Entomologists have discovered a fungus that turns flies into necrophiles

(ORDO NEWS) — A fungus that infects house flies releases substances that cause males to mate with the corpses of infected females, researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and the University of Copenhagen found. They told about this in an article in the ISME Journal.

The fly entomophora fungus infects house flies, entering the body through the oral cavity and being transmitted to other flies through touching an infected corpse.

As a more detailed study of the mechanisms of infection showed, touching alone is not enough: infecting females, the fungus after their death leads to the release of sexviterpene compounds that attract males and force them to mate with corpses.

Moreover, over time, the concentration of sexviterpenes increases: in experiments, 73% of males preferred to mate with infected females who died 25-30 hours ago. Fresh corpses attracted the attention of a much smaller proportion of males.

“Chemical signals act like pheromones that attract male flies and make them incredibly eager to mate with the lifeless corpses of females,” explained environmentalist Henrik de Fine Licht, one of the study’s authors.

Scientists expect that understanding the mechanisms by which the fungus infects and kills flies will allow developing new ways to control their populations – flies carry a large number of infections, and reducing the number of insects will also affect the risks of spreading pathogens.

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