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Many mushroom enthusiasts eagerly seek out wild spores during the summer season. Even if you are not an avid mushroom hunter, you probably enjoy mushrooms on your pizza, or maybe in your salad. Of course, there are some people that cannot stand the taste of mushrooms, and that might be a good thing. There exists many poisonous mushroom species that can make people sick, or even cause death. The mushrooms that you find in your grocery store are surely safe to eat, but only experts should venture into the wild to pick edible mushrooms. The very worst that can happen to a human after eating a poisonous mushroom is death, but a fate even worse than death awaits ants that chow down on certain forms of poisonous fungi. Believe it or not, certain species of fungus, if consumed by ants, can drive them to commit suicide. Researchers have recently discovered an additional fifteen species of fungus that can lead to ant-suicide after ingestion.

 

The types of fungi that can lead to ant-suicide all belong to a group known as Ophiocordyceps. The fifteen recently discovered fungal specimens are by no means rare in nature as they were collected from areas all over the world including the United States, Japan, Australia, Brazil and Colombia. Each of the fifteen fungal species targets a different ant species. After the ants ingest the poisonous fungi they exhibit a range of different odd behaviors, but they all wind up dead. In most circumstances, the dead ants are found with plant matter in their mouth parts. The ants always die in a setting that is ideal for fungal growth. According to scientists, after each ant eats each type of fungus, they all begin to crawl to new locations where fungal growths can thrive and reproduce with ease. The researchers believe that the ants are somehow directed by the fungi they consume since they always wind up dying in conditions that are hospitable to fungal growth. This is the fungal growth’s way of preserving itself. Amazingly, after consumption each type of fungi seems to transform the ants into zombies that destroy themselves. It is hard to believe that fungus could gain the upper hand over ants.

 

Do you find it hard to believe that an ant’s behavior can be dictated by the fungus it eats despite the fact that parasites are well known for dictating insect behavior?

 

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