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Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is a parasitoidal fungus that alters the behavior of the infected.

Source: Wiki page.

How is the fungus able to alter the behavior of the infected to such specfic commands?
Does the fungus tap into the electrical signals of the brain directly or does it release some kind of hormone to alter the behavior?

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Cool side note from the wiki page: "O. unilateralis has been known to destroy entire ant colonies. In response, ants have evolved the ability to sense that a member of the colony is infected; healthy ants will carry the dying one far away from the colony in order to avoid fungal spore exposure." –  user1897 Mar 14 '13 at 10:54

1 Answer 1

The fungus releases toxins, but how exactly this alters behavior is unclear.

You can read more here. Pathogen manipulation of host behavior appears to have evolved a long time ago, and cordyceps is not the only pathogen that acts like this.

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yup - its more likely to be mediated entirely by biochemical/chemical signals in the ant's body, possibly targeted to the brain, but possibly not. this is one of the most interesting questions in biology today that is not cracked. Anyone read "Parasite Rex?" –  shigeta Apr 17 '13 at 20:42

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