From So Simple a Beginning. The Evolution of Behavioral Manipulation by Fungi.

D. P. Hughes, J. P.M. Araújo, R. G. Loreto, L. Quevillon, C. de Bekker, H. C. Evans

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

54 Scopus citations


Parasites can manipulate the behavior of their hosts in ways that increase either their direct fitness or transmission to new hosts. The Kingdom Fungi have evolved a diverse array of strategies to manipulate arthropod behavior resulting in some of the most complex and impressive examples of behavioral manipulation by parasites. Here we provide an overview of these different interactions and discuss them from an evolutionary perspective. We discuss parasite manipulation within the context of Niko Tinbergen's four questions (function, phylogeny, causation, and ontogeny) before detailing the proximate mechanisms by which fungi control arthropod behavior and the evolutionary pathways to such adaptations. We focus on some systems for which we have recently acquired new knowledge (such as the zombie ant fungus, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis s.l.), but a major goal is also to highlight how many interesting examples remain to be discovered and investigated. With this in mind, we also discuss likely examples of manipulated spiders that are largely unexplored ("zombie spiders"). Armed with advanced tools in evolutionary biology (from serial block face SEM to RNAseq) we can discover how the fungi, a group of microbes capable of coordinated activity, have evolved the ability to direct animal behavior. In short, we have the ability to understand how the organism without the brain controls the one with the brain. We hope such a goal, coupled with the knowledge that many diverse examples of control exist, will inspire other organismal biologists to study the complex adaptations that have arisen from "so simple a beginning.".

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGenetics and Molecular Biology of Entomopathogenic Fungi, 2016
EditorsRaymond J. St. Leger, Brian Lovett
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
Number of pages33
ISBN (Print)9780128046944
StatePublished - 2016

Publication series

NameAdvances in Genetics
ISSN (Print)0065-2660

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics


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