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    Rights: University of Waikato
    Published 14 April 2009, Updated 8 September 2015 Referencing Hub media

    This animation shows a caterpillar of the native Aoraia dinodes or Dumbletonius characterifer species of moths ingesting the reproductive spores of Ophiocordyceps robertsii – the vegetable caterpillar fungus. The caterpillar accidentally eats the spores when feeding on leaf litter on the forest floor.

    The fungus then feeds on the insides of the caterpillar, mummifying it and producing a sporangium through the dead caterpillar’s neck and releasing spores.

    The spores are not to scale – they are so small, you wouldn’t normally see them!


    A moth caterpillar accidentally eats the spores of Ophiocordyceps robertsii – the vegetable caterpillar fungi.

    The caterpillar reverses back into the burrow where the fungus then feeds on its insides - mummifying it!

    The fungus produces a sporangium through the dead caterpillar’s neck and releases spores for the next unsuspecting caterpillar.