mind controlling fungus in thailand

This is the story of a fungus in Thailand that has seemingly magical powers.  Far away from their origins in Haitian folklore, zombies live again in the world of nature. Scientists are intrigued by this entity’s ability to control the brains of carpenter ants in a process known as “parasitic zombification.”
ant1 Carpenter Ants and Fossilized Mind Control picture
As indicated by the picture above, a reddish brown stalk created by the fungus known as Ophiocordy unilateralis, has invaded the ant’s body. The exposed position is ideal for releasing spores.

This unusual mind-control dates back 48 million years as indicated by a recent study reported in The American Naturalist. Some fossilized leaves from this period were discovered in Messel, Germany, by a group of researchers from Harvard University headed by David Hughes, a behavioral ecologist. These leaves bore indications of carpenter ant “death grip scars.”
“The evidence we found… shows that the parasite has been working in the same way for a very long time.  This is, as far as we know, the oldest evidence of parasites manipulating the behavior of their hosts and it shows this parasitic association with ants is relatively ancient and not a recent development…,” said Hughes.
The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC housed these leaf specimens for years until David Hughes developed the idea of examining the fossil record for traces of the distinctive bite marks.
He was inspired by a recent trip to southern Thailand where he had completed some fieldwork concerning the infection of Camponotus leonardi, (carpenter ants) by fungal parasites that control their behavior.
The recent study does mark the very first time fossilized records have revealed this type of behavioral manipulation in the insect kingdom. Clearly, the carpenter ants and fungi have been embroiled in a deadly détente for centuries untold.
In Thailand, carpenter ants build hives in the trees and feed on the forest floors. The fungus invades their brain and dictates a new location away from the colony, solely on the ground on a leaf where it KNOWS it will thrive best. The ant bites down on a major vein of a leaf and dies, providing the perfect setting for the release of spores and further infection.
Thailand is known for its proclivity for eating bugs and there are more than 1,400 recorded species suitable for the frying pan. In many northern villages, people supplement their income by catching insects and selling them locally.

No comments:

Post a Comment