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You were probably like me and never took the talk of the zombie invasion real. You laughed when friends warned of the impending zombie apocalypse. You never read “The Zombie Survival Guide” because you knew the possibility of some sort of zombie creating fungi or disease was not possible. Guess what? We were wrong.
Four new species of the zombifying fungi, members of the Ophiocordyceps (or just Cordyceps) genus have apparently been discovered. The fungi are known for its unusual parasitism on ants. They are able to control the brain of the ants, turning the insects into little zombies to do as the fungi wishes before killing them. The fungus attacks the brain of the ant using a still unknown chemical and causes it to abandon its colony. The ant then bites into the fleshy part of a leaf and stays locked in that position until it dies. The fungus is then able to spread from the ant’s body to the leaf in order to repeat the cycle. The fungus will also produce a long stalk that sticks out of the ant’s head, shooting spores out in order to try to infect other ants. Not exactly coming back from the dead but still weird.
The new fungi were discovered at two sites in Brazil’s tropical rain forest. The original zombie-ant fungus, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, was first identified in 1865, and it seems to exist around the world. “So we knew, right off the bat, there was a range of other species within that,” said study researcher David Hughes, an entomologist at Pennsylvania State University. “I think it will turn out to be in the hundreds.”
I guess it is time to take the whole talk of zombies infecting humans a little more serious. I have to do some reading tonight.