Strange and amazing Parasite that convert ants into ripe red berries to attract hungry birds: Myrmeconema neotropicum

If parasite convert you into ripe red berries without your permission and expose you in front of hungry bird without your will then what will happen? The bird will consume you. This seems like horrible dream but don’t worry this parasite only attack on ant known as Cephalotes atratus and transform them into tasty ripe berries and modify their body structure like berries that resembles with local berries of the forest which bird like so much as food. Myrmeconema neotropicum is a parasite which reconstructs ants into berries to entice birds to complete the life cycle.

Myrmeconema neotropicum_berries_ants
This parasite infects and induces fruit mimicry in the South American ant having black abdomen. Infected ants abdominal become bright red like berries and ant start showing it to birds by moving slowly .Fruit eater birds’ get confused by this berries mimicry and eat them.

Parasite lays eggs into bird’s body and these eggs passed in the bird’s feces that later collected by foraging Cephalotes atratus ant. Parasite life cycle completes when ant fed these feces to their larva.

Male parasite is smaller than females and their length is 680 μm and diameter 97 μm whereas female length is 1000 μm and maximum width up to 112 μm. Female parasite is almost double from male. The adult parasite mate within the gaster of the ant pupa. The male parasite dies and eggs flourish within the female parasite as the ant becomes an adult.

With time parasite embryo develop in egg and makes ants abdominal bright as red with changing ant natural behavior. Ant that spend more time in brooding within the nest now spends more time in foraging outside the nest after infection. This behavior change of ant increase the probability of consumption of ant by bird that like fruit.
Most of the birds not consume ants because they have very low nutrient value and taste terrible but in this case they are forced to eat ants.