Last Updated: July 30, 2023
“Incredibly, 80% of all insects live in jungles. Few are more successful than the ants. There can be 8 million individuals in a single hectare, but jungle ants don’t have it all their own way.
These bullet ants are showing some worrying symptoms. Spores from a parasitic fungus called cordyceps have infiltrated their bodies and their minds. It’s infected brain directs this ant upwards. Then utterly disorientated, it grips a stem with its mandibles. Those afflicted, that are discovered by the workers, are quickly taken away and dumped far away from the colony. It seems extreme, but this is the reason why.
Like something out of science fiction, the fruiting body of the cordyceps erupts from the ant’s head. They can take three weeks to grow, and when finished, the deadly spores will burst from its tip, then any ant in the vicinity will be in serious risk of death.
The fungus is so virulent it can wipe out whole colonies of ants, and it’s not just ants that fall victim to this killer. There are literally thousands of different types of cordyceps fungi, and remarkably each specializes on just one species. But these attacks do have a positive effect on the jungle’s diversity.
Since parasites like these stop any one group of animal getting the upper hand, the more numerous a species becomes, the more likely it will be attacked by its nemesis, a cordyceps fungus.”