Nefarious fungus infects ants and turn them into zombie slaves
High in the canopies of Thailands forests, lives the carpenter ants. One of those ant has ventured down from its nest to the forest floor, to forage for food among the plants and bushes.
Unbeknownst to the ant, however, spores has been released from among those plants and bushes. The ant becomes infected with a parasitic fungus, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, which proceeds to take control of the ant’s brain. There is nothing the ant can do, the fungus soon owns it, body and soul.
Having taken control of the ant’s brain, the fungus will compel the ant to go where the fungus can grow and reproduce. The best place for this, with optimal humidity, sunlight and temperature, is the underside of leaves that are sprouting from the northwest side of the plants and bushes on the forest floor.
When the ant arrives at the the fungus’ destination, it clamps down with its mandibles and dies.
However, just because the ant is now dead, it doesn’t mean it’s done serving its fungal master. The fungus turns the innards of the dead ant into sugars to help it grow, while leaving the mandible muscles alone so that it hangs on to the leaf where it died.
The fungus also leaves the ant’s exoskeleton intact, to serve as a shield against intruding microbes and fungi, while growing into cracks and crevices to reinforce the weak spots.
In a week or two, the fungus will release its spores to infect ants foraging for food.