Scientists discover two new species of fungi that dope its host flies

Scientists have discovered two new species of fungi that infect flies, creating a hole in their abdomen and then ejecting spores out of the flies. According to researchers at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Denmark, both species of fungi were discovered in the Capital Region of Denmark, with Strongwellsea tigrinae, being found in Jægerspris and Strongwellsea acerosa, on Amager. These two fungi infect two Danish fly species — Coenosia tigrina and Coenosia testacea.

The research findings have been published in the Journal of Invertebrate Pathology.

 Scientists discover two new species of fungi that dope its host flies

The fly species Coenosia tigrina with two large holes in the abdomen. The holes are an effect of infection with the fungus Strongwellsea tigrinae. The infective spores are discharged through these holes. Image credit: University of Copenhagen

After infecting the host bodies, the flies buzz around for days as fungal spores are released into the air from the holes and drift onto new victims. The fungi find nourishment from within the rear segment of the bodies of the flies right up to the end. Following a few days of the infection, the flies lie on their back and keep on having spasms till they die.

Speaking about the discovery, Professor Jørgen Eilenberg of the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences stated that it is an exciting and bizarre aspect of biodiversity that they have discovered, adding, that this is basic new knowledge that can serve as the basis for experimental studies of infection pathways.

As per study authors, the ability of the fungi to keep flies fresh enough to buzz around for days while being eaten from within has raised speculation among researchers that the fungi may be producing substances that dope their hosts. Researchers are of the opinion that the fungi may be producing amphetamine-like substances which keep the fly’s energy level high up till the end, and at the same time, the fungi could also be producing substances which keep microorganisms away from the fly’s fungal would. According to Eilenberg, these discoveries could pave the way for research facilitating the use of these substances in medicine.

According to researchers, these two species of flies which showcase the fungal infection live by predating other flies.