An extinct parasitic fungus growing in the anus of a 50 million-year-old fossil ant has been discovered and preserved in amber.
- Ants that lived 50 million years ago die a slow and gruesome death due to parasitic fungi that grow inside their bodies and out of their anus.
- A gruesome scene is found in the amber found in the Baltic Sea.
- Ancient ants are carpenter ants infected with today’s fungi.
- However, ancient fungi have evolved that have never been seen before.
The oldest known specimen of ants infecting parasitic fungi has been found. That’s a 50 million-year-old carpenter ant with a bulbous mushroom sticking out of its anus.
Researchers from Oregon State University (OSU) have discovered a gruesome scene in amber discovered in the Baltic region of Europe.
a fungus called Allocordyceps Balticis part of the genus Ophiocordyceps modern but modern There are development steps that are never recorded.
The parasite extends throughout the ant’s body. which experts say causes a slow and terrifying death. for small insects
The earliest example of an ant infected with a parasitic fungus was found – a 50-million-year-old carpenter ant with a bulbous mushroom sticking out of its anus.
Modern carpenter ants are a common host of pathogenic fungi in the genus. Ophiocordyceps.
This fungus infects the host to control behaviors beneficial to the growth and spread of the parasite.
OSU’s George Poinar Jr. said in a statement: ‘We can see a large, orange, cup-shaped ascoma that has developed perithecia, a bottle-shaped structure that allows spores to come out of the ant’s rectum,’ he continued.
‘The vegetative part of the fungus emerges from the abdomen and base of the neck.
‘We see independent fungal bodies with what looks like perithecia, and in addition we see what looks like a sac in which the spores develop, the entire phase attached to the ant and the free stage. are the same species’
The parasite extends throughout the ant’s body. which experts say ‘Slow and horrible’ for a small insect, besides being pushed into the rectum.
Modern fungi in this genus usually emerge from the neck or head of ants. So the shocking performance in 50 million year old amber is a rare observation.
How does amber do it? Fossil Tree Resin That Preserves History
Amber is a fossil tree resin. When the resin is secreted from the tree It collects seeds, insects and leaves.
when the resin is released will eventually be buried The sustained heat and pressure from layer by layer of sludge causes the resin to turn amber.
Exposure to sunlight, rain, or bacteria and mold will prevent the resin from turning amber.
Most trees have a resin secret but do not turn amber because they are not resistant to weather or microorganisms.
for amber to form The resin must have antibacterial/antifungal properties. or buried in a state protected from the elements and bacteria or fungi.
Modern fungi in this genus usually emerge from the neck or head of ants. So the shocking performance in 50 million-year-old amber is a rare observation, Poinar said.
‘There is no doubt that Allocordyceps It represents a fungal infection of Camponotus ants,’ he said.
‘This is the first fossil record of a member of the Hypocreales that emerged from an ant’s body.
‘and is the oldest fossil record of ant parasitic fungi. It can be used in future studies as a reference point on the origin of the Fungal and Ant Association.’
It’s unclear why the fungus chose to spread out of the ants’ anus, but Poinar told Live Science. that this path may allow ants to live longer
‘The rectum is already open while the fungus has to penetrate the head capsule for it to emerge through the head,’ Poinar told Live Science.
‘It will allow the ants to live for a few more days. because when the fungus enters the ant’s head, the ant dies.’
Although it is clear that the fungus protrudes through the anus of the ant. But there is evidence that the fungus can be found throughout the body.
The stromat, which is a fungal tissue with a spore structure, is visible protruding from the abdomen and back of the ant’s neck.
Researchers told LiveScience. that they also noticed a sac where spores are formed in the abdomen and neck.