A parasitic fungus has the ability to take over the mind and body of an ant before leading it to its final resting place at the most opportune time, an astonishing study has revealed.
The fungus, a species of Ophiocordyceps, was found living in carpenter ants in Thailand’s rain forest, controlling their nervous system so they became a vessel with one purpose: helping the fungus reproduce.
As the fungus spreads through the ant’s body it begins to act irregularly before it eventually dies with its jaws clamped around the vein of a leaf in a place perfect for the parasite to thrive, it was found.
Researchers witnessed a total of 16 infected ants leave their colony and bite into the underside of a leaf before dying – all at a time very close to midday.
‘Synchronised arrival of zombie ants at the graveyards is a remarkable phenomenon. It adds a layer of complexity on what is already an impressive feat,’ David Hughes, a study researcher from Pennsylvania State University, told LiveScience.com.