#1
Researchers discover fungus causes zombie ants that explode
Postmedia News
Published:
October 25, 2019
Updated:
October 25, 2019 12:21 PM EDT
An infected zombie ant in Ghana. (Dr. Joao Araujo)
As anyone who has ever had a picnic can tell you, it’s not easy to kill invading ants.
But, geez, now we have to deal with zombie ants?
Researchers have discovered a fungus that zombifies ants by taking over their body, eventually causing them to explode, according to a report in the New York Times.
The fungus, Ophiocordyceps, feeds on the ants from the inside and multiplies — there is no noticeable difference to the ant’s routine — until it makes up nearly half of the insect’s body mass. The fungal cells eventually send signals to the ant’s brain, causing it to climb a nearby plant above ground where it bites down on a leaf and, jaws locked, dies.
The fungus then sends out sticky threads, gluing the dead ant to the leaf. Finally, and dramatically, a giant stalk bursts out of the ant’s head, showering spores to the ground, where another ant will repeat the cycle.
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“The ants are walking over a minefield,” said Ophiocordyceps expert David Hughes, an entomologist at Penn State University.
Dr. Hughes discovered a 48-million-year-old fossil in 2010 of a zombie ant locked into a death grip with a leaf, causing him to “think, where the hell did that come from?” Three years later, one of his graduate students and now a research fellow at the University of the Ryukyus in Japan, Joao Araujo, started researching the connection between the fungus and zombie ants.
Dr. Araujo discovered 28 species of fungi, each of which zombifies a different species of ant or other insect.
But scientists haven’t yet found what causes the infected ant to leave its nest and climb a plant.
“We still haven’t found the smoking gun,” Dr. Hughes said.
Good news is we don’t have to worry about the zombie ants coming for us.

http://nytimes.com/2019/10/24/scienc...es-fungus.html
http://torontosun.com/news/weird/res...s-that-explode