Posts Tagged ‘Fungus’

If any of you watched the series Planet Earth, you will have heard of the interesting fungi called the Cordyceps.  OK, they aren’t really “wildlife” in the full sense of the word, but these guys are just too cool not to write about.  The Cordyceps are endoparasitic fungi.  This means that they enter the body of arthropods like insects and spiders to feed on them.   There are about 400 species of Cordyceps, each of which feed off a different species of insect.

The Cordyceps will infect the brain of an insect.  The brain damaged insect then moves toward the highest point it can reach.  Then, it dies.  During this process, the Cordyceps fungus grows in the head of the insect and eventually bursts through its exoskeleton in a very Alien-like manner.  When it has grown enough, the fungus’s protrusion’s tip explodes, releasing spores which will infect any insect nearby. 

Also interesting, some of the chemicals the fungus produces are useful to humans in the field of medicine. Cordycepin; a biochemical found in Cordyceps subsessilis, was the source of  — a drug helpful in human organ transplants, as it is an immunosuppresant.

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