Fungus among us

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.




6 thoughts on “Fungus among us

  1. DAMN– I knew about Cordyceps’ weird biology but didn’t even think to blog it– I assume a certain amount of esoteric knowledge among my readers (with such as you and Chas it’s easy!)

    Love the Mi- Go idea, of course.

    I should link to a few books that cover Cordyceps. Later…

  2. I am a Chinese, seeking for a good channel to supply authentic angelica sinensis?dong kuai or female ginseng?and Wild Cordyceps Sinensis (Chinese caterpillar fungus). They are top-quality all over the world.

    I have read your information on website about Cordyceps Sinensis. Do you need Chinese herb raw and native material for you high quality products? I shall offer you in right price and high quality as primary supplier.
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    All the best!

    Jackie Yang(??)
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  3. Mr. Yang’s email likely should have gone in the spam can, but I couldn’t resist approving it…

  4. Hi! Yang,
    Never heard of Chinese Caterpillar Fundus. Greatttttt! If you have you found somthing new? I have heard and know that there is only the Tibetan Caterpillar Fungus so far. Would be helpful in you could upload some picture of the chinese caterpillar fungus pictures. Are they in white colour or may be in Red colour…

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