Research Sheds Light on How Ants Defend Against “Zombifying” Parasite

Research Sheds Light on How Ants Defend Against “Zombifying” Parasite

In a recent research, it has been able to come out how an ant colony defends infestations by the zombie-ant fungus. It has been told that the zombie-ant fungus has the tendency to enter the brain of an ant, thereby pushing it to the death.

“In a case where biology is stranger than fiction, the parasite of the zombie-ant fungus is itself a fungus -- a hyperparasitic fungus that specializes in attacking the parasite that turns the ants into zombies”, said Penn State's David Hughes, who led the international research, in the journal PLoS ONE.

It was further claimed by the assistant professor of entomology and biology, that the hyperparasitic fungi is able to keep the infected zombie-ant fungus away from spreading spores, which ultimately restrains large number of ants turning into zombies.

Though it was known that ants have the tendency to protect their colonies from microscopic enemies with effective grooming, but this research has shed more light on the underlying theory. It was further told that though there are many infected zombie ants, there are fair chances that there would be only a few spores of the zombie-ant fungus which would be able to become mature and therefore infecting other ants too.

The research got financial backing from a Marie Curie OIF Fellowship (PIOF-GA-2008-221041), Danish National Research Foundation and Brazilian National Council for Research (CNPq, grant no. 401610/2009-8) and Penn State.

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