Ant parasite turns host ant into ripe red berry, biologists discover

See on Scoop.itTotalmente Natura

A newly discovered parasite so dramatically transforms its host, an ant, that the ant comes to resemble a juicy red berry, ripe for picking, according to a report accepted for publication in The American Naturalist. This is the first example of fruit mimicry caused by a parasite, the co-authors say.

 

Presumably, the dramatic change in appearance and behavior tricks birds into eating infected ants – parasites and all – so that the bird can spread the parasite in its feces. The fruit-eating birds’ droppings, which are mostly seeds and insect parts, are gathered by other ants who then feed and unwittingly infect their young.

 

This bizarre lifecycle of a parasitic nematode, or roundworm, plays out in the high canopy of tropical forests ranging from Central America to the lowland Amazon, according to Robert Dudley, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley.

 

“It’s just crazy that something as dumb as a nematode can manipulate its host’s exterior morphology and behavior in ways sufficient to convince a clever bird to facilitate transmission of the nematode,” Dudley said.

Giuliano Cipollari‘s insight:

Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald

See on www.berkeley.edu

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~ di giulianocip su febbraio 16, 2013.

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