Zombie Fungus – Can it Change the World?

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Zombie Fungus – Can it Change the World?

Kate Herndon, Journalist Editing Board Member

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Imagine this. Controlling someone’s mind. Controlling all actions. Well, you don’t need to imagine. You don’t need to invent a powerful drug and use powerful mechanics. All you need to do is go to a tropical place, say Brazil. Enter the forest and find a leaf. Sounds easy enough, right? Try finding a leaf that is 25cm above the forest floor. It has to be exactly 25in. Look underneath the leaf. If you are lucky, you might find rare fungi known as the “Zombie Fungus”. Even though this fungus might not control human minds, it sure can do a lot of damage to Carpender Ant minds.

At the moment, there is no way to use this to control human minds, but this fungus is attacking ants. What the fungus does, is it enters the ant’s body and makes it do things that help the fungus’s health thrive. Basically, it uses the ant to help it survive. Here is where it gets complicated. Understanding how the cells attack the ant’s body. At first, the fungus cells just get in the ant’s bloodstream, and no harm is done. At a certain point, the cells link together and form a chain. Once the chain is formed, the cells communicate and that is when the bad things start to happen.

When the cells start to communicate, they start attacking the brain. They tell the brain to do things that help the fungus live and grow. Then, fungus uses the ant to attack more ants. When the ant dies, it grows a spore-releasing stalk, that grows out of the ants back. This stalk releases spores that infect other ants. What happens next? Well, now there are more ants infected by the fungus and those ants will continue to grow more spore-releasing stalks, infecting more ants. It is a never-ending cycle.

       Why does the fungus want to infect the ants?

The fungus’s main goal is to kill the ants. That is all that they want. They want to kill all carpenter ants. The Zombie Fungus is only out for carpenter ants, but some scientists think that there might be other fungi that might infect other species of ants.

       How does the Zombie Fungus kill the ant?

After the bad fungus cells multiply in the ant’s bloodstream,  the fungi cells link up and start invading the nervous system. After the cells invade the ant’s nervous system, the ant is already gone to the Zombie Fungus. Now, the ant feels the need to find a leaf. Once the ant has found his leaf, the ant feels the need to clutch onto the vein of the leaf and never let go. Keep in mind that all of the actions and thoughts that the ant if having is the Zombie Fungus cells invading the ant’ bloodstream. Once the ant has clutched onto the leaf, it starts growing the spore-releasing stalk, and you can probably guess what happens next. The stalk that grows on the ant will now infect other ants that tamper with the stalk. The cycle starts over.

       Will this fungus ever infect humans?

The short answer is no, and here is the reason. According to many sources, this fungus can only infect carpenter ants, so this fungus would not be able to infect the human nervous system, but there may be other fungi we haven’t discovered yet that can infect humans.

Sources:   www.theatlantic.com     www.quora.com      www.livescience.com