Tuesday, July 13, 2010
The parasitic fungus, cordyceps unilateralis, has a unique – and somewhat wicked – way of reproducing by means of manipulating the behavior of their host, usually an ant. The spores of the fungus attach themselves to the external surface of the ant, where they start to germinate. Minute fungal filaments called mycelia grows inside the ant’s body, absorbing its soft tissues but avoiding its vital organs. Eventually the mycelia grows into the ant's brain, producing chemicals which ‘brain washes’ the ant by altering its perceptions. The ultimate goal of the brain washing – that takes anything between four to ten days – is to lead the host to its final resting place, like the top of a plant, where the conditions are ideal for sporulation. As soon as the ant sinks its mandibles firmly into the stem, the fungus starts to devour the ant's brain, killing it. The fruiting bodies of the fungus sprout from the ant's head, and once mature, release airborne spores that, in turn, infect other insects, completing its life cycle. Other insects vulnerable to its infection includes dragonflies, beetles, cockroaches, butterflies, and bees. However brutal an attack by this fungus seem, scientists have studied their positive effects. Cordyceps fungi are used in pesticides and as agents against malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
See also Mind-blowing Mushrooms
Posted by EllerG at 12:35 AM