Saturday, February 16, 2013
Cordyceps infected moth
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.