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THIS FUNGUS TURNS ANTS INTO ‘ZOMBIES’

After the “zombie ant fungus” kills a victim, it grows a stalk called the stroma, which protrudes from the ant cadaver.

A large round structure, the ascoma, forms on the stroma. Infectious spores then develop in the ascoma and are released onto the forest floor below, where they can infect foraging ants from the colony.

zombie ant fungus

“After climbing vegetation and biting the veins or margins on the underside of leaves, infected ants die, remaining attached to the leaf postmortem, where they serve as a platform for fungal growth,” says lead author Raquel Loreto.

Previous research shows that the fungus, Ophiocordyceps camponoti-rufipedis, controls the behavior of carpenter ant workers—Camponotus rufipes—to die with precision, says Loreto, a doctoral candidate in entomology, Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

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