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Thursday the 5th of June 2014

9:48 PM

The fungus that grows on an ant

Today is the second day of the presentation of our tour projects. Jake did a wonderful tour on Fungi, which was very informative and interesting. What strikes me most is that a fungus called Ophiocordyceps unilateralis will grow out of the head of an ant. It invades the ant's body and manipulates it behaviour by turning it into a zombie. According to a Havard University research, this parasitic mind control is at least 48 million years old - unbelievable!


Another interesting piece of knowledge is Cordyceps gunnii which is also known as the Dark Vegetable Caterpillar. It invades a moth larva and will feed on it and eventually replace the caterpillar. They are usually found under mature wattles. 

There is a similar caterpillar fungus in China, called Ophiocordyceps sinesis, which is used in Chinese medicine and costs an obscene price. In 2013, it cost as much as AUD85,000 per kilogram. If Tasmania had Orphiocordyceps sinesis farmed here, this will be a big boost to the economy.

Here is a photo of the Tasmanian vegetable caterpillar (obviously very different from the Chinese vegetable caterpillar).

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