For the first time, a parasitic fungus has been spotted that manipulates the brains of fruit flies before they die, and might allow biologists to work out how they do it
There’s no need to travel to exotic rainforests to find mind-warping parasites. They are probably lurking in your own backyard.
That, at least, is where Carolyn Elya found a “zombie fungus” that takes control of fruit flies. She took it back to her lab, where she managed to get it growing in lab fruit flies. “It was incredibly lucky,” she says.
So-called parasitic fungi are well-known in the insect world. They usually infect their host, before controlling its behaviour to give it the best chance of spreading to more victims.
Seeing a similar fungus attacking fruit flies should help us learn more about how they operate. Because so much is known about fruit flies, as they are one of the standard animal “models” studied