Mushroom Growing Out of 50-Million-Year-Old Fossilized Ant Reveals New Species of Fungal Parasite

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Fungus Parasitizing an Ant

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Oregon State University research study has actually determined the earliest recognized specimen of a fungi parasitizing an ant, and the fossil likewise represents a brand-new fungal genus and types. Credit: George Poinar Jr., OSU

Oregon State University research study has actually determined the earliest recognized specimen of a fungi parasitizing an ant, and the fossil likewise represents a brand-new fungal genus and types.

“It’s a mushroom growing out of a carpenter ant,” stated OSU’s George Poinar Jr., a global professional in utilizing plant and animal life kinds protected in amber to learn more about the biology and ecology of the remote past.

A mushroom is the reproductive structure of lots of fungis, consisting of the ones you discover growing in your backyard, and Poinar and a partner in France called their discovery Allocordyceps baltica. They discovered the brand-new kind of Ascomycota fungis in an ant protected in 50-million-year-old amber from Europe’s Baltic area.

“Ants are hosts to a number of intriguing parasites, some of which modify the insects’ behavior to benefit the parasites’ development and dispersion,” stated Poinar, who has a courtesy visit in the OSU College of Science. “Ants of the tribe Camponotini, commonly known as carpenter ants, seem especially susceptible to fungal pathogens of the genus Ophiocordyceps, including one species that compels infected ants to bite into various erect plant parts just before they die.”

Ant Fungus Parasite

A mushroom is the reproductive structure of lots of fungis, consisting of the ones you discover growing in your backyard, and OSU’s George Poinar Jr. and a partner in France called their discovery Allocordyceps baltica. They discovered the brand-new kind of Ascomycota fungis in an ant protected in 50-million-year-old amber from Europe’s Baltic area. Credit: George Poinar Jr., OSU

Doing so, he discusses, puts the ants in a beneficial position for permitting fungal spores to be launched from cup-shaped ascomata – the fungis’s fruiting body –extending from the ants’ head and neck. Carpenter ants generally make their nests in trees, decaying logs and stumps.

The brand-new fungal genus and types shares specific functions with Ophiocordyceps however likewise shows numerous developmental phases not formerly reported, Poinar stated. To name the genus, positioned in the order Hypocreales, Poinar and fellow scientist Yves-Marie Maltier integrated the Greek word for brand-new – alloios – with the name of recognized genus Cordyceps.

“We can see a large, orange, cup-shaped ascoma with developing perithecia – flask-shaped structures that let the spores out – emerging from the rectum of the ant,” Poinar stated. “The vegetative part of the fungus is coming out of the abdomen and the base of the neck. We see freestanding fungal bodies also bearing what look like perithecia, and in addition we see what look like the sacs where spores develop. All of the stages, those attached to the ant and the freestanding ones, are of the same species.”

New Fungal Genus and Species

The mushroom is coming out of the ant’s anus, and vegetative part of the fungi is emerging from its abdominal area and neck. Credit: George Poinar Jr., OSU

The fungi might not be positioned in the recognized ant-infecting genus Ophiocordyceps since ascomata in those types generally come out the neck or head of an ant, Poinar stated, and not the anus.

“There is no doubt that Allocordyceps represents a fungal infection of a Camponotus ant,” he stated. “This is the first fossil record of a member of the Hypocreales order emerging from the body of an ant. And as the earliest fossil record of fungal parasitism of ants, it can be used in future studies as a reference point regarding the origin of the fungus-ant association.”

Reference: “Allocordyceps baltica gen. et sp. nov. (Hypocreales: Clavicipitaceae), an ancient fungal parasite of an ant in Baltic amber” by George Poinar and Yves-Marie Maltier, 5 June 2021, Fungal Biology.
DOI: 10.1016/j.funbio.2021.06.002



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