Thank you to San of the UBC Botanical Garden Forums for sharing today’s photograph and entertaining write-up with us (original thread posted here). San also authors a weblog, Hort Log — Horticulture in the Far East; it contains many fascinating posts about both horticulture and nature in Singapore.
Death at Calamus Avenue
A gruesome murder along the jungle trail…
Synopsis of crime: The accused is a species of Cordyceps, a parasitic fungus that had infected a Euglossa bee some days/weeks back. Slowly, its mycelial filaments had spread into the internal organs and sucked the bee dry. But the depleted zombie bee must complete one last act before it was allowed to rest in peace. By not ingesting the vital muscles for movement and manipulating the nervous system of its host, the fungus drove the bee to stagger towards the direction of bright light, in this case an elevated stem of a rattan (Calamus sp.), before pulling the final trigger, destroying the brain and locking its host eternally in a characteristic rigor mortis with limbs and wings outstretched. Its fruiting bodies then sprout from the cadaver as shown in the photo, and are unhindered and free to release the spores at a high and exposed location to cause greatest distribution of its progeny.
Verdict: Guilty of murder and body snatching.
Daniel adds: According to Wikipedia, approximately four hundred species of Cordyceps have been described, primarily from eastern Asia. All members of the genus are entomopathogenic, and some have been used as biological control agents.
For additional photographs of Cordyceps and related fungi, you can visit the Cordyceps site. And, for those of you who prefer video, the BBC has posted this clip from The Plant Earth: Cordyceps: attack of the killer fungi (sorry, can’t embed this one).