3D visualization and deep-learning reveal complex parasite networks in behaviorally manipulated ants

Maridel A. Fredericksena, Yizhe Zhangb, Missy L. Hazenc, Raquel G. Loretoa,d, Colleen A. Mangoldd,e, Danny Z. Chenb, and David P. Hughes, Department of Entomology, Pennsylvania State University

Microbial parasites may behave collectively to manipulate their host’s behavior. We examine adaptations of a microbial parasite in its natural environment: the body of its coevolved and manipulated host.

Electron microscopy and 3D reconstructions of host and parasite tissues reveal that this fungus invades muscle fibers throughout the ant’s body but leaves the brain intact, and that the fungal cells connect to form extensive networks.