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Photo#620584
Carpenter ant with Ophiocordyceps - Camponotus - female

Carpenter ant with Ophiocordyceps - Camponotus - Female
Belle Chasse - Tulane Hebert Center, Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, USA
March 14, 2012
Size: ~1cm
Sorry about the weird double image - I'm still figuring out this camera. It's a lot like my old one, but I was still figuring that one out when it was stolen.

I feel like this is not the same ant species that I typically find with killer mushrooms growing from their heads, but I don't know too much about ants and this may just be a different caste. Or something.

Here's an example of the ants I more commonly find with mushroom-heads (albeit in a different swamp, about 40 miles away on the other side of the Mississippi River):


Ophiocordyceps in Louisiana
Hi, the Picture of the "more commonly" found one is O. unilateralis infecting Camponotus castaneus and is apparently more common here in Lafayette too. The other on the black ant is also O. unilateralis but is in fact distinct on the molecular level and in its preferred death location. Though they do occasionally die among the same branches as the reds. The difference is the result of the separate niches exploited by the ants in order to share the same habitat while avoiding competition. The fungus in turn exploits the niche the ant holds thereby driving speciation in O. unilateralis. It is thought that each distinct species of Camponotus is host to a likewise distinctly 'personalized' strain of the fungus which is why the species O. unilateralis is actually an enormous species-complex whose diversity mirrors that of their host.

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