Zombie Ants: New Study Found Fungi Parasite Might Be Synchronized with the Sun

By on May 10, 2011 in Animals, Education, Science, Universities Comments

As reported earlier on this site, four new zombie ant fungi have been discovered by scientists in Brazil last March, 2011. According to reports, these fungi control carpenter ants, turning them into zombies, forcing them to search for a perfect place for the fungi to propagate, and killing them afterwards.

Zombie Ant
A Zombie Ant
Credit: midnightwatchmen.com

According to reports, the ants were controlled to bite the underside of certain leaves. They were forced to bite down the leaf’s main vein, and they got locked on that position.

A recent study from Pennsylvania State University discovered that this final bite does not take place in any random time. They discovered that it actually always occur around noon, which means that the fungal parasite is either synchronized with the sun or a related circumstances such as temperature or humidity.

“Although ants bite at noon they don’t in fact die until sunset. Likely this strategy ensures (the fungus) has a long cool night ahead of it during which time it can literally burst out of the ant’s head to begin the growth of the spore-releasing stalk,” David Hughes, a study researcher from the university was quoted saying.

The researchers also found out, by dissecting infected ants, that an ant’s head is filled with fungal cells during the final bite.

“In the context of biting, it allows the mandibles, we feel, to work in one direction and one direction only,” Hughes reportedly told LiveScience. “Normally, they open and close, but in this case they can only close.”

Reports also said that “zombiefied” ant walks in a “zigzag drunken walk” because the fungus also takes control of its leg muscles, forcing it to walk that way.

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