relics and artifacts from the Lower Jurassic with an emphasis on those that
demonstrate unusual or curious technological qualities. On the other hand the Museum
serves the general public by providing the visitor a hands-on experience of "life in the
The Museum of Jurassic Technology traces its origins to this period when many of the
important collections of today were beginning to take form. Many exhibits which we
today have come to know as part of the Museum were, in fact, formally part of other
less well known collections and were subsequently consolidated into the single
collection which we have come to know as The Museum of Jurassic Technology and
thus configured, received great public acclaim as well as much discussion in scholastic
ant’s brain. The fungus then produces chemicals which act on the host’s brain and
alter its perception of pheromones. This causes the ant to climb a plant and, upon
reaching the top, to clamp its mandibles around a leaf or leaf stem, thus securing it
firmly to what will be its final resting place.
The fungus then devours the ant’s brain, killing the host. The fruiting bodies of the
fungus sprout from the ant’s head, through gaps in the joints of the exoskeleton. Once
mature, the fruiting bodies burst, releasing clusters of capsules into the air. These in
turn explode on their descent, spreading airborne spores over the surrounding area.
These spores then infect other ants, completing the life cycle of the fungus. Depending
on the type of fungus and the number of infecting spores, death of an infected insect
takes between 4-10 days.
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|1. Megolaponera Foetens, or the Stink Ant of the Cameroon
2. A fungus that is growing out of the ant's head.
3. The Museum of Jurassic Art, 9341 Venice Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90232
It's true - believe it or not!
|Answer to Quiz #171 - August 9, 2008
|This is an unusual insect from West Central Africa.
1. What is its name?
2. What is that thing coming out of its back?
3. Where would you find an exhibit in the U.S. describing the insect?
Your opinion: Do you believe the story about the insect's unusual death?
plant with its mandibles. Thus affixed, the ant waits to die. Ants that have met their
ends in this fashion are quite common in some sections of the forest.
The fungus continues to consume first the nerve cells and finally all the soft tissue that
remains of the ant. After approximately two weeks a spike appears from what had been
the head of the ant. This spike is about an inch and a half in length and has a bright
orange tip heavy with spores which rain down onto the rain forest floor for other
unsuspecting ants to inhale.
|How Eric Solved the Puzzle
|The Museum of Jurassic Technology
9341 Venice Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90232
The carpenter ant in the picture on the right (genus
Campanotus), and the bullet ant in the first film clip linked
below (Paraponera clavata), have fallen victim to parasitic
fungi of the genus Cordyceps, which manipulate the
behaviour of their host in order to increase their own
chances of reproducing.
The spores of the fungus attach themselves to the external
surface of the ant, where they germinate. They then enter
the ant’s body through the tracheae (the tubes through
which insects breathe), via holes in the exoskeleton called
spiracles. Fine fungal filaments called mycelia then start to
grow inside the ant’s body cavity, absorbing the host’s
soft tissues but avoiding its vital organs.
When the fungus is ready to sporate; the mycelia into the
|Get your own
Megolaponera Foetens T-shirt
The carpenter ant in the first photograph
above has been infected by Cordyceps
unilateralis, which is but one of thousands of
species of entomopathogenic fungi, more than
400 of which belong to the Cordyceps genus.
Between them, these parasitic fungi infect at
least nine different orders of arthropods,
including the Odonata (dragonflies and
damselflies), Blattaria (cockroaches),
Hemiptera (aphids, cicadas and leafhoppers),
|Click on thumbnail to see
video of gordian worm
emerging from a cricket.
Coleoptera (beetles), Phasmida (stick insects), Hymenoptera (ants, bees and wasps),
and Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths). The host range of an individual species is,
however, restricted to one species or to a small number of closely related species.
