Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Zombie Ants

I'm not sure how trustworthy this site is, but Ms. Dancehall sent me an article from there entitled "Zombie Ants Controlled by Fungus." How can you not love that headline?

The gist: a fungus in Thailand infects the brains of carpenter ants and gets them to climb down from the comfy tree canopies they prefer to hang out in. They descend into the low leaves, and then clamp down hard on the leaf stem right before they die. Why? Because it's the perfect spot for the fungus to grow.

After the ant dies, the fungus continues to grow inside it. By dissecting victims, Hughes and colleagues found that the parasite converts the ant's innards into sugars that help the fungus grow. But it leaves the muscles controlling the mandibles intact to make sure the ant keeps its death grip on the leaf.

I, for one, welcome our new fungal overlords.


meno said...

Perhaps this has nothing to do with this, but the Mister and i happened to catch the move "Empire of the Ants" on TV the other night.

What a masterpiece! If you haven't seen it, you must.

Clowncar said...

Joan Collins! I love that movie!

Irrelephant said...

I'd not trust our Ms. Dancehall as far as I could spit her, but I've seen that same story on Nat Geo, and I trust them a little farther than my spittoon, sooo. Pretty creepy, isn't it, that Life in its thousand and one guises decides to hijack and kill an ant, giving it not only transport but a nice place to live.

Nature freaks me straight out.

Heh. Word verification is "Subtal." Which Nature is not.

Clowncar said...

I know why you didn't say "as far I could throw her." Cuz you could probably throw her pretty far.

Poet in Residence said...

There are grass-cutter ants that live in tunnel complexes(going down to depths of 7 mtrs under the earth) and there they grow some kind of fungus on the blades of grass which they have cut down and collected on the surface and which are brought downinto the tunnels by smaller ants and laid out in some kind of pattern.
Nature "freaks me out too" and I can almost imagine a species of giant insect evolving in the shadow of Chernobyl, and that they'd be just like THEM.

Emma J said...

Weird and creepy. But somehow enheartening - like thinking you're lost in a long empty hallway and then discovering there are doors to outside all along the wall.

slommler said...

Totally weird...but in a good way!!
I remember the movie Them!! Scary!!

willwood said...

Good Stuff (I thought at first the movie clip would be about Joe McCarthy, or his doppelganger, Dickey Cheney)

Irrelephant said...

You already know me too well, Old Bean. Time to die, I'm afraid. Can't have you going about giving away all my secrets.

Clowncar said...

Ants are amazing creatures, PiR. Ever you heard of E.O. Wilson? He's written several wonderful books about ants. The most recent was Superorganism. A dense read, but worth it.

I find it heartening as well, Emma J. Life is so creative at finding a way to survive, and thrive.

SA, it's a great movie. Scared me too.

Dad, you are right, Joe McCarthy is a dead ringer for old Dick.

Irr, so your life is in my hands? Cool! Do a trick! Stand on your head! Squeal like a pig!

Poet in Residence said...

CC, the only book I've read about ants is Derek Wragge Morley's 'The Ant World'. Strange to say it's also a dense read. Perhaps ants is a dense subject?
Anyway, the point of the letter is I've just put up a new sonnet to ants I think you might enjoy. Also a suitable picture of an ant to go with it.