Gordian worms instigate suicides


(16 December 2016) The Gordian worm, adult, is a very rare sighting. At a walk last night with a group of locals and visitors, we discovered this curling and twisting 6 inch long creature near Curtis Falls, on the track.
This one had made a mistake, because mature Gordian worms only live in the water. So, how did this happen? Gordian worms hatch from eggs that are released by the adult female in the water (10 million at a time). The hatchlings can hardly move and wait to be eaten by any sort of water creature. Inside the host the hatchling flourishes, eating and growing in a protective cyst it has created around itself. The host itself can be eaten as well, by a bigger water creature, but the worm stays alive, moving from host to host in its cyst. The real issue for the worm is to end up inside a host that will leave the water and will be eaten by a cricket or katydid. A mosquito is great for that purpose. If all of this happens then the worm, still in its cyst, will, inside the cricket leave the cyst and manipulate the brain of the cricket in such a way that the cricket will commit suicide by running into the water. When water-bound, the worm will – now matured inside the cricket – eat its way outside the kamikaze cricket and end up as a mature gordian worm in the water. Then it will seek a partner of the opposite sex and mate; the female will lay the eggs, completing the circle and both worms will die.
The moral of the story and this photo: this worm should be in the water, not on the land. Probably it did not manage to get the host cricket to jump into the water or left it before reaching water.
The name? Derived from the Greek story about the Gordian knot, because that is what it looks like, especially when two of them are mating in the water: a gordian knot of two worms.

Technique
Because of the social context, guiding a group of ‘tourists’, it was not possible to set up properly for a good photo. So, I had to rely on the flash light, which is of course a second choice. Sometimes it is better to simply accept the opportunity, then to let it pass and miss out on a unique chance to register a strange creature. Better something than nothing. The story is good anyway and in all honesty: there really is not that much detail to be seen on that worm anyway…..