Because they are considered as environmentally safe, natural mortality agents,
entomopathogenic fungi are used as biological pesticides to control pest species. For
example, Metarhizium anisopliae was first used over 100 years ago to try and control
the wheat grain beetle Anisoplia austriaca. More recently, researchers have investigated
the use of Metarhizium anisopliae, a species which infects the African mosquito
Anopheles gambiae, to control the spread of malaria.
Entomopathogenic fungi are not the only
parasites that can modify the behaviour of
their hosts. Equally remarkable is the
nematomorph hairworm Spinochordodes
tellinii, which is also known as the horsehair
worm or the gordian worm, because of its
resemblance to the knot created by the
Phrygian king Gorius. (According to myth,
Gordius used his knot to tie a chariot to a pole,
and declared that whoever could untie it would rule all of Asia.)
The juvenile gordian worm parasitizes land-living arthropods such as grasshopers,
locusts and beetles, but the adult is a free-living aquatic species which can only
reproduce in water. Inside the host, the microscopic larvae feed on surrounding tissue,
and develop into long worms which can reach up to 4 times the length of the host, and
which remain within the body cavity of the host as a long, coiled mass. After
metamorphosing, the adult worm induces its host to leave its terrestrial habitat, and to
commit suicide by jumping into water and drowning itself, so that the worm can
David Biron and his colleagues have
used proteomics to characterise the
proteins synthesized by the gordian
worm in order to determine how it
manipulates its host's behaviour.
They have established that the worm synthesizes proteins which mimic those produced
by the insect. These include proteins of the Wnt family, which are involved in the
development of the nervous system, as well as others which interfere with the
neurotransmitter systems involved in the host’s geotactic behaviour (its oriented
movements in relation to the Earth’s magnetic field).
Because the genes encoding these proteins are contained in the worm’s genome, but
have a direct effect on the insect’s central nervous system when they are expressed,
the relationship between the gordian worm and its host is an example of what Richard
Dawkins called the extended phenotype, whereby genes expressed by one organism
have an effect on the appearance or behaviour of another. (Entomopathogenic fungi and
their hosts are also an example of an extended phenotype.)
Incredibly, the gordian worm
can survive predation on its host.
Parasites use various strategies
to survive host predation. For
example, some develop quickly,
in order to emerge from the host
before it is preyed upon.
|Comments from Our Readers
|Sure I believe the story...I had a boss one time just like the ant-tiny brain; usually turned
into a weido after luck; and on some days, grew horns and a pointed tail...but unlike the
ant, this guy will live forever! Rick Mackinney
I believe the story, and it sounds terrible for the poor ants - and a horrible video to
boot? See link. I didn't like this one, I have to say - not into learning about how poor
creatures die; my imagination is bad enough. Beth Long
I’m sooooo grossed out!!!! Lydia Sittman
I think I have been had,
I smell a stink ant!!
I do believe it. I think Jurassic Technology's scientific names might be outdated or just
off. I couldn't find any credible info with them as starting points. MJT exhibit searches
do some spectacular looping. But I believe the BBC.
The Planet Earth series did time-lapse video. Clip and discussion at:
whole subject of parasites modifying behavior in a host is fascinating. Natural history
has plenty of nightmare material -- No need to shop anywhere else.
PS - Despite the BBC's wonderful April 1, 1957 film of the spaghetti harvest.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyUvNnmFtgI. Rex Cornelius
Ever since reading this, I've longed to see a video of the fungus at work on an ant.
Thanks to YouTube, my wish has been granted. It's from the BBC's "Planet Earth"
series, by the esteemed and beloved David Attenborough. Anna Farris
The video is just unbelievable - even as I watched it I couldn't believe what I was
seeing! Awesome filming for sure!! I never knew anything like this existed!
