Welcome to my world and beyond...

A collection of snippets of the books I write and, occasionally, my life and the things that inspire my writing...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A to Z: Z is for Zombie Ants

Z O M B I E    A N T S

They are real, and they're somewhere between creepy and fascinating. They aren't born zombies; it's chemically induced, --and is, perhaps, even a little more complex than the voodoo practice of using puffer fish powder to zombify human victims.

If you read my "T" post last week, I talked about fungal molds producing volatiles. This is an example of a fungus doing that, and it's seriously bad juju for the ant.

The ant is infected by a germinating spore of a parasitic fungus in the genus Ophiocordyceps. The spore sticks on the surface of the ant's exoskeleton and builds up pressure. When the pressure is sufficient, it explodes, blasting the genetic material inside the ant. As the infection grows, it produces a volatile (chemical) or several that affect the ant's brain. The ant then follows a new set of instructions, leaving its orderly colony and marching to a spot in the forest, up a tree, to the underside of a leaf facing north. It then sinks its mandibles into the vein of the leaf. And...then the ant dies.

The leaf is at a fairly specific elevation above the ground, and all of this happens before solar noon.

Scientists theorize that the fungus is guiding the ant to a place and time that controls the temperature and humidity.

The fungus consumes the ant, then pops a strange looking fruiting body out of the top of the ant. The fruiting body releases spores and voila! We start out all over again.

There are 150 species of ant controlling fungi, and each targets a single species of ant. And each has a little different modus operandi.

Nature is stranger than hollywood.  

I hope this is some scifi writing inspiration. :-)

And on that note, I want to say thanks for visiting!  And kudos for finishing the A to Z challenge! 


 Visit other April Blogging from A to Z Challenge by clicking here
 

30 comments:

  1. It's been lovely meeting you on the A to Z challenge Teresa ... I'll be looking at ants in a different way from here on, just in case lol

    Fil

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  2. Ut oh, Zombie Ants. Next you'll tell me there are Vampire Spiders?

    It's been great reading your posts!!!

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  3. Congratulations on crossing the finish line. I never heard of Zombie Ants! And now I have. The things you learn.

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  4. You finished! Way to go! I'm never sleeping again knowing there are zombie ants living among us...

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  5. Well I learned something here... :D
    Was great visiting with you this month -- and please get back to me on the other thing

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  6. Yikes! That's insane. Well they always say reality is stranger than fiction. Here's proof.

    True Heroes from A to Z

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  7. Zombie ants? Eeeeeek! What next?
    Congratulations on crossing the A to Z finishing line, Teresa!
    Writer In Transit

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    1. Thanks, Michelle! To you, as well. :-)

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  8. oh MAN, yes, I remember watching that bit when Planet Earth first came out. It is seriously creepy!! What a great post for today, though :) Congratulations on finishing the challenge!

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    1. Thanks, Liz. I'm so glad we met on the A to Z! Kudos for finishing the challenge!

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  9. YES, heard about these creepy critters! BTW, finally catching up on some comments from mid month, when I got swamped. Thanks for stopping by.

    Maui Jungalow

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    1. Thanks for visiting, Courtney. Your posts about Hawaii were interesting and educational. :-)

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  10. I've heard of these zombie ants! And you're right, a great science fiction story should come from them. My Z post has to do with zombies of the fictional kind. If you have time, and want to, you can check out my Z post.

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    1. :-) Thanks for visiting, Lisa. I did have time and I did visit. A great post :-) Thanks for visiting!

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  11. Wow! Zombie ants! Cray cray ;) Totally cool tho. Ohh, thanks for stalking me on Pinterest! I'm stalking you too :)

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    1. :-) You have so many neat boards on Pinterest, Karen! I don't have much yet. I'm more of a lurker. ;-) Thanks for visiting.

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  12. Yikes! Nature really can be pretty gruesome. Congrats on reaching the end of the Challenge.

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    1. It sure ca, Nick! Thank you--and thanks for visiting. :-)

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  13. got your message - and replied - hope can work it out

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    1. Thanks, Susan! Safe journeys... :-) Talk soon. :-)

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  14. Oh my. That does sound very sci-fi-ish!

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  15. Drave seems to be on a trigger temper---is he always like that, or is it the stress? Because you're right, I wouldn't be able to eat, either!

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  16. He's definitely a guy you want on your side of the fence. Wise mouth, hair trigger. A cold streak. But loyal to his friends. :-) Thanks for visiting, Sarah. :-)

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