The Atlantic– To find the world’s most sinister examples of mind control, don’t look to science fiction. Instead, go to a tropical country like Brazil, and venture deep into the jungle. Find a leaf that’s hanging almost exactly 25 centimeters above the forest floor, no more and no less. Now look underneath it. If you’re in luck, you might find an ant clinging to the leaf’s central vein, jaws clamped tight for dear life. But this ant’s life is already over. And its body belongs to Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, the zombie-ant fungus.
When the fungus infects a carpenter ant, it grows through the insect’s body, draining it of nutrients and hijacking its mind. Over the course of a week, it compels the ant to leave the safety of its nest and ascend a nearby plant stem. It stops the ant at a height of 25 centimeters—a zone with precisely the right temperature and humidity for the fungus to grow. It forces the ant to permanently lock its mandibles around a leaf. Eventually, it sends a long stalk through the ant’s head, growing into a bulbous capsule full of spores. And because the ant typically climbs a leaf that overhangs its colony’s foraging trails, the fungal spores rain down onto its sisters below, zombifying them in turn.
We all know about that creepy guy who comes to your Frosh orientation week and hypnotizes some eager co-eds into clucking like a chicken or taking off their shirts. (I wish) He shocks and awes the crowd with his supposed mind control shtick, then probably heads back to his shitty life as an argyle sweater-wearing high school guidance counselor. But what we didn’t know was that the real mind control game is not happening in some CIA lab at Area 51, it’s happening under our feet. (not our feet, some Brazillian’s feet)
Colonies of Ants in the forests of Brazil are becoming infected with a fungus that essentially creates an army of cells that work together to control its muscles. Eventually, it becomes so sophisticated that it forces the Ant to climb a plant stem, grow a long toothpick like stalk out of its head, and sprinkle some more of that fungus onto its unsuspecting ant homies. The worst part about this is apparently the fungus doesn’t affect the ant’s brain.
Hughes thinks the fungus might also exert more direct control over the ant’s muscles, literally controlling them “as a puppeteer controls as a marionette doll.” Once an infection is underway, he says, the neurons in the ant’s body—the ones that give its brain control over its muscles—start to die. Hughes suspects that the fungus takes over. It effectively cuts the ant’s limbs off from its brain and inserts itself in place, releasing chemicals that force the muscles there to contract. If this is right, then the ant ends its life as a prisoner in its own body. Its brain is still in the driver’s seat, but the fungus has the wheel.
What the flying fuck! So not only is this fungus taking over the ants muscles and forcing it to splooge this disease all over the colony, it’s doing it with the ant’s brain fully intact and functional. And the prisoners at Guantanamo think they have it bad. I’d take a lifetime of Waterboarding and nipple clamps over this involuntary fungal genocide.
P.S I wonder what the Stockholm syndrome is like in that brain.