Tech & Science This nightmare fungus turns ants into zombies and controls their every movement

03:38  15 november  2017
03:38  15 november  2017 Source:   Techly

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Their brains aren’t the problem. Those poor old ants that become zombies thanks to fungus are back in the news again. The fungus infects the ant , then takes control of its body and forces it to bite into leaf and stay there until it dies. It’s forced vegetation by fungus resulting in death.

Those poor old ants that become zombies thanks to fungus are back in the news again. According to a new study published this month in the … # zombies .

Ants.© Getty Ants.

Their brains aren’t the problem.

Those poor old ants that become zombies thanks to fungus are back in the news again.

According to a new study published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it’s the ants’ muscles rather than their brains that are infected.

The zombie ant fungus, which scientists call Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, was discovered way back in 1859 and hit the mainstream when it was featured in an episode of 2006’s Planet Earth.

The fungus infects the ant, then takes control of its body and forces it to bite into leaf and stay there until it dies. It’s forced vegetation by fungus resulting in death.

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(Image: David Hughes/Penn State University). Carpenter ants of the Brazilian rain forest have it rough. When one of these insects gets infected by a certain fungus , it turns into a so-called “ zombie ant ” and is no longer in control of its actions.

Search for: Fungal Disease. Mind- controlling fungus turns insects into zombies . What we do know about their life cycle does not bode well for insects, as every species must infect an insect before it can mature and produce spores.

The fungus then continues to grow, eventually piercing the ant’s head’s head and shooting spores into the air to infect other ants. Nature is so damn metal sometimes.

Using 3D images, AI and machine-learning algorithms, the researchers looked at cell-level interactions between the fungal parasite and the ant host and found that fungus cells surrounded the ant’s muscle fibres but did infect the brain.

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For the most part, tropical carpenter ants spend most of their time high in the forest canopy away from the ground. Every once in a while they do venture Once the fungus finds this leaf it waits for the sun to shine at its highest intensity of the day, it is then that the fungus forces the ant into “the death grip.”

A fungus is turning carpenter ants into puppets, and now scientists have a better idea how and when the infection does its gruesome work. (Related pictures: "' Zombie ' Ants Controlled , Decapitated by Flies.")

“Normally in animals, behaviour is controlled by the brain sending signals to the muscles, but our results suggest that the parasite is controlling host behaviour peripherally,” said senior author of the study David Hughes. “Almost like a puppeteer pulls the strings to make a marionette move, the fungus controls the ant’s muscles to manipulate the host’s legs and mandibles.”

Hughes and his colleagues believe that the fungus might preserve the ant’s brain so that it can survive long enough to perform its final biting act. You just have to admire the evil brilliance of that.

Gamers might notice the term “Ophiocordyceps” as being a little familiar.

In the 2013 game The Last of Us, the fungal infection that almost wipes out humanity is called “cordyceps” and functions in a very similar way. This is no coincidence and in an interview, the game’s creators even said that the zombie ants were an important inspiration. Yeah science!

Cordyceps is super bad news for ants but good news for us, because The Last of Us Part 2 is officially on the way.

The teaser trailer was revealed at last year’s PlayStation Experience and a brutal snippet of the game was recently released at Paris Games Week.

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