Humans have been trying to control each other's minds for centuries, but have only succeeded in getting people to buy more tortilla chips and hand cream. Meanwhile, in the animal kingdom, absurd comic-book style mind-control plots have been coming true for millennia.
5Glyptapanteles (Zombie-Caterpillar-Creating Wasps)
Wasps are horrible, awful, pointless creatures, and we hate them. If you want to go tell them we said that, go ahead. We don't care. But some of them are inexplicably worse than others: Enter the Glyptapanteles. These wasps are not content to sting and kill their prey (in this case, the gypsy moth caterpillar), but actually inject their eggs inside of the victim's body. So their victims aren't just killed and eaten, but are first impregnated via interspecies wasp-rape. And yes, did you even need to ask? Of course the wasp babies eat the caterpillars from inside.
They eat them from inside like crazy.
And yet, still, the caterpillars do not die (though there is some rigorous scientific debate as to whether or not a caterpillar can beg for the sweet release of death; we are going to assume they do so incessantly from this point forward). Some of the larva hatch and burrow out of the caterpillar's skin, sure, and that's horrible, but others stay behind ... to take control of its brain. The mind-controlling pupa inside manipulate the caterpillar into standing guard and protecting their vulnerable brethren outside, occasionally even forcing it to spin protective silk over them. So the caterpillar not only gets stung, raped and hollowed out, but also actually has to sit there and guard its attackers against all predators (by thrashing around like a spaz if anybody comes near).
Above: Insect judo.
There's just ... there's no way this is the most effective way to procreate, right? At least some element of that whole procedure -- the spaz-thrashing, for example -- simply has to be for pure and simple spite.
Merle Shepard, Gerald R.Carner, and P.A.C Ooi
You can almost hear it scream.
4Cordyceps Unilateralis (Zombie-Ant-Creating Fungus)
So a particular species of carpenter ant, Camponotus leonardi, is going about its daily business -- carrying food, making piles, lifting, what have you -- when it accidentally inhales a spore. Now, inhaling a spore never ends in a pizza party and a trip to Sea World; it's pretty much always horror and death. And the spores of Cordyceps unilateralis are no different.
Above: A carpenter ant, blissfully unaware of the doom that awaits it.
The fungus begins by consuming "the non-vital soft tissues" of the ant -- while it's still alive, of course. (Actually, since that's the most horrifying scenario possible, let's go ahead and assume that everything is devoured alive from here on out. Saves time that way). Then the fungus uses those nutrients to sprout mycelia (that's science-speak for "horrible mold tentacles") up into the brain of the ant. There, the mycelia actually change the way the ant perceives pheromones in order to manipulate the insect into the fungus' desired position. And the fungus has a very specific list of conditions: It requires a north-facing leaf of a plant about 25 centimeters off the ground, in an environment with 94 to 95 percent humidity and a location with temperatures between 20 to 30 degrees Celsius. And it gets it.
"I have no mandibles, yet I must scream."
That's how precise the control of the fungus is: It can navigate an ant to the absolute perfect location, down to a single percentage point of humidity.
Only there, finally, is the ant allowed to die. After setting up shop and fortifying the ant's corpse to allow for safe growth, the fruiting body of the fungus eventually explodes out of the back of the ant's head, shooting its sporey load onto the forest floor ... where there are thousands of unexploded ant heads just waiting to inhale more spores.
The Thing doesn't have shit on Mother Nature.
Jesus, is there any point to that, aside from 'fuck ants'? It's like some advanced alien race with access to terrifying biological weapons had a picnic ruined ten thousand years ago and just cannot let it go.