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Ant dissection — the fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis in action. When an ant is infected by Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, it remains alive for a short time. The fungus compels the ant to climb from its nest high in the forest canopy down into small plants and vegetation. The ant then climbs onto the underside of a low-hanging leaf where it clamps down with its mandibles just before it dies. There it remains, stuck fast for weeks. After the ant dies, the fungus continues to grow inside the body. After a few days, a stroma—the fungus’s fruiting body—sprouts from the back of the ant’s head. After a week or two, the stroma starts raining down spores with the potential to infect another.
Photo credit: David Hughes