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

NOTE: This version is mute as it is part of the activity New Zealand soil creatures. Go here to listen to a narrated version.