Creature Concept: Fungal Hound

Here’s a creature concept by American artist K.L. Turner. I found this in his DeviantART gellery, where he goes by the handle Eclectixx.

fungal_hound_by_eclectixx-d4qihxm

Artist’s Description

Fungal hounds are tripodal, bi-tailed fungal/animal fusions; arising from a symbiosis of the two it represents an entirely separate branch of creatures. The fungal portions of the creatures completely account for all neural functions; reflexes, decision making, sight and other senses, as well as filling most digestive and respiratory functions. The animal portions account for all muscular functions. Light detecting “eyes” sprout from the creature on stalks, which can be replaced as needed. The frontal facial array senses movement and heat, as well as chemical traces (smell and taste). This creature is liquivorous, feeding on the vital fluids of its prey after using its potent venom to kill them.

Fungal hounds use three legs for locomotion; the hind leg is powerful and allows the creature to leap in almost any direction from a standing position. The two front appendages are used for balance and are also used to assist when running. They are also somewhat dactyl and can be used to tear into prey.

Two tails give the creature great balance during rapid turns and leaps. Small spines on the tails can be used for defense, but are primarily used for mating. All members of the species are capable of lodging spines in the flesh of other members of the same species in an act of procreation, but typically only the pack Alpha is allowed to do so lest they risk being killed in retribution. The spines, if lodged in the flesh of another fungal hound, will swell and feed upon the host much like a parasite, but unlike a parasite it also samples the host’s DNA and blends it with its own to create a zygote. A fetus then begins to grow within the spine, forming a cyst. Once the cyst has swollen fully and the embryo within reached sufficient maturity, the cysts split open and the young emerge.

If the spines are lodged in the flesh of any other species, they will swell and become inflamed and very painful. Eventually the creature will either dig the spine out or possibly die from infection, thus the spines are an effective deterrent to larger predators.

It is thought that this manner of reproduction evolved so that the fungal DNA may be passed along during mating as well as the animal DNA; however, only the impregnating creature’s fungal DNA is passed on in this manner, thus preserving the fungal ancestry along the Alpha member’s genetic lineage.

Does this creature sound plausible to you? Would you use this, or a similar creature, in your science fiction stories? Let us know in the comments below.


Artwork and description by K.L. Turner.

  • John H Reiher Jr

    Yes it does sound plausible, it’s the Zombie Ant on a larger scale and evolved into a symbiotic relations ship. Makes me wonder if any of the original “hounds” still exist with out the fungal symbiote?

  • John H Reiher Jr

    Oh, and it reminds me of the Japanese movie _Matango_, AKA _Attack of the Mushroom People_.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matango

  • Future-Bound-Entertainment

    IDK if its plausible, but it looks delicious.

  • Christmas Snow

    As Reiher stated, the zombie ant phenomenon is caused by a fungus. The fungus controls the brain at some stage, forces the ant to stay close to the forest floor, where conditions are favorable to the fungus. The ant affixes itself to the leaf with its mandibles and its muscles atrophy, leaving the ant unable to control its muscles. The fungus then invades the body and grows a stem which carries the spores. All the stages are well timed for the benefit of the fungus.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ophiocordyceps_unilateralis

    The idea in the creature concept may work like this:

    The fungus feeds through the body of the creature which can either be a carnivorous or a herbivore. Unlike lichen which are product of a fungus-algae symbiosis, this animal is the product of a a fungus-animal symbiosis, meaning it uses the animal’s body to get its own food. That would beg for an explanation: Does the animal part retain its reproductive system and is the foetus (in the uterus or egg or other thing) later invaded by the fungus? And are the spines at the tail end assigned the role of the sexual reproduction for the fungus part?

    A work around the problem can be explained by phenomena called “Horizontal gene transfer”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horizontal_gene_transfer ;

    It may have been caused by a virus which inhabits more than one host: As the virus reproduces using the host’s DNA, the virus may integrate portions of that DNA into its own, and in a similar fashion insert it into the other host. The result may be a creature has has been genetically “engineered” in a natural way using another creature’s DNA. If the gene combination is right, the new creature may possess new genetic traits which may prove helpful.

    One such example on Earth is Elysia Chlorotica, a sea-slug which absorbs chlorophyll from ingested sea-weeds. The chlorophyll is not digested, but absorbed and migrated into the skin tissues, where they remain viable for quite a long time and photosynthesize. This is no longer considered symbiosis, but genetic mending.The genetic properties of both creatures (the original hosts of the virus) are now clumped together into one cell out of which the new creature will emerge. The two “creatures” are now able to share a single reproductive system, be it an animal or a fungal organ.

  • Noah

    I find a mutualistic symbiosis between Animal and Fungus certainly plausible, but using it seems a bit difficult. best of luck if you choose to do so, however!

    It’s my first time here, and I’m already liking it.

  • Jake Rocknic

    id use it

  • Eric

    I think that like other people have commented on, it is very much like the zombie ant, but on a larger scale, and more prolonged. I also wonder if the new-formed zygote could instead be a packet of spores that is then spread on the wind and infects a new animal, forcing a symbiotic relationship