Steve posted recently about overharvest of a Tibetan medicinal fungus – when I clicked through and read the LA Times article, the scientific name of the fungus rang a bell. “Cordyceps,” says I. “Isn’t that the genus of the mind control fungus?” Off to Wikipedia to verify that, yes, indeed, Cordyceps unilateralis changes the behavior of it’s ant host.
Cordyceps unilateralis is a species of entomopathogenic fungus that infects and alters the behavior of ants in order to ensure the widespread distribution of its spores. The spores enter the body of the insect through its spiracles, where they begin to consume the non-vital soft tissues. When the fungus is ready to spore, its mycelia enter the ant’s brain and change how it perceives pheromones, causing the insect to climb to the top of a plant and use its mandibles to secure itself to the stem. The fungus then kills the ant, and the fruiting bodies of C. unilateralis grow from its head and explode, releasing the spores. This process takes 4 to 10 days.*
No similar activity was mentioned for Cordyceps sinensis (the Tibetan vegetable caterpillar), but that won’t stop me from speculating. I have 2 hypotheses:
- The Tibetans will wreak a terrible revenge on the Han people during the Beijing Olympics. As the Chinese synchronized divers are ready to capture a gold medal, the combination of vegetable caterpillar supplements, humidity in the diving venue and height of the platform will combine to cause the C. sinensis to fruit. Having jumped species successfully, Beijing will be overrun with fungus zombies.
- Same basic scenario, but it’s the Mi-Go using a fungal vector to take over the planet. I’m agnostic as to whether our brains will be canned and shipped to Pluto – maybe we’ll all just merge into a huge mycelium-mind.