Saturday, February 16, 2013

Cordyceps infected moth

This yellowish fungal looking stuff caught my eye as I was wandering through the woods in Bolton, MA. At first I thought it was growing directly on the bark, but realized it was on a dead moth, after examiningmore closely. So I took a few photos, then picked the moth off the tree and snapped a few more.

At home I googled images of "fungus infected moth", and interspersed with all the ugly pictures of yeast infected human body parts (google evidently thought I was really looking for "fungus infected mouth"), were a few pics of moths and other insects with spikes growing out of them, similar to my moth.

Turns out that this moth was infected with one of hundreds of species of Cordyceps fungi, most of which parasitize insects or arthropods. Each species of Cordyceps fungi attacks only one host species. The fungus grows inside the host, eventually replacing the host tissue. The long things sticking out of the moth are the fruiting bodies of the fungus from which the spores disperse.

Here is a brief (3 minute) narrated video about Cordyceps fungi infecting insects. If for no other reason, watch it to hear David Attenborough's wonderful voice. The fungus is pretty interesting, too.


1 comment:

  1. That video is terrifying!!

    I love David Attenborough. After watching part of The Life of Birds in the Avian Nesting Ecology class, I went to Amazon and wishlisted pretty much everything that Attenborough has ever done.