My daughters love mushrooms in their salads soups and pasta. But who knew those tasty morsels could have close relatives that are evil manipulative masterminds that convert ants in to zombies to do their bidding. Yep, you can't choose your relatives now, can you?
Mushrooms are a very interesting and versatile lifeform. They come in a variety of colors shapes and sizes. Some are tasty and nutritious, while others are poisonous.
Mushrooms may have been one of the earliest super successful species to dominate the earth. According to the previous link, fossils of living tubular structures about 24 feet tall and 3 feet wide from ancient times, before even trees dominate dthe planet, have baffled scients for almost a century, but now there is mounting evidence, that these living creatures were giant mushrooms.
Psychedelic mushrooms AKA magic mushrooms were all the rage in the sixties for their ability to induce hallucinations. Actually these mushrooms have been popular since ancient times in some religious ceremonies, because the hallucinations they produce, made people believe they were experiencing divine revelations.
This article discusses the possibility of the Santa Claus myth being connected to magic mushrooms. Although it is not particularly reliable, it is a fun read. The article also explores the effects on magic mushrooms on the mind and mentions the possibility of using them to manufacture psychiatric drugs to treat mental health problems like depression.
I was aware of the existence of hallucinogenic mushrooms, but evil zombie creating ones were a complete surprise. I came across this National Geographic article that discusses how a particular species of Ophiocordyceps fungus uses carpenter ants to aid its propagation.
The fungus infects the ant and spreads all over it's brain and body. Initially the ants behave normally but slowly the fungus takes over the ant's brain and nervous system. The article says that the zombie ants wander aimlessly and suffer convulsions causing them to fall below the forest canopy in to a cooler and more humid leafy under-story where they remain. This region is ideally suited for the fungus to prosper. Then the spores use their control on the ant's nervous system to cause it's jaws to lock down on a leaf as it dies. The ant remains with its jaws locked on the leaf after dying making available a stable place for the fungus to grow. At this point the fungus uses poison to kill the ant.
Diabolical and creepy!
So I guess zombies are real after all. Yikes! Let's see what Nina and Nana have to say on the subject. Nana of course already thinks all government employees are zombies, so perhaps this zombie situation is not such a big surprise for him.
You can read Lavanya's take here.