Written by and Photos Courtesy of Benjamin Maples
This summer I joined an eight week expedition to Indonesia with Operation Wallacea. While I spent some of my time joining the ‘usual’ monitoring surveys, I also devoted as much time as possible investigating the fascinating and poorly-studied invertebrates found in the area. I was incessantly looking for, and taking pictures of, as many insects and other strange creatures as I could on the islands of Kabaena, Buton and Hoga – in total I took about 2800 photos on my trip.
During my explorations, I found something that has piqued the interest of the Opwall forest staff: Endoparasitoid fungi of arthropods which alter the host animal’s behaviour to make it climb and cling to a higher position, then kill the host and sprout fruiting bodies. Perhaps the most well-known example of this is the genus Cordyceps – David Attenborough narrated a well-known documentary involving them (which can be found on Youtube) – but there are other such genera, and I am no mycologist; I cannot identify them (though I bet some of them were Cordyceps). They are interesting, though; according to Tom Martin (Opwall Indonesia’s Lead Scientist), fungi with this peculiar lifestyle had not previously been recorded on these small islands. At his request, I show them off here.
I found another instance of endoparasitoid fungus on Buton, an orange one spiking out of its indecipherable host, but I neglected to take a photo since it was on one of our transects, and we tended to hurry along faster than my usual stop-and-stare-at-everything pace.
I was able to watch the growth of a Cordyceps in action. On 6 July, alongside the river next to our forest camp in northwest Buton, I found this:
Those are all I found of this phenomenon. I did not find any endoparasitoid fungi on Hoga island, but that does not preclude the possibility of them being found there in future investigations. I was not going out into the forest there every day, after all.
If any readers are interested in my other observations, a collection of my photos and their associated details can be found here:
I am now in the long process of uploading thousands of photos one-by-one, so not all of my pictures are there yet.