The Zombie Apocalypse: Already Underway – Questionable Evolution

17 09 2012

Er… WOW!
We have an annual issue with Carpenter Ants, here in our “glorified shed” of a wooden house, and have to endure reasonably frequent permethrin treatments to the outside perimeter. So I have no love of this particular species of ant. Fascinating though their satellite colony social structure is. Anyway… I was actually looking for blogs about mycology, having recently joined the Vancouver Mycological Society. I never for a second thought I’d find both things in the one blog. Coolio!

Questionable Evolution

Common Name: The Zombie-Ant Fungus

A.K.A.: Ophiocordyceps unilateralis

Vital Stats:

  • Whole “graveyards” of 20-30 ants may be found within a single square metre
  • Telltale bitemarks on fossil plants suggest this fungus, or a related species, may have been in operation for the last 48 million years
  • Host species is the carpenter ant Camponotus leonardi

Found: Tropical forests throughout the world

It Does What?!

Despite all the advances of modern neuroscience, the fact is, human understanding of brain chemistry and its manipulation still has a long way to go. Much to the chagrin of those plotting world domination, we won’t be chemically controlling each other’s minds any time soon. How embarrassing then, that a mere fungus seems to have perfected this technique. Almost fifty million years ago. Scooped again, humanity.

It begins with an ant walking along the ground, deep in a tropical forest somewhere. This…

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8 responses

18 09 2012
Spiderman

I assume if you joined the VMC you have already watched this video of Paul Stamets.
http://www.ted.com/index.php/speakers/view/id/229
And if you’ve watched the video you would know that there is almost a permanent solution to your carpenter ants problem that involves a mycelium. Paul Stamets talks are very interesting. Look for them on YouTube.

18 09 2012
Quieter Elephant

Thanks for the tip! I only just joined the VMS, so no… I’ve never heard of Paul Stamets, let alone followed his “film career” :). I’ll certainly check him out now though.

18 09 2012
Erin Zimmerman

Glad you liked it! Thanks for checking out my blog. This post: http://wp.me/p2lhU8-3D is also about ants, if they interest you. And this one: http://wp.me/p2lhU8-h3 is on another type of fungus. Cheers.

18 09 2012
Quieter Elephant

Like it, I did! You’ve got some really interesting items on there Erin! Like they say – fact is stranger than fiction…
Thanks for putting it together in such a readily consumable format too!

18 09 2012
Quieter Elephant

My daughter’s a co-op student at Waterloo. She’s currently in Switzerland on a placement, and read your article via the re-blog. She mentioned the shroom-ants to one of the other co-ops who said “There’s a Pokemon character based on that”. Her reaction was the same as mine: “You, sad, sad individual! (i) for knowing that and (ii) for admitting it!” Keep writing… I’m following now and need a regular fix of oddness.

18 09 2012
Erin Zimmerman

That’s funny. The Pokemon character wasn’t something that turned up in my reading (and I look for stuff like that!).
As an aside, I did my undergrad at the University of Guelph, quite near Waterloo. It’s a very nice area.
Thanks for following, I’ll try to keep it interesting!

18 09 2012
Quieter Elephant

I can’t believe I wasted 10s of my life looking this up: http://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Paras_(Pok%C3%A9mon)

18 09 2012
Erin Zimmerman

The world is full of strange creatures. Most of them human.

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