“Berry Ant” Parasites

Some parasites manipulate the appearance and behavior of their hosts to facilitate transmission to subsequent hosts.  In 2008 we reported an amazing case of canopy ant (Cephalotes atratus) manipulation by a nematode parasite (Myrmeconema neotropicum), in which the parasite causes the ant to resemble ripe berries.  In collaboration with Dr. George Poinar, Jr. and others, we continue to study the mechanisms and consequences of this remarkable symbiotic relationship.