Parasites can alter the behavior of animals. Such alterations could be a byproduct of infection or actively controlled and directed by the parasite. Ants infected with zombie ant fungi (Ophiocordyceps sp.) show behavioral changes culminating in the ant dying while biting into vegetation. To investigate the influence of the parasite on behavioral changes, we created an agent-based model that provides a prediction of how fungal infected ants move before death. The model shows how alterations in movement, such as an increased turning rate, within the normal range of ant behavior, can lead a host from the nest to the underside of a leaf. This demonstrates the simplicity in how such behavioral changes could evolve, as the fungal parasite could benefit from the natural behavior of the host, contesting a hypothesis of highly directed manipulation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Statistics and Probability
- Modeling and Simulation
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Applied Mathematics