Ant trapped in ancient amber with parasitic mushroom stuck in its butt

About 50 million years in the past, this ant received caught in tree resin that additionally preserved the parasitic fungus that was giving it a tough time.


George Poinar Jr./OSU

Stick with me right here. Scientists discovered an ant trapped in 50-million-year previous amber, but it surely wasn’t alone. It had a parasitic fungus that grew a mushroom out of its rectum. I do know this sounds gross, however I promise it is cool, scientifically talking.

The amber got here from the Baltic area of Europe and accommodates a carpenter ant. In an announcement on Wednesday, Oregon State University said the discovery is “the oldest identified specimen of a fungus parasitizing an ant, and the fossil additionally represents a brand new fungal genus and species.” 

Amber like this presents a reasonably literal window into the previous. The frozen second in time represents a really unhealthy day for the ant, but in addition for the fungus that wasn’t capable of proceed spreading. It was, nonetheless, a win for scientists.

Here is that closeup of the ant rectal mushroom that you just wished to see.


George Poinar Jr./OSU

OSU amber knowledgeable George Poinar Jr. is the lead creator of a study on the ant and fungus published in the journal Fungal Biology. Poinar is acquainted to amber followers for his analysis into every little thing from “mould pigs” to oddball bugs which have been trapped and preserved in fossilized tree resin.

The fungus bears a resemblance to identified fungus species that concentrate on ants, however the emergence of the mushroom from the butt relatively than the neck or head is a part of what led the researchers to declare it a brand new discovery. The research authors named the fungus “Allocordyceps baltica” in a nod to its geographic origin.

“That is the primary fossil file of a member of the Hypocreales order rising from the physique of an ant,” Poinar said. “And because the earliest fossil file of fungal parasitism of ants, it may be utilized in future research as a reference level concerning the origin of the fungus-ant affiliation.”  

You do not have to be a fungus or ant researcher to understand this fascinating view into insect historical past. It has a horror-story-like attraction, like Alien, however with an ant as an alternative of an individual. And a rectal mushroom as an alternative of a chest-bursting alien child. Shut sufficient.