My opinion about the insect's unusual death: Of course it must be true, there is a video
of it on YouTube: http://laughingbone.blogspot.com/2007/08/mind-parasites-creature-
appears.html. Everyone knows that only true things are shown on YouTube! Or, I
could have a parasite in my head, too... Karen Kay Bunting
How am I supposed to sleep after seeing that poor disturbed creature die such an awful
death. It is like something out of a Stephen King novel... I remember all of those old
videos they used to show us in school about germs where they actually zoom in on
your eyebrows and skin and such and show the creatures that live there. You leave the
room and you are sure that your skin is crawling!! It is the nastiest feeling. Who
wants to be reminded of the nasty creatures that we have living on our bodies?
Beneficial or not, it is just plain nasty and better left unknown.
Karen Kay Bunting (Again)
Weird doesn't cut it! God surely had quite the imagination when designing some of the
crazy looking insects and animals (humans included!!) that are in nature. You know I
joked with you about not being able to sleep after this quiz and seeing the videos that
went along with the picture and about the nasty movies they used to make us watch in
school about the germs and "beneficial" bacteria that live on our bodies. Then, just the
other night after having done this quiz, one of the news shows aired an episode about
this man who had HPV and because of also having a very low immunity, the warts on
his body had literally grown out of control. The others in his community called him the
Tree Man because he literally looked like the bark of a tree and its roots because of
those warts growing so crazily. They had cut them off and they would grow back in
no time at all. It was the most bizarre looking thing. I felt such pity for the man.
Some other doctors also took pity on him and are trying to treat him. Talk about
weird! Well, I have officially had my fill of these creepy things for a while...
Karen Kay Bunting (x3)
I believe the story as there are plenty of web references to the Cordyceps fungus
causing this phenomenon in ants and other species of insects. One could go nuts trying
to sort out all the ants in the world. This is a memorable quiz in that it leads off in so
many interesting directions. It even has a t-shirt for those who want to celebrate a
correct solution www.threadless.com/submission/48470/Megolaponera_Foetens.
I don't know that I can believe every last detail of the stink ant vs. fungus spores;
however, www.snopes.com does not indicate that this is an urban legend, but, this
does have a tinge of science fiction. But, isn't it typically the case where truth is
stranger than fiction? It's a crazy world, and we've seen the pictures to prove it!
Do I believe in its unusual death? Why not?--I'd never seen an ant with a fungus
protruding from its brain before, so I guess it's not that much of a stretch. The fact
that it has a cry audible to human ears is disturbing in a way I can't even begin to
explain . . . yuck! :-) Merry Gordon
Opinion: Having seen video in the Planet Earth series of the unusual death of these ants
I do believe the story. It is very good footage... and rather creepy - akin to zombies in
my opinion. Brian Kemp
Mmm, interesting, at this point I believe it's a hoax, but I'm still looking around and I
find some similar situations that I do not know that are facts or again speculations, I'll
continue searching. Claudio Trapote
My Opinion: Yes. It's analogous to abnormal behavior in humans and/or animals who
have a brain tumor. There simply isn't enough room for any extra growths in either
case! Caroline Pointer
Not knowing a thing about insects, I don't have any reason to doubt the explanation of
fungus infecting and killing the ant. Sounds okay to me. Sandy Thompson
Yes I do, but what a way to go. Just remember there are brain diseases which affect us
also such as Alzheimers which claimed my mother 5 weeks ago. Alan Cullinan
Opinion: Yes. However, some other exhibits in the museum, don't convert all to the
"seeing is believing" status. Stan Read
Opinion: it's a beastly way to die, but there are many parasitic species in the world: I
believe it. It looks too much like how one of my migraines would feel.
I do believe the 'story'. Parasitic fungi are well known. You can even see a
video of one on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCOQ0VU24xw.
Do I believe this story? Yes.I am sure stranger things have happened in the tropical rain
forest. Dan Schlesinger
DYK? The combined weight of the earth's ants outweighs that of humans. From a
London news source called The Independent, that was certainly the most interesting
information I found during my search. Also, a pretty cool illustrated guide to the
"Many Faces of West African Ants" can be found at www.antbase.org/ants/africa/summary2.
