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Zombie Ants: New Species of Mind-Controlling Fungus Found

  1. torachi
    zombie-fungus-infects-insects-mind-control-ant-infected_32848_600x450.jpg Get out your tiny shotguns and chainsaws–the ant zombie apocalypse is here! Of course, it’s been raging for 48 million years now, but you can never be too careful.

    Four new species of fungi that turn ants into little tiny extras from a George A. Romero movie have been found in the Brazilian rain forest. What was originally thought to be a single species, called Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, was recently discovered to be four distinct ones.

    David Hughes, a Penn State University entomologist, and his colleagues made the discovery after noticing a wide diversity of fungal growths emerging from ant victims, according to the March 2 study in the journal PLoS ONE.

    These particular fungus species take over ant brains with mind-altering chemicals, control them like voodoo dolls and then kill them once they’ve done the fungus’s bidding.

    “It’s related to the fungus that LSD comes from,” Hughes said. “Obviously they are producing lots of interesting chemicals.”

    Imagine you’re a carpenter ant hanging out with your little worker ant buddies back at the colony. Suddenly, you notice Carl doesn’t look so good. His mandibles have gone slack and he’s not laughing at any of your dirty thorax jokes. You shake him and slap his antennae. Nothing. No response. Then, without a word, Carl slowly turns and walks away, never to be seen or heard from again.

    Carl is on full zombie autopilot now. He finds a small shrub and starts climbing. Once he reaches the underside of a leaf about 25 centimeters above the ground and at just the right angle to the sun, he clamps his jaws on the edge or a vein, anchoring himself to the leaf. As the John Murphy soundtrack swells, Carl dies.

    The fungus then takes over and turns the ant carcass into a Willy Wonka factory of spore production for the next year. These spores infect other ants, creating more fungus-loving zombies. And before you know it, all the tiny ant malls are overrun by hordes of zombie insects.

    How these species of fungi control ants is a mystery. But hopefully, scientists will figure it out before a bad case of athlete’s foot fungus turns into World War Z.



  1. Terrapinzflyer
    isn't this the fungus (or a related one?) that Paul Stamets has successfully used to eradicate carpenter ants and prevent reinfestations? I know he had applied for a patent for its use in this manner some years ago, but can't quickly find if this is the same species, or it was another cordyceps
  2. RealGanjaMan
    Wow, thats incredibly creepy. Its interesting how specific, and to-the-point, this fungus' control over their minds to be. You would think if it just 'deposited' mind-altering chemicals the ants would just lose the plot and run around tripping (or whatever, intoxicated) until they died. But the article makes it sound like they have a tightly defined and controlled fate after infection.

    Interesting stuff indeed.
  3. Heretic.Ape.
    I've read of other species with this crazy pattern of turning ants into little spore antennae on trees. Very interesting stuff. I'd love to see what kinds of crazy mind altering drugs might be found...only to lead to the zombie apocalypse! Maybe Nancy Reagan was right!
  4. torachi
    99% sure its the same cordyceps used by Stamets, but since that has been broken down to 4 species, who knows which one exactly.

    The biggest difference is that ants won't let an infected member back into the nest, he altered the fungus in some way so that an infected ant is undetectable by the rest of the colony.

    So its more than likely the same fungus, but definitely altered from the way its found in nature.
  5. Heretic.Ape.
    That means we're one step closer to creating a great mutant insect zombie army! Then our enemies shall fall under the marching sextets of exoskeletal terror!
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