|Photo by Nicolas Merky|
Wow - never heard of this fungus before reading this CNN piece: 'Himalayan Viagra' taking its toll on Nepal - CNN.com. The fungus infects caterpillars (larva of a ghost moth) in the Himalayas and kills them. And the fungal coated dead caterpillars are, alas, considered to have multiple uses in various traditional Chinese medicine practices. One of the uses is as an aphrodisiac and thus these have become known as "Himalayan viagra".
The fungus that does this is Ophiocordyceps sinensis - (it is an Ascomycota). Not a huge literature out there if you search just for this species name but thanks to Wikipedia I found out there are some synonyms so if you search Pubmed for all the names one gets 328 papers and 56 of these have free full text including a few that seem quite useful:
- Host insect species of Ophiocordyceps sinensis: a review.
- High diversity of the fungal community structure in naturally-occurring Ophiocordyceps sinensis.
- Genetic diversity of Ophiocordyceps sinensis, a medicinal fungus endemic to the Tibetan Plateau: implications for its evolution and conservation.
So - seems that what happens here is the fungus infects larva and then kills them and then a fruiting body grows out of the caterpillars head ... fun.
Snooping around led to some other news stories about this system including many that came out recently
- 'Himalayan Viagra' takes toll in Nepal
- A Caterpillar Fungus Is Nepal's El Dorado
- NEPAL: Caterpillar fungus harvest impacts environment
- A visit to the top of the world, where caterpillars are king
- No Blue Pill Please: Caterpillar Fungus Viagra In The Himalayas
- The Silliest Segments Cable News Used To Fill Time During 4th Of ...
- Tibetans to Attend Trade Fair with Russia
An older story from NPR:
Anyway - seems like this would be a fun organism for genome sequencing ...