Attack of the killer fungus zombie ants!

Sounds like a B-film title doesn’t it? This is in fact a real thing.

So, I was flying through the blogosphere and I happened upon a biology blog called Beatrice the Biologist and her post on zombie ant fungus. You should totally check that blog out. It only took me about 4.5 hours to read the whole thing. While I am usually more into physics / maths than biology, this blog is worth checking out for the cartoons alone.

Anyway, the important thing: zombie ants.

It turns out that there really is a type of fungus which causes an alteration in the behaviours of ants. Here watch the video:

  • So this is a fungus which infects a creature.
  • That creature has different from normal behaviour.
  • The creature ignores basic survival instincts, and instead uses uncoordinated movement to start climbing, even to the extent of gripping the branch with its mandibles using its last energy before dying.
  • Then the ant becomes a propagator for the fungus to attack other ants.

Holy extremely-specific-set-of-circumstances, Batman!

Zombie films and realism

For me, while I quite like some parts of zombie films, the idea that they are actually dangerous is difficult to swallow because if your brain is rotting, fine motor control is really quite difficult.

I had an idea about a virus which was spread through the air, causing everyone but a small percentage of people with a certain genetic mutation to zombify, but that lacks a certain something. While it kind of has the deployment vector down, one of the scariest things about a zombie film is the idea that any scratch or bite can turn infected and that person joins the walking dead.

This fungus idea is kind of a hybrid. Some people might be immune to it, others not. Who knows whether they are or not? A rotting corpse is a hazard. Getting bitten by one of the taken is not helpful whether you are immune to the plague or not.

Given that the undead in this scenario still have partial control over their faculties, just a bit unwieldy, perhaps they can still use basic tools like an axe, or other weapons, and open doors etc.

This could present a conundrum. If you take out a zombie, it will just hasten the process of fungification , but if you don’t it will bite your face off.

Get me a Hollywood producer: we have the premise for the next zombie flick.

So, I imagined zombie apocalypse and feasted on the flesh of the living – well I ate a raw carrot. What did you do today?