A picture of a Zombie Ant Fungus

Zombie Ant Fungus

Ophiocordyceps unilateralis

Photo by Katja Schulz (CC BY 4.0)

More images of Zombie Ant Fungus

A photo of Zombie Ant Fungus
A photo of Zombie Ant Fungus

Zombie Ant Fungus Overview

Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is a fungus that self-propagates in a unique, yet terrifying way. It releases its spores with the hope to find a foraging ant. The spore latches to the ant's body, penetrating the exoskeleton. A few days pass, and by this point, the mycelium (a fungal network similar to roots) has begun to develop, weaving between and around the infected ants' muscles. Next, the ant is persuaded to leave the nest to find a more humid climate, this provides the perfect conditions for the fungus to grow. Throughout the infection, the fungus devours the ants' innards, leaving only the brain unscathed. The most current research suggests this may be the fungus sparing the brain till last so that the ant survives long enough for the fungus to reach maturity. Eventually, the fruiting body emerges from the ants head, scattering thousands of seeds. The fungus brainwashes the ant to stay near the colony so that more ants are infested when the spores are released.