An agent-based model shows zombie ants exhibit search behavior

Natalie Imirzian, David P. Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Parasites can alter the behavior of animals. Such alterations could be a byproduct of infection or actively controlled and directed by the parasite. Ants infected with zombie ant fungi (Ophiocordyceps sp.) show behavioral changes culminating in the ant dying while biting into vegetation. To investigate the influence of the parasite on behavioral changes, we created an agent-based model that provides a prediction of how fungal infected ants move before death. The model shows how alterations in movement, such as an increased turning rate, within the normal range of ant behavior, can lead a host from the nest to the underside of a leaf. This demonstrates the simplicity in how such behavioral changes could evolve, as the fungal parasite could benefit from the natural behavior of the host, contesting a hypothesis of highly directed manipulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110789
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
StatePublished - Oct 7 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Applied Mathematics


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