Brain Eat­ing Fun­gus

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS -

"I think of them then as chimeras: part ant and part fun­gus," said David Hughes, an en­to­mol­o­gist at Penn­syl­va­nia State Univer­sity who was lead­ing the study group, "As time goes on, the fun­gal part in­creases un­til that ant's be­hav­ior is no longer its own."

A fun­gus that is found in Thai­land makes ants be­come in­fected and act ab­nor­mally be­fore eat­ing their brains and ooz­ing out of their dead bod­ies.

"This so-called zom­bie or brain-ma­nip­u­lat­ing fun­gus al­ters the be­hav­iors of the ant host, caus­ing it to die in an ex­posed po­si­tion, typ­i­cally cling­ing onto and biting the adax­ial sur­face of shrub leaves," the study au­thors write.

"In or­der to get through the ex­oskele­ton, the fun­gus builds up a pres­sure," said Hughes. "We know from stud­ies of fun­gal par­a­sites of plants, par­tic­u­larly rice, they can build up a pres­sure in­side their spore equiv­a­lent to the pres­sure in the wheel of a 747. So they have a mas­sive buildup of pres­sure, and when that’s at a suf­fi­cient level then they blow a hole through the wall and blow all the ge­netic ma­te­rial into the ant."

"The fun­gus needs to trans­mit,” said Hughes, “and it can­not do that in­side the nest, be­cause in or­der for ant so­ci­eties to work, they have nec­es­sar­ily evolved a pro­phy­lac­tic im­mune sys­tem, which is re­liant upon be­hav­ioral de­fense. So they have some­thing called so­cial im­mu­nity. They sim­ply stop dis­eases spread­ing in­side their nest by find­ing dis­eased in­di­vid­u­als and mov­ing them out."

The ants which had been in­fected by the fungi were zom­bie-like in be­hav­iour which gave them the nick names "zombi ants". Well that and giv­ing di­rec­tors the best plot for a hor­ror movie in ex­is­tence: Rise of the Ants.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Iraq

© PressReader. All rights reserved.