Livin' on the MDedge

The compass that points toward food


Better living through parasitization

How would you like to triple your life span, while maintaining a youthful appearance and gaining special social standing and privileges?

Ant on a branch pxfuel

Sounds pretty good, right, so what’s the catch? Well, you have to be infected with a tapeworm ... and you have to be an ant.

If you are an ant, here’s the deal: Workers of the species Temnothorax nylanderi that have tapeworms live much longer than uninfected workers, and while living out those longer lives they do less work and receive gifts of food.

In a study conducted at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, infected ants’ metabolic rates and lipid levels were similar to those of younger ants, and they appeared to remain in a permanent juvenile stage as a result of the infection, the investigators reported.

They tracked Temnothorax colonies for 3 years, at which point 95% of the uninfected workers had died but over half of the infected ants were still alive. Pretty great, right? Wrong. There was no joy in antville, for the uninfected workers had struck out. “Strained by the additional burden of their wormed-up nestmates, they seemed to be shunting care away from their queen. They were dying sooner than they might have if the colonies had remained parasite-free,” according to an article in the Atlantic.

Does this situation seem just a wee bit familiar? A small group lives longer, healthier lives and enjoys special privileges while the majority of that society works harder to support them? We’ll put it into the form of a chicken-and-egg argument: Which came first, the tapeworms or the one-percenters?

Laughing the pandemic stress away

Doomscrolling on social media has become one of the world’s favorite pastimes during the pandemic, but research shows that those memes about COVID-19 might combat the doom and gloom of the outside world.

Young woman listening to music from headphones, lying on sofa, using laptop, and drinking coffee. littlehenrabi/Getty Images

A study recently published in Psychology of Popular Media showed that viewing memes, specifically those that were COVID-19 related, actually lessened the stress of the pandemic.

The researchers conducted a survey of 748 people aged 18-88 years. Each participant viewed three memes with text or three memes with text but no images. All three memes had similar cuteness levels (baby or adult), subject (animal or human), and caption (COVID-19–related or not). The participants were then asked to report on their stress levels and feelings before and after the memes.

The people who looked at memes felt less stressed and a higher humor level, especially the participants who received the COVID-19 memes. Study Finds said that they had more “pandemic-coping confidence” than those who got regular memes.

“While the World Health Organization recommended that people avoid too much COVID-related media for the benefit of their mental health, our research reveals that memes about COVID-19 could help people feel more confident in their ability to deal with the pandemic,” lead author Jessica Gall Myrick, PhD, said in a written statement. “The positive emotions associated with this type of content may make people feel psychologically safer and therefore better able to pay attention to the underlying messages related to health threats.”

So if you think you’ve been wasting time looking at memes during this pandemic, think again. It actually might keep you sane. Keep on scrolling!

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