Zombie Ants

Posted: August 19, 2010 in Uncategorized
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According to The Guardian, scientists have made new discoveries about a specific type of parasitic fungus that has evolved to alter the behaviour of their hosts, in this case, carpenter ants. The finding shows that the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungus has the ability to transform ants into a ‘zombified’ state and make them stagger to their deaths.

The fungus, which, lives on forest floors, latches on the ant’s stomach, grows inside the ant and releases chemicals that affect their behaviour. Some ants leave the colony and wander off to find fresh leaves on their own, while others fall from their tree-top havens on to leaves nearer the ground.

The final stage of the parasitic death sentence is the most macabre. In their last hours, infected ants move towards the underside of the leaf they are on and lock their mandibles in a “death grip” around the central vein, immobilising themselves and locking the fungus in position.

Harvard University’s David Hughes says: “This can happen en masse. You can find whole graveyards with 20 or 30 ants in a square metre. Each time, they are on leaves that are a particular height off the ground and they have bitten into the main vein before dying.”

Scientists led by Hughes noticed that ants infected with the fungus,Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, bit into leaves with so much force they left a lasting mark. The holes created by their mandibles either side of the leaf vein are bordered by scar tissue, producing an unmistakable dumb-bell shape. These distinct shapes have been found of leaf samples from over 48 million years ago, suggesting that this deadly symbiotic behaviour has predates human civilization.

Scientists are struggling to answer why a parasiste would not only try kill its host, but take over the its brain and then kill it…

Do you think scientists would ever be able to duplicate results in humans? History has seen some despicable human experiments being done over the years. I’m sure the prospect of being able to control and dispose of human targets must be an attractive proposition to some military scientists.

If it can happen in nature, what’s to stop it from being duplicated in a lab?

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