Just when Andrew and I decided once and for all that ants couldn’t get any more delicious looking, along comes a new parasitic roundworm that turns our whole world on its head! The newly discovered nematode enters the ants when they eat bird droppings and causes their abdomens to resemble ripe, tasty berries. This in turn draws the attention of birds who love both berries and ants. The birds eat the ants, crap out the parasites, and the whole thing starts over again. Now we know what Elton John was talking about in that song in the Lion King!
Seriously though take a look at the picture below from discovery.com
I want to garnish my raspberry mojito with that thing! Scientists are not quite sure how the parasite causes the color change. “We think the worms either sequester pigment compounds from the exoskeleton or they make the exoskeleton thinner — or maybe both,” said Dr. Weird Al Yanoviak of UC Berkeley in the aforementioned article.
But but-but-but-wait it gets worse! Lugging around a berry-flavored abdomen also causes the ants to be sluggish, which makes them even MORE likely to get eaten by birds. We see a delightful Pixar movie in the making here… but maybe that’s just us.
Special thanks to Nick Van Der Horst for bringing this to our attention!