Welcome to my blog

This is where I post various musings about wildlife and ecology, observations of interesting species (often invertebrates)
and bits of research that grab my attention. As well as blogging, I undertake professional ecological & wildlife surveys
covering invertebrates, plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians and some mammals, plus habitat assessment and management
. I don't work on planning applications/for developers. The pages on the right will tell you more about my work,
main interests and key projects, and you can follow my academic work here.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Insect slaves in a fungal nation II

I've written about the fly-killing fungus Entomophthora muscae before, way back near the start of the Ecology Spot. In that post I covered the behavioural changes it causes, and a bit about how the fungus does this (or rather, how little we understand this). I don't want to repeat it here (it's all in the original post), but when I found another yellow dung-fly (Scatophaga stercoraria) infected with E. muscae, (well, certainly this fungal genus, and E. muscae is by far the most likely) this time in our garden, I felt an update was in order.

A dead yellow dung-fly Scatophaga stercoraria infected by Entomophthora muscae. Note the typical posture adopted shortly prior to death - head down, abdomen up, wings spread - this maximises the spread of fungal spores.
With the Harvard research programme (looking at how the fungus infects hosts and changes behaviour) having closed, it does not seem that this thread is being actively pursued at present (if this isn't the case, please do let me know and I'll update this post). There has however been recent work looking at the evolutionary history of the fungus (e.g. Gryganskyi et al. 2013) and taxonomic research by Humber (2012) raises the group to full phylum status.

More on this fascinating, if often overlooked, fungus undoubtedly to come...


Gryganskyi, A.P., Humber, R.A., Smith, M.E., Hodge, K., Huang, B., Voigt, K. & Vilgalys, R. (2013). Phylogenetic lineages in Entomophthoromycota. Persoonia 30: 94 -105.

Humber, R.A. (2012). Entomophthoromycota: a new phylum and reclassification for entomophthoroid fungi. Mycotaxon 120: 477-492.

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