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When: 2014-02-10

Collection location: Coconut Creek, Florida, USA [Click for map]

Who: Kenneth E. Barnett (NaturalistGuy)

No specimen available

First time for me, and there were FOUR infected ants on the SAME Tillandsia! And I even think, two species of ant. I assume the wet/hot winter here in S. Florida has increased the incidence of this endoparasite?

Species Lists


Summit Disease Infection in an Ant

Proposed Names

31% (2)
Recognized by sight

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= Observer’s choice
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Brief on ID’d Characteristics/Differences> Questions! :)
By: Colbie (cjreed)
2014-09-02 21:05:53 CDT (-0400)

Hello! My name is Colbie Reed and I work under Dr. Hughes at Penn State University. We work with Ophiocordyceps unilateralis in, both, the lab and field setting. We were interested in trying to find out all of the places that this phenomenon is popping up. I am originally from Florida and, until working here, I had never seen this phenomenon. It’s absolutely amazing! We’ve started hearing from people in a few unexpected places that they’ve stumbled onto some zombie ant graveyards and I, personally, am super excited to find out Florida has its own collection of O. unilateralis! Regarding the multiple ants that appeared to be of two separate species, did it seem that they were hosts of fruiting bodies with the same phenotypical characteristics?? It’s incredibly fascinating that there was an entire “graveyard” on one plant and, additionally, that the plant was a Tillandsia. We’ve been observing most often that, at least in the strains that our lab works with, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis’s extended phenotype typically sends its hosts to more “fleshy” vegetation (deciduous saplings, etc.), as it is most often that the death grip seems to occur on the underside of the leaves, mandibles locked around the leaf’s center vein. The fact that these hosts were sent to what seems to me like a very unfavorable perch is incredibly interesting! Were they only located on these types of plants (this particular [likely, new] O. unilateralis)??? Please, let me know if you would like to correspond about this! My lab would be dying to hear/see/learn all about this! :)

I collected four specimens and I believe
By: Kenneth E. Barnett (NaturalistGuy)
2014-02-10 14:51:21 CST (-0500)

someone is interested in this at the U of FLA, but not sure yet. If someone IN THIS GROUP would like to key this to species- I would be very happy to also share. Also- it appears to me, at this time- that of the four ants infected on one Tillandsia, there were TWO SPECIES of ant. Not just a worker/soldier situation IMHO. But we’ll see. I have to do more photography.

Also, it is useful to note that this winter in S. Fla. has been unusually wet and hot, which probably helped this pathogenic fungi boom. HOW four ants all made it to the same, tiny bromeliad, is beyond me. WILD.

By: Byrain
2014-02-10 14:38:33 CST (-0500)

Did you happen to collect any specimens? I’m sure someone here would be interested in working on this, also can you please update this observation if & when bugguide identifies the ants? :)