades, making them more susceptible to being consumed by grazing sheep. And the circle of life keeps on spinning.

  2. 2
    Silver Asiatic says:

    based on the evidence — we cannot deny viruses “some fraction” of intelligence.

    Last week I read here something like “we know of no non-human intelligence” so supposedly ID is falsified by that.
    Materialist OOL had enough problems, but now unintelligent chemicals have to create intelligence somehow.

  3. 3
    News says:

    Silver Asiatic at 1, we know of no non-human life form that has intelligence like a human.

    If viruses show intelligence, that points to intelligence that does not come directly from unintelligent nature – when we consider what a virus is.

    Anyway, it was Damasio who said that, not an ID theorist. He is – or is becoming – a panpsychist. A surprisingly robust trend in science these days. Stay tuned.

  4. 4
    JVL says:

    News: Silver Asiatic at 1, we know of no non-human life form that has intelligence like a human.

    I’ve got to agree with you there!

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