Friday, 5 October 2012

Zombie Ants (Ophiocordyceps Unilateralis)


Zombie Fungus:

 Main Story:                              

   A stalk of the newfound fungus species Ophiocordyceps camponoti-balzani, grows out of a “zombie” ant’s head in a Brazilian rain forest. Originally thought to be a single species, called Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, the fungus is actually four distinct species—all of which can “mind control” ants.

The fungus species infects an ant, then takes over its brain (what is it about Zombies and brains) and then kills the insect once it has moved to a location that is ideal for the fungi to grow and spread their spores.
Picture of a "zombie" ant, part of a round-up of the best science discoveries of 2011
Ophiocordyceps Unilateralis
According to some scientists;
The fungus then kills the ant, and continues to grow as its mycelia invade more soft tissues and structurally fortify the ant’s exoskeleton. More mycelia then sprout out of the ants, and securely anchor it to the plant substrate while secreting antimicrobials to ward off competition. When releasing the spores. This process takes four to ten days.
The changes in the behavior of the infected ants are very specific, giving rise to the term “Zombie ants”, and tuned for the benefit of the fungus. The ants generally clamp to a leaf’s vein about twenty five cm above the ground, on the northern side if the plant, in an environment with 94-95% humidity and temperatures between 20 and 30°C. when the dead ants are repositioned in various other situations, further vegetative growth and sporulation either fails to occur or results in undersized and abnormal reproductive structures.
However the ants have developed sense to identify the infected ants, they recognize the infection and then carry the infected “Zombie Ant” away from their nest to prevent others ants from the  fungus infection.

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