“The Walking Dead” in Real Life

sakuni, science 0 Comments

Have you ever thought that a zombie apocalypse is a possibility? Maybe you didn’t.

But I’m afraid that, IT IS. I know, even the idea of it might freak you out.  But before anything, watch the following video.

That’s right. Zombies ARE real.

Cordyceps is a genus of Ascomycota (sac fungi) that includes about 400 identified species and many yet to be identified.

All Cordyceps species are endoparasites. They are parasitic mainly on insects and other arthropods and a few are parasitic on other fungi.

So what Cordyceps do is, they release their spores to the atmosphere which will infect the insects like ants, caterpillars etc.

Source: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-mLs0T22sLoc/UP5PxmAoeYI/AAAAAAAADKg/8iwWCasRQyM/s1600/cordycep+fungus.jpg
Source: http://1.bp.blogspot.com

When a Cordyceps fungus attacks a host, the mycelium will slowly invade the host body and will eventually replace the host tissue, while the fruiting body (ascocarp) of the fungus elongates from the body of the infected host.

The ascocarp or the fruiting body of the fungus bears many small, flask-shaped structures called perithecia containing asci. Asci contain thread-like ascospores, which usually break into fragments and get released to the surroundings. They are able to infect the whole colony of ants.

So what’s really scary about Cordyceps is that they can turn the ants in to “The Walking Dead” before they become lifeless completely.

Once the Cordyceps take over the host tissue they can cause some changes in their behavioral pattern as well. Or in other words, they can take over the brain control of the host.

Ophiocordyceps unilateralis (a species of Cordyceps) makes its infected host climb trees without the knowledge of the host until the fungus finds a suitable position on the tree for the spore dispersion. Once the requirements of the fungus are met, the fungus makes the ant stop climbing the tree and starts elongating its fruiting body killing the ant then and there.

Source:   https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7159/6761313789_f39a837ffc_z.jpg
Source: https://c2.staticflickr.com

I know this gives you the creeps but the good news is Cordyceps cannot infect humans. The high human body temperature and our skin (which consists of a multiple number of layers) make fungal infections of humans pretty rare. Well it is true that humans can get toenail fungus and infections like ringworm, but it is really unlikely that Cordyceps can pass through our skin.

And even the worst villains have some kind of good in them. No matter what Cordyceps do to ants, it is used to treat conditions like:

  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Respiratory and kidney disorders
  • Male sexual problems
  • Anemia
  • Liver disorders
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Ringing in the ears

It can also be used for strengthening the immune system, improving athletic performance, reducing the effects of aging, promoting longer life, and improving liver function in people with hepatitis B.

Some people use Cordyceps to increase energy, enhance stamina, and reduce fatigue.

So yeah, the “bad guy” is not so bad after all. And so far we are sure that he won’t harm us. So you can still sleep soundly knowing that there is no fungus that could force us to climb the Eiffel Tower of Paris.

But to be on the safe side keep your shotgun ready. Who knows if we are next?