Scientists have discovered a new type of “zombie ant” fungus in ancient amber
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When the spores of this fungus infect carpenter ants, it will effectively hijack the carpenter’s nervous system, forcing the carpenter ants to climb up a tall plant against their will. Clamp its chin tightly to the bottom of the leaf. There, a fungal stalk will grow on the head of the ant after death, which eventually releases the spores to the ground and infects the next round of unlucky ants.
This story seems to have been going on for a long time. Researchers at Oregon State University discovered the oldest known specimen of this parasitic fungus in a 50 million-year-old piece of amber.
The victim is a familiar carpenter ant, but this fungus seems to be an unknown genus and species. The discoverer named it Allocordyceps baltica. Although the basic process seems to be the same as that of modern fungi, it seems to include several new stages of development. The most obvious is that the fruit body that releases the spores does not grow from the ant’s head, but grows from the other end.
George Poinar Jr, the corresponding author of this study Said: “We can see a huge, orange, cup-shaped angiosarcoma in the rectum of the ant, accompanied by a perithelium-a flask-shaped structure that allows spores to flow out. The growth of the fungus comes from the abdomen and neck. We see that independent fungal bodies also have something similar to the foreskin, and we also see sacs that are similar to the growth of spores. All the stages that are attached to ants and independent stages belong to the same kind.”
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