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New parasitic fungi found that turn ants into zombies

Date: 15.3.2011 

Scientists from the US and UK have discovered four new species of parasitic fungi in the Brazilian rainforests. The fungi attack four distinct species of ants and release mind-altering chemicals that gradually turn the ants into zombies and then kills them.

Ants that come into contact with the fungus spores become infected, and within a week they begin behaving like zombies and leave the nest. They then find a shrub leaf in an exposed position a short distance above the forest floor and lock their mandibles onto the central vein or the leaf edge and die in that position. The fungus sprouts spore-bearing stalks out of the back of the neck of the dead ant and releases its spores at night, which float down to the forest floor ready to infect more ants.

More information: Evans HC, Elliot SL, Hughes DP (2011) Hidden Diversity Behind the Zombie-Ant Fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis: Four New Species Described from Carpenter Ants in Minas Gerais, Brazil. PLoS ONE 6(3): e17024. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017024





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