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Fungus-infected ant

Fungus-infected ant

Kim Fleming

Brainless fungus uses chemical mixture to manipulate ant's brain

Fungi that turn ants into zombies that abandon their colonies to hang suspended from tree leaves or branches, which allows the microbes to thrive, have very specific tastes. A recent study finds that different species of the fungi genus can do their dirty work only on particular host ants. One of the fungal species may infect and kill other kinds of ants but it can’t manipulate their behavior, researchers report online this month in BMC Evolutionary Biology. They exposed the isolated brains of several ant species to one of the fungi, but only in the target ant did it make the right mind-altering chemicals. A story in Wired explores the devious ways of this fungi, the first known one in the United States to zombify ants.

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