Carpenter ants of the Brazilian rain forest have it rough. When one of these insects gets infected by a certain fungus, it turns into a so-called "zombie ant" and is no longer in control of its actions. Manipulated by the parasite, an infected ant will leave the cosy confines of its arboreal home and head to the forest floor - an area more suitable for fungal growth. After parking itself on the underside of a leaf, the zombified ant anchors itself into place by chomping down onto the leaf. This marks the ant's final act. From here, the fungus continues to grow and fester inside the ant, eventually thrusting a stalk through the ant's head that releases fungal spores. This entire process, from start to finish, can take upwards of ten agonizing days.
Tagged With brain parasites
A new study shows that Toxoplasma gondii -- a brain parasite often transmitted to humans by cats -- triggers various changes in the human brain which potentially allow the pathogen to exacerbate several pre-existing neurological conditions. It's a worrisome finding given that around eight million Australians are infected with the parasite, but more work is needed to assess T. gondii's full impact on human health.