It’s no secret to fans of biology and of excellent video games that zombies are real. There are a few different versions of zombie infection that have different effects depending on the zombifying organism and its host. In this case, we’re talking about zombie ants and the Cordyceps fungi that prey on them.
For those who need a refresher, Cordyceps spreads through spores, which attach to the species they specialize in, and grow into its body. Mycelium – the root-like structures that make up most of a mushroom’s body – grows into the host and feeds on it, growing to replace the host tissue with more fungus. As this happens, the host is compelled to change its behavior. It is forced to seek out a good location to die. This means gaining elevation, and clamping onto a twig or a leaf. The ant then dies, and the Cordyceps puts out a “fruit body” like the various toadstools we eat. Spores are released, and drift around until they land on a new host and the cycle can begin again.
So where do climate and evolution come in? [Read more…]