While I'm not sure how credible the "Museum" is, I do believe in the power of fungus.
I read somewhere that fungus seems to choose a host group depending on how prolific
that group is. Lynden Cline
It's a great story. If it's not true, it should be. Lois Carr
Yes...(but almost sounds like science fiction). I have seen videos of the cordyceps "in
action". Very Creepy! Carl Blessing
Fascinating! Randy Seaver
|More about African Ants
Grasshoppers and crickets are preyed upon by fish and frogs; the gordian worm can
escape this predation by wriggling out of the mouth, nose or gills of the predator once it
has emerged from a host that has been eaten.
The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles,
California is an educational institution dedicated to the
advancement of knowledge and the public appreciation
of the Lower Jurassic.
Like a coat of two colors, the Museum serves dual
functions. On the one hand the Museum provides the
academic community with a specialized repository of
Donald R. Griffith
Deprong Mori of the
The Museum, however, not content to rest on its laurels, kept pace with the changes in
sensibility over the years. Except for the periods of the great wars in this century
(when twice portions of the collection were nearly lost) the Museum engaged in a
program of controlled expansion. Walking through the Museum, the visitor experiences,
as it were, a walk back in time. The first exhibits encountered are the contemporary
displays and reaching the far end of the Museum, the visitor is surrounded by the
Although the path has not always been smooth, over the years The Museum of Jurassic
Technology has adapted and evolved until today it stands in a unique position among the
institutions in the country. Still even today, the Museum preserves something of the
flavor of its roots in the early days of the natural history museum - a flavor which has
been described as "incongruity born of the overzealous spirit in the face of
"Glory to Him, who endureth forever, and in whose hands are the keys of unlimited
Pardon and unending Punishment."
|Congratulations to Our Winners!
Brian Kemp Carolyn Cornelius
Rex Cornelius Karen Kay Bunting
Anna Farris Judy Pfaff
Stan Read Fred Stuart
Karl Bossard Beth Long
Kelly Fetherlin Carolyn Pointer
Dan Schlesinger Lynden Cline
Betth Chambers Debbie Sterbinsky
Lydia Sittman Eric Goforth
Gary Sterne Claudio Trapote
Sandy Thompson Merry Gordon
Rick Mackinney Allan Culllinan
Rick Norman Audrey Speelman
Our planet's rain forests—rich matrices of life which exist primarily
in tropical regions—provide us with unique opportunity to observe
life in all of its manifold and perplexing beauty. Most rain forests date
back some two to three hundred million years. This extreme age has
allowed many unusual and complex relationships to develop among
the inhabitants of these tropical ecosystems.
In the rain forest of the Cameroon in West Central Africa lives a floor
dwelling ant known as Megaloponera foetens, or more commonly,
the stink ant. This large ant—one of the very few to produce a cry audible to the
human ear—lives by foraging for food among the fallen leaves and undergrowth of the
extraordinarily rich rain forest floor.
On occasion one of these ants, while looking for food is infected by inhaling a
microscopic spore from a fungus of the genus Tomentella. After being inhaled, the
spore seats in the ant's tiny brain and begins to grow, causing changes in the ant's
patterns of behavior. The ant appears troubled and confused; for the first time in its life
the ant leaves the forest floor and begins to climb.
Driven on by the growth of the fungus, the ant embarks
on a long and exhaustive climb. Completely spent and
having reached a prescribed height, the ant impales the
|The World is Bound
With Secret Knots
The Life and Works of
|Click on thumbnail to go to exhibit website.
|Mr. Wilson's Cabinet
Of Wonder: Pronged
Ants, Horned Humans,
Mice on Toast, and
Other Marvels of
|Click on thumbnail to see
video of gordian worm
emerging from a frog.
|Click on thumbnail to see
video of gordian worm
emerging from a cricket.
|To see animation of
|Horn of Mary Davis