Back from the Dead

When most people think of this concept, it’s in the form of a zombie. A shambling, no-brained creature that just wants to eat brains and infects the people they bite. Although not on the same premise as how zombies are usually made — viruses — there are cases in which dead insects come back to life.

Of course, the case that is well-known is the fungus known as Ophiocordyceps unilateralis. In essence, when the host creature is about to die, the fungus orders the host to climb high up into the towering foliage and hang on for dear life. The ant has no control over this entire process and, unfortunately, brings this same misfortune on her fellow sisters. Although this fungus has the potential to decimate entire colonies, like every zombie-outbreak movie, there’s a way to stop the spread.

Ants that are affected by O. unilateralis have developed an ability to sense whether a member has been affected and will carry away the infected member. In most cases, however, the fungus is stopped by an unknown hyperparasite. A hyperparasite is an entity that parasitizes another parasite. Essentially, it is assisting the host by removing the host’s parasite. This hyperparasite is able to stop the spore from reproducing by attacking the fungus as it tries to form a spore-producing stalk.

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