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One of the most interesting microorganism is a eukaryotic organism a part of the Domain Fungi. The species Ophiocordyceps unilateralisis impressive to learn about. Its genus is Ophiocordyceps, its family is Ophiocordyceps. It is also part of the Ascomycota phylum. Being aAscomycota their reproductive cycle is very complex. These types of fungi reproduce by producing sexual spores in what is called asci. These asci are sac like and are contained in fruiting bodies (ascocarps). Inside their sacs are grand numbers of asexual spores which are collectively called conidia.
Usually 25% of Ascomycetes form symbiotic associations. Some species form mycorrhizae with plants which are mutually benefiting relationship. The Ophiocordyceps unilateralis does form symbiotic associations, however their relationship with their hosts are parasitic. TheOphiocordyceps unilateralis is also known as the “zombie ant fungus” (livescience.com). The reason this is, is because Ophiocordyceps unilateralis work by infecting a jungle ant and making its way around the inside of the ant. It will over time then start to “take over” the mind of the ant. It will cause the ant to act erratically and dazed. Sometimes others of the colonie will take notice and exile the ant far away from the colony. This is imperative because if the infected ant is not noticed or disposed of in time a fruiting body will rise from the ants head. In addition to killing the ant the ascocarp will dispense asci and infect all ants in the vicinity. The interesting thing is that if there are no ants but other insects in the surrounding area the surrounding insects have a little to no chance of becoming infected. The reason being that species of cordyceps are exclusive and certain species of cordyceps only react with certain animal hosts.
The Ophiocordyceps unilateralis or zombie ant fungus is interesting in how it progresses through the ant over time. First the ant needs to walk through a area where spores from a previously infected ant are located. The spore then inserts itself into the ant by excreting enzymes to literally eats its way through the ants outer layer. In as little as two days the fungus would “control the mind” of the ant and the ant would move to a lower leaf in an environment optimal for the fungus. It would then anchor itself into the underpart of a leaf by biting into it, where it would die. Even though its host is dead the fungus thrives off the internal organs of the ant. Soon the fungus’ stroma would burst through the back of the ants head. The stroma would release the spores it carris in order to infect other ants and the cycle continues. This can wipe out colonies at a impressive rate.
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