The ability to infect insects arose multiple times along the evolution of Fungi. However, none has shown such broad and sophisticated strategies to infect, persist and transmit spores than the so-called “Zombie-Ant Fungi”.
These fungi evolved the ability to make their hosts to leave the colony, climb up to a summit position on plant parts and bite onto the substrate. The infected ant remains attached by locking its mandibles into the plant tissue, which is often further reinforced by fungal structures. Few days after the host’s death, the fungus erupts from their bodies to grow structures that will shower spores on the forest floor, eventually infecting new workers that forage on the ground. They have also developed a broad range of morphologies, adapted likely in response to the host ecology and morphology. In this talk, I will present how these behavior manipulators arose and which strategies they have developed in order to thrive and spread through several species, becoming a diverse fungal group.
João Araújo is a mycologist specializing in systematics and evolutionary ecology of insect-associated fungi, particularly entomopathogenic fungi and their mycoparasites in the Neotropics and Amazonia. João’s research interest is related to insect-associated fungi. He is interested in taxonomy, systematics and evolutionary ecology. Currently, he is working on the diversity and evolution of Japanese, Amazonian and African entomopathogenic fungi. His typical approach is to combine fundamental taxonomic science with natural history, field work, evolutionary biology, microscopy and photography. João is also interested in Scientific Illustration and Science communication through the arts. He is Assistant Curator of Mycology, Institute of Systematic Botany at the New York Botanical Garden.
The lecture took place Friday, April 29, 2022, 7:00pm (Eastern Time)