Fungus-Insect Interaction: Pathogenic fungus emerging from a root-maggot fly

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Root-maggot fly (Diptera: Anthomyiidae) infested with the fungus Entomophthora muscae. Photographed 05/25/2013 near Palmyra, Michigan.

At first glance it looks like this root-maggot fly (Diptera: Anthomyiidae) was getting fat and happy filling itself with the sweet juices of this young blackgum tree (Nyssa sylvatica, Cornaceae). It was actually getting fat and unhappy as the unfortunate victim of a fatal pathogenic fungus (Entomophthorales: Entomophthoraceae: Entomophthora muscae).

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Root-maggot fly (Diptera: Anthomyiidae) infested with the fungus Entomophthora muscae. Photographed 05/25/2013 near Palmyra, Michigan.

Spores of this fungus can invade flies from a variety of families. The fungus grows internally and ultimately erupts from the abdomen of the insect. Near the end of the infection the fly is driven to crawl to a high point, grasp the surface with its mouth, extend its legs and wings, and finally die. As the fungus bursts outward it releases countless spores that may in turn infect new flies. Fungal activity is highest in the spring and autumn when flies are active and conditions are cool and moist for the fungus to survive in the environment.

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Ecology, Entomology, Fungi, Organism Interactions and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Fungus-Insect Interaction: Pathogenic fungus emerging from a root-maggot fly

  1. Mike Powell says:

    Your posting is both utterly fascinating and utterly disgusting. Your shots are simply amazing.

    Like

  2. Wildlife TV says:

    A great article, I’m fascinated by fungus; they often seem to form curiously intricate relationships with other organisms, it’s just a shame that those organisms often don’t get a good deal!
    -Nick

    Like

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