Zombie sighting

By Shanna Baker

A fungus turns infected ants into the walking dead.

An ant infected with a Pandora fungus. Photo: Pat Teti.

Dracula ants aren’t the only peculiar creatures underfoot [see “Six-legged vampires“]—there may also be tiny zombies trundling through the forest.

In June, 2014, a biologist in Williams Lake discovered an ant infected by a fungus of the genus Pandora. It is the first record of this fungus in Canadian ants, explains entomologist Robert Higgins, and may represent a new type of Pandora that is specific to the Formica podzolica ant.

The fungus takes over its victim’s central nervous system, causing it to behave strangely and eventually to climb and attach itself to the tip of a blade of grass or shrub, and die.

Spores eventually release from the dead ant’s body and scatter in the wind to infect the next victim.

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Christine Ly

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