Big Fleas Have Little Fleas

Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em, And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.

Many of you know about “Zombie Ants” — ants whose bodies and brains are taken over by a Cordyceps fungus. See, for example: Zimmer, “The Zombie Ant Staggers Up a Tree. Then It Explodes.” New York Times (Oct. 24, 2019); Attack of the Killer Fungi (from BBC Planet Earth).

Scientists have now confirmed that the zombie-ant fungi Ophiocordyceps can itself be parasitized by a fungus. In fact, scientists have discovered and described two new genera of fungi that parasitize Orphiocordyceps: Niveomyces and Torrubiellomyces.

The accompanying photo shows a carpenter ant parasitized by an Orphiocordyceps fungus (the long branches sticking out of the ant’s body), which itself is parasitized by a Niveomyces fungus (the fuzzy white stuff covering the Orphiocordyceps. For more information, you can read Araújo JPM, Lebert BM, Vermeulen S, et al. 2022. “Masters of the manipulator: two new hypocrealean general, Niveomyces (Cordycipitaceae) and Torrubiellomyces (Ophiocordycipitaceae), parasitic on the zombie ant fungus Ophiocordyceps camponoti-floridani”. Persoonia 49: 171–194.