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Parasite Makes Ants Resemble Berries

Ant infected with a parasiteFruit pickers beware. That red berry might actually be an infested ant's rear end.

Scientists have discovered a parasite in the tropical forests of Central and South America that makes its ant hosts look like juicy, red berries ripe for the picking.

Presumably the change in appearance tricks foraging birds into eating the otherwise unappetizing ants—parasites and all. The parasites travel through the birds' guts intact and are pooped out, which allows them to spread.

"These ants, in nature, go out and collect bird feces," explained Steve Yanoviak, an insect ecologist at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock.

The finding is the first known example of fruit mimicry caused by a parasite

More pictures after the jump.

Image Gallery: national Geographic
Source: National Geographic
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