Selections from the RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS scientific literature EV OL UTION Zombie ants trade leaves for twigs A fungus that turns infected ants into powerless ‘zombies’ has adapted to conditions in different locales by modifying its victims’ behaviour. After the fungus (Ophiocordyceps unilateralis) infects an ant, it commandeers the host’s nervous system. This forces the insect to march up a tree to grab a twig or leaf in its jaws. The ant dies quickly but remains locked in place. Eventually, the fungus bursts through the ant’s head, spreading fungal spores. David Hughes at Pennsylvania State University E COL OG Y in University Park and his colleagues examined zombie ant cadavers and images from Nimble reef shifts with sea change collections around the world, and recorded what the ants Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef, now laterally towards or away from the shore at rates were biting when they died. under threat from climate change, has survived of up to 1.5 metres a year. And, when the sea In tropical climates, where five environmental upheavals during the past level rose, the reef grew towards the surface at a trees do not shed their leaves, 30,000 years. rate of as much as 20 metres per 1,000 years. zombie ants were more likely Jody Webster at the University of Sydney, Rising water levels and thick sediment have to bite leaves than twigs. But Australia, and his colleagues drilled 34 cores from already caused portions of the reef to die and the reverse was true for ants in the sea bed near the reef, capturing information will continue to kill coral. But the new data temperate climates, meaning about coral and algal species going back suggest that, in the past, the Great Barrier Reef insects were likely to stay put 30 millennia. Data from a selection of the cores has reconstructed itself over timescales of tens as leaves dropped. reveal the reef ’s response to sea-level change. of thousands of years. Analysis of O. unilateralis As the reef chased the ideal depth, it grew Nature Geosci. 11, 426–432 (2018) DNA showed that varieties of the fungus that encourage twig-biting evolved goal by designing a bio- (Blaberus discoidalis). When — a type of aquatic snail — independently several times. inspired nerve system that the pressure sensors were collected in Japan, Hong Kong, Evolution http://doi.org/cqg7 communicates complex tactile activated, the cockroach’s Taiwan, Vietnam and Russia. (2018) information. A cluster of leg kicked, demonstrating On the basis of visible traits, pressure sensors is connected the system’s ability to control each of the individuals was BIOMA TERIALS to an electronic nerve network biological muscles. identified as belonging to one that transforms pressure Science 360, 998–1003 (2018) of three species considered Electronic nerve changes into voltage pulses, native to Japan: Gundlachia which are then integrated into CONSERV A TION BIOL OG Y japonica, Ferrissia nipponica drives insect kick currents. This mimics the and F. japonica, which is listed Genetics unmasks An artificial nerve can sense receptors, nerve fibres and by the Japanese government as pressure changes and activate synapses of biological nerves. endangered. imposter snails the muscles of a cockroach. In tests, the system could But an evolutionary tree Synthetic nerves that have distinguish between various Conservationists have got created by the researchers an animal’s sophisticated braille characters by detecting the wrong snail on their list, revealed that 54 of the 66 were sense of touch could advance the distinct current signatures according to a genetic analysis. genetically indistinguishable the capabilities of prosthetics. generated by each character. Takumi Saito at Tohoku from the limpet F. californica, a Tae-Woo Lee at Seoul National The team also attached the University in Sendai, Japan, and US native considered to be an University and his colleagues system to the nerve endings of his colleagues studied DNA invasive species elsewhere in took a step towards that the leg of a discoid cockroach from 66 freshwater limpets the world. The remaining 12 8 | N A T U R E | V O L 558 | 7 J U N E 2018 © 201 8 Mac m ill an Publi shers Li m it ed, part of Spri nger Nat ur e. A ll ri ghts r eser ved. MARCO BRIVIO/GETTY
Nature – Springer Journals
Published: May 29, 2018
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