Brainwashed by a parasite

Mo Costandi

The ants in these photographs have fallen victim to parasitic fungi which manipulate the behaviour of their host in order to increase their own chances of reproducing.

The spores of the fungus attach themselves to the external surface of the ant, where they germinate. They then enter the ant’s body through the tracheae (the tubes through which insects breathe), via holes in the exoskeleton called spiracles. Fine fungal filaments called mycelia then start to grow inside the ant’s body cavity, absorbing the host’s soft tissues but avoiding its vital organs.

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