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Scientists have a & # 39; zombie fungus gun & # 39; built to find out exactly how a bizarre fungus spreads by turning the corpses of dead flies into infectious launch platforms

Scientists built a zombie mold cannon to show how spores are spread to a new host

  • Entomophthora muscae digests flies inside out and even takes over their brains
  • They then grow cannons on the corpse of their hosts to spread their spores
  • The exact mechanism by which these guns can shoot was unclear
  • Experts used a home-made gun to show how efficient the fungus guns are
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Scientists have a & # 39; zombie fungus gun & # 39; built to find out exactly how a bizarre fungus is spreading by turning the corpses of dead flies into infectious launch platforms.

Entomophthora muscae infects house flies, penetrates their skin, grows through their bodies, digest their intestines and kills them in five – seven days.

Along the way, the fungi can even hijack the insects' brains – causing them to land on a surface and crawl up to give the parasite a better chance of spreading.

When the fly is dead, the fungi grow on the corpse a series of microformed stems, each a pressurized cannon with a spore that can be ejected.

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Unhappy male flies are attracted to female zombies from & # 39; zombies & # 39; – and if they accidentally activate the guns, they are covered with a spray of infectious traces.

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Scientists have a & # 39; zombie fungus gun & # 39; built to find out exactly how a bizarre fungus spreads by turning the corpses of dead flies into infectious launch platforms

Scientists have a & # 39; zombie fungus gun & # 39; built to find out exactly how a bizarre fungus spreads by turning the corpses of dead flies into infectious launch platforms

HOW DOES E. MUSCAE USE HOUSE FLIES?

Entomophthora muscae infect house flies and invade their skin.

It grows through the bodies of the flies, digesting their intestines and killing them in five to seven days.

The fungi can even hijack the insect's brain – causing them to land on a surface and crawl up to give the parasite a better chance of spreading.

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On the flying corpse, the fungi grow a series of small spore cannons to infect other flies that come close.

To investigate exactly how these fungal guns work, physicist Jolet de Ruiter from the Technical University of Denmark and colleagues created a similar weapon of their own in their laboratory.

The researchers' gun consisted of a millimeter-size barrel made of a rubbery polymer, filled with liquid and clogged with a projectile at the end.

By carefully controlling the pressure in the cannon during the ejection of the tea, the efficiency of the spreading weapon could be studied.

They measured this in relation to the size and shape of the barrel, as well as the elasticity of the sides of the cannon.

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From this the researchers were able to demonstrate that the real fungal guns are well configured to traverse the silent air around a flying corpse.

From here they reach the air currents created by the target and can infect a new host.

& # 39; The calculated flight trajectories under aerodynamic resistance predict that the minimum trace size needed to traverse a resting layer of a few millimeters around the cadaver is about 10 micrometers, & # 39 ;, the researchers wrote in their paper.

& # 39; This corresponds to the natural size (of) E. muscae (spores) – about 27 microns – that is large enough to cross the boundary layer. & # 39;

To investigate exactly how these fungal guns work (left), researchers created a similar weapon of their own in their laboratory (right)

To investigate exactly how these fungal guns work (left), researchers created a similar weapon of their own in their laboratory (right)

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To investigate exactly how these fungal guns work (left), researchers from the Technical University of Denmark created a similar weapon of their own in their laboratory (right)

The traces, she added, are still & # 39; small enough – less than 40 microns – to be lifted by air currents, & # 39; the researchers continued.

& # 39; Based on this insight, we show how the fungal spores can reach a new host. & # 39;

The full findings of the study were published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

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