Vegetating Zombie Caterpillars!

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Sinister fungi from the Manchester Museum herbarium brought to you by Gina Alnatt

Biology Curator

Today I began choosing fungus specimens for part of a display for the upcoming gallery “Nature’s Library” at the Manchester Museum. The Herbarium houses a fairly large collection of fungus in the form of sheets, packeted and boxed specimens. A number of the boxed specimens are housed in the Materia Medica room along with herbs, gums and resins.

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Some of the most interesting specimens we found were boxed examples of the fungus Cordyceps. Cordyceps is a parasitic fungus that affects insects, and it does so in a way befitting a horror movie. At least a horror movie if you were an insect. Perhaps the most well known species of this fungus is Ophiocordyceps sinensis, also known as the Caterpillar Fungus. The caterpillars infected by this fungus are the larvae of the ghost moth genus Thatoides, which spend much of their life underground as larvae. They are prone to…

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