Natures wonders: zombified beetles (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Saturday, June 10, 2017, 23:39 (916 days ago) @ David Turell

Once again a fungus is in control and appears to use a sexual lure by remotely spreading dead wings:

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2134134-fungus-creates-zombie-beetles-that-crave-f...

"Goldenrod soldier beetles (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus) feed and mate on flowers – and that’s where some of them meet their end, too. When infected with the fungus Eryniopsis lampyridarum, the beetles clamp their jaws onto a flower and die soon after.

"Hours later and still stuck to the flowers, the dead beetles’ wings snap open as though ready to fly. With their wings raised, these beetles even attract mates – live males were seen having sex with zombie females.

***

"He thinks this greatly increases the chance that the fungal infection will be picked up by healthy beetles. It attaches the infected beetles exactly where other healthy beetles are feeding and looking for mates.

"Steinkraus and his team studied 446 live and dead solider beetles for signs of fungal infection. About 20 per cent of these were found to carry the fungus, with most of these assuming the same dramatic posture. They clung tightly to flowers using only their mandibles and their legs hung free.

"But strangely, the wings opened only 15 to 22 hours after a beetle had died.

***

"The fungus becomes obvious in the post-death wing-opening phase, when its spores and filaments erupt from the beetle’s abdomen. Steinkraus says it is possible that raised wings and a swollen abdomen caused by fungal growth make the beetles look bigger, which may help attract a mate and spread the infection."

Comment: It is amazing that the fungus can stimulate the brain so long after death to get the wings open. It is difficult to imagine how this arrangement evolved.


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