Imagine a parasite that goes around hijacking the minds of its hosts for fun. The insect-pathogenic fungus known as ophiocordyceps unilateralis infects its prey with a deadly poison that slowly influences it to possess zombie-like behavior. Commonly found in tropical areas of the world like the rainforests of Brazil, this fungus plays no games. The host won't willingly destroy everything around it; rather, it becomes the puppet of its possessor. When it says "jump," the unlucky vessel must say, "how high?" After rendering its host incapacitated, the virus literally compels it to walk to its death and proceeds to spread mayhem on its surroundings like it's no big deal. Luckily, as inclined as we are to consider how this corruption of the body would affect humans, it can't.

Bernard DUPONT/Wiki Commons

“Yet.”

The ant (as they are typically very affected by this) is manipulated to crawl to a space conducive to the fungus to develop once it has been chosen. This essentially takes over its body. According to National Geographic, "The ant is compelled to descend to a vantage point about 10 inches off the ground, sink its jaws into a leaf vein on the north side of a plant, and wait for death." The fungus continues to thrive by devouring its hosts' insides. Then begins the process called fruiting- allowing the fungus to seep through the ant's corpse and spread to its next victim.

Where does the zombie portion come in? As described by the Atlantic, "And because the ant typically climbs a leaf that overhangs its colony's foraging trails, the fungal spores rain down onto its sisters below, zombifying them in turn." So it's really just a borderline apocalypse on a small scale. This allows the fungus to continue multiplying by helping itself to tarantulas, too, for instance. As the corpse lies there, stricken by this rot, it's difficult to delineate whether it's absolutely horrific or beautifully devastating.

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David P. Hughes, Maj-Britt Pontoppidan/Wiki Commons

So why are we safe? Well, as humans hold more body mass than insects, this fungus wouldn't go far in its fruition process. Fighting pathogens is a much easier task for us than it is for ants because we are bigger. Not to mention that this parasite was discovered in 1859, and let us hope we'd know if a fungus-zombie-apocalypse was headed our way by now.

Plus, bones would tamper with the fungus' malevolent task to wipe us all out, as they are pretty solid in texture. To take full effect, this curse of nature would have to get to the human nervous system, where it would attempt to micromanage our every being. And perhaps this isn't so much gore, as it is just one of nature's deranged ways of coming full circle. 

For more of Oona’s sarcasm and attempted wit, visit her website oonaoffthecuff.com.

Top Image: Bernard DUPONT/Wiki Commons

 

 

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