If you happen to be the proud parent of pre-teen and teenage boys this next story will give you something to talk about at the dinner table tonight – zombie-creating fungi. Yes, the lore of zombiedom infects my own home, and when I came across this new item I got quite a rise from it. Seems that Mother Nature does have something that can cause insects to become zombie like in their behavior. The fungus cordyceps can infect ants and completely alter their behavior. The spores from cordyceps infect an ant’s brain and make the ant leave its colony and force it to climb to a high branch. Once an ant has reached a certain height, the fungus makes the ant bite into a leaf. Once this happens over a three-week period the spore grows a sprout through the ant’s brain and then releases new spores to seek out new victims. The ant does die once it bites down into the leaf. Such fungi can wipe out entire ant colonies. But, the ants do recognize when one their own have been infected, and they make sure to rush the victim far from the colony. Interestingly enough there are other fungi that can affect other insect species. It is only one fungi species for one insect species. So the next time your kids berate you about your lack of respect for all things zombie, keep in mind the story of the cordyceps zombie ant.
Photo: Cordyceps Infected Ant