Scientist discovered deadly fungus which turns flies into zombies
Zombies, as we all know, is a mythical creature but what if this myth turns into reality. Cinema has given us many movies revolving around those scary zombies but till now this was all fiction but scientists have now discovered real zombie flies.
Scientists in Denmark found out about two deadly species that turn a normal fly into a zombie, it survives on the fly’s body as a parasite. The fungi infect the host from inside and make it hollow. After inflecting the host the virus punctures the fly’s body and eject spores from its abdomen.
The two new species “Strongwellsea tigrinae” and “Strongwellsea acerosa,” that feeds on the living corpses of the flies were discovered by Researchers from the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Denmark. Both “Strongwellsea tigrinae” and “Strongwellsea acerosa, were discovered in the Capital Region of Denmark.
The descriptions of the fungus were published in a study in the Journal of Invertebrate Pathology. The study published in the journal described the fungus as ‘invading and enslaving’.
Upon infecting its host (flies here) it starts eating it from inside and creates a large hole in the abdomen of the host. After the infection, the fungi release spores like a shooting rocket. The spores help the fungi to spread and find a new host for it. The parasite eats the host and lives on it until it dies.
The fungi initially survive on the genitals of the host but later start eating its fat reserves, then reproductive organs, and muscles. The host remains completely unaware of what’s happening inside and continues to meet with other flies and infecting them unintentionally.
As the journal says it invades the host and enslaves it, scientists are fascinated by the fungi’ ability to keep the fly fresh and control it for spreading the fungal infection further while eating it. Scientist believes that it releases dopamine inside the host and then ultimately turns it into a zombie-like creature.
The researcher noticed that the fungi had thick walled-spores of orange or yellow color that possibly help the virus to survive in the winters.
Releasing spores while the host is alive is a very unusual process called active host transmission (AHT).
“It is fascinating how the life cycles of these fungi are so well adapted to the lives of the flies they target,” Professor Jørgen Eilenberg of the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences explained in the study.
“In and of itself, this mapping of new and unknown biodiversity is valuable. But at the same time, this is basic new knowledge that can serve as a basis for experimental studies of infection pathways and the bioactive substances involved,” he added.
In a healthy fly population, it is estimated only 3 to 5 percent of flies get infected, and currently, only 2 species of Danish fly species – Coenosia tigrina and Coenosia testacea are known to get infected by these fungi.
Another such insect whom a parasitic fungus turns into a zombie is an ant. The ‘Ophiocordyceps unilateralis’ fungus takes over a foraging ant and controls its mind for self-propagation and dispersal. The fungus infects the ant by penetrating its exoskeleton through spores. As the fungus infections advance it compelled the ant to leave its nest and go to a humid place where the fungus can easily thrive. Later the ant sinks its jaws into a leaf vein and waits for its death till then the fungus feeds on its body.
The fungus makes the insect zombie so that it can successfully survive and reproduce.