Photo: Melissa Ishler
Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania in the US found out the mechanism of infection of ants by the fungus Ophiocordyceps unatellisthat turns insects into a kind of zombie. It turned out that the pathogen does not capture the brain of arthropods and striking jaw. This publication reports Science News.
The researchers analyzed the striated muscle of the jaws of the infected ants carpenters using scanning electron microscopy. The dead insects are destroyed the muscle fibers, however, fungi do not affect the nerves controlling the muscles. As a result of the jaw interlock grip, which allows the insects to gain a foothold on the upper parts of plants.
Scientists also noticed that on the infected fibers are tiny particles resembling bunches of grapes. These formations can be various molecules containing extracellular vesicles that are produced either by the host or by the parasite. They can play the role of a signal, participating in the capture of the body of the insects or as a cellular response to infection.
Cordyceps infected ants leave their nests, climb to such plants as Spanish moss or pine, and die. From their heads grows a fruit body of a mushroom that spreads its spores over great distances, capturing the nervous system of insects.
Video, photo All from Russia.