Ophiocordyceps unilateralis: the Zombie Fungus




Ophiocordyceps unilateralis looks like two unpronounceable words, right?  In fact, Microsoft word does not even recognize either word.  However, there is another term for this entomopathogen.  “The zombie fungus!”



By the way, an entomopathogen is also a very difficult to pronounce word, although maybe slightly easier.  Much more importantly, It is also a term for a fungus that will kill, or maim an insect.  You’d think that a fungus would be incapable of inhabiting, infecting, and eventually killing another creature, because it appears inanimate.  However, many creatures in the world seem inanimate!  There are those who are unaware of a sand dollar‘s sentience.


unilateralisA wandering ant may come across a set of fungal spores, and immediately become infected by the fungus.  The infection spreads throughout the ant’s body, and steals control of the ant’s nervous system.  The fungus will then force the host ant to climb the nearest desired vegetation.  When the fungus has chosen a desired spot, it forces the ant to clamp down to a twig, or leaf, or perhaps a flower even.  The fungus then creates its own spores, which grow out of the back of the ant’s head.  (Which did you think of: Alien, or Walking Dead?)  Having fully matured, the spores fall to the ground, and infect other ants passing by to further its campaign.  Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is proof that mind control is real.  You can freak out now.  This is one of the many dangerous, and unsuspecting weapons of nature, much like the tiger lilly.


But don’t worry, we have a protector from this Ant-Fuhrer of fungi.  It is unidentified, but it is a hyperparasite; probably the most pronounceable word offered yet.  This fungus will feed off of the zombie fungus, and in some cases, will stop it from releasing further spores, and continuing the cycle of life, infestation, zombie-ant riding, and respawning. (This sounds like a great premise for a videogame, doesn’t it?)  The hyperparasite fungus is often referred to as “The anti-zombie fungus fungus!”





According to a study, the zombie fungus is a picky fungus.  It chooses only its favorite ants to inhabit, although it is capable of inhabiting most ants.  The two preferred ants for infestation are as follows: Camponotus castaneus and Camponotus americanus.


For additional fun, write down each latin/scientific term provided, and try to read them five times fast in a consecutive row.  Godspeed!


2 thoughts on “Ophiocordyceps unilateralis: the Zombie Fungus

  1. Pingback: Investigating Nature: A Cabinet of Our Curiosities – Digital Storytelling

  2. Pingback: Why the Peony | How To Adult

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