Position paper. Ergot (Claviceps purpurea) - An aposematic fungus

Simcha Lev-Yadun, Malka Halpern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Predators learn to associate conspicuous signals, such as bright colors, with unpalatability or danger. This defensive strategy is termed Aposematism. We propose that the very poisonous purple-black sclerotia of the infamous fungus Claviceps purpurea (ergot) and many other Claviceps species are aposematic. Very toxic fungal sclerotia are associated with conspicuous colors (black, yellow, purple, reddish, brown, violet, white and their combinations) and severely harm herbivores that consume the infected plants, thus meeting the criteria for aposematism. Fungi, that only moderately reduce the reproductive capacity of their hosts can protect the host plants from herbivory and weaken the evolutionary tendency of their hosts to evolve better resistance to infection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-108
Number of pages4
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2007


  • Aposematic coloration
  • Claviceps
  • Defense
  • Ergot
  • Herbivory
  • Mutualism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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