Zombie Ants: It’s Time to Leaf

In case you didn’t know, May is Zombie Awareness Month, and brain-eating fiends are taking over print, broadcast and social media. Right now, the littlest of the living dead are even taking over a few backyards. Yikes. 

Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is as scary as it looks. It’s an ancient fungus that’s been turning rainforest ants into zombies for almost 50 million years. But, unlike your typical horror movie, the parasitic fungus is what eats brains – ant brains, that is. Once the hapless creature is infected, the fungus takes over and consumes the inside of its body. The zombie ant develops the slow-moving , creepy character walk you often seen in scary movies. Eventually, the tiny zombie bites down on the vein of a leaf in an infamous “death grip.” The fungus continues to grow, bursting from the head of the ant much like another antenna, and releases spores to infect new victims. 

The parasitic fungus is found in the tropical rainforests of Africa, Brazil and Thailand. But, its creepiness can be found in many scientific research papers and the clip from the killer video below.  And, just in case you’re worried about the kind of zombies that want to eat your brains, the Centers for Disease Control have a few survival tips for you. The list doesn’t  include wearing sensible running shoes, but having them couldn’t hurt, especially not  more than a zombie bite.


Published: May 19, 2011