Zombie-ant parasitic fungus kept in check by hyperparasitic fungus

Thursday, May 3, 2012 - 07:00 in Biology & Nature

Ant colonies are protected against brain-manipulating parasitic fungi by another fungusThe modus operandi of the Cordyceps fungi is the stuff of nightmares. These parasites grow inside their insect hosts by feeding off the non-vital organs, and manipulate the hosts' behaviour so that they can reproduce. When it is ready to produce spores, the fungus grows into the brain and releases chemicals that make the host climb a plant then attach itself near the top. It then kills its host by devouring its brain, before sprouting a mushroom from the top of its head, which disperse its spores as widely as possible.Cordyceps fungi can decimate entire ant colonies, but some colonies can keep an infestation at bay and survive for long periods of time. A new study now reveals how they do so. It turns out that the zombie-ant fungus is itself parasitized by another fungus, which limits its ability to...

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