Thursday, September 17, 2009

Screensnaps #1

Thanks to the advent of 1080p I have invented a sad new hobby for myself: television photography. Once I realised that I could capture and manipulate some eye-catching stills from my HD programmes there was no stopping me..and so a new regular series is born.

This little fellow turned up in the BBC's exciting new adventure-science series The Land of the Lost Volcano, set in Papua New Guinea.

The format is not dissimilar to last year's Oceans in which a group of telegenic specialists led by a more seasoned chief scientist are sent off to the frontier of human knowledge, living together in a manner oddly reminiscent of reality TV...though thankfully the team-members assembled here are less obviously twattish than their marine equivalents.

Most of them are there to collect images and specimens and to generally push the cause of conservation, but this particular group also has a designated 'adventurer' whose mad larks are interspersed through the more earnest (and equable) footage of stick insects, perhaps so the director can justify the constant palpitations of his soundtrack.

Anyway, back to the ant. Jungle ants tend to be agriculturalists, growing fungae for food deep within their colonial homes. In this instance however the fungus has turned the tables on the farmer-critters. It grows from inside the body of the insect, somehow taking over its motor controls so that the possessed ant has no choice but to climb up certain types of forest flora and deposit itself on the underside of a leaf. There it will die as the fungus expands and grows the stalk you can see in the snap above. This will eventually disperse spores which will appropriate yet more ants for this fungal reproduction system.

Update: Thanks to Scott for sending me this video which explains the process in greater detail.

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