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Zombie Ants

May 11, 2011 by staff 

Zombie AntsZombie Ants, Researchers from Penn State University have discovered a fungus between the community surprising Tropical carpenter ants. Infection with this new chapter of parasitic fungus was found to drastically change the behavior of carpenter ants, causing an ant to become zombie-like and die in a place where the fungus has the optimum conditions for reproduction.

Using transmission electron microscopes and light team was able to look inside an ant infected to determine the effects that the fungus was having. They found that the fungus fills the ant’s body and head, eventually causing muscle atrophy and forcing the muscle fibers apart. It was found that the effects of ant fungus central nervous system as well.

In the observation of nature, the researchers noted that the normal working ants rarely leave a trail of work, while ants infected with the fungus or “zombie” ants walking at random and will not be able to find their way home. Infected ants were also found to suffer from seizures that cause her fall from the roof to the ground and be unable to find his way back to the cup again. This creates perfect conditions for fungus to grow at around 9 to 10 inches above the ground where temperatures are cooler.

The most surprising finding of the research team found during the solar noon when the sun is at its highest temperature. The fungus began to control and synchronize the behavior of individual ants. Infected ants would crawl to the bottom of a sheet around and bite its main vein, which the ants to break their jaws and remain attached to the underside of the leaves, even after death. A few days later, the fungus will grow through the head of the ant in an icicle as a form of spores and release to be picked up by another ant wandering.

Lead researcher David P. Hughes said: “The fungus attacks the ants on two fronts. For the first time by the use of the ant as a food source on foot, and secondly by the muscle and the ant damage the central nervous system” This gives ant place to put it in the perfect conditions for fungal growth and reproduction. Future research currently underway to determine how this newly discovered fungus could be used to control insects in homes and farms.

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