Friday, March 21, 2008

parasite induced mimicry in ants

Just a quick note to point people towards a paper (Yanoviak et al) that gives an amazing example of a parasite inducing mimicry in their host. The nematode parasite is transmitted to ant larvae via bird droppings, which the ant larvae are fed on. The parasite makes the ant's abdomen bright berry red, and also makes the ant hold its abdomen up in the air. This attracts birds to eat the berry-like parasite infected ants, completing the cycle.

There's a more extensive discussion of the article at This week in Evolution

Parasite-Induced Fruit Mimicry in a Tropical Canopy Ant
Yanoviak,Kaspari,Dudley, Poinar. Am Nat 2008. Vol. 171, pp. 536–544

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