Zombie Spore Research Paper

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Cordyceps, the Zombie Spore
The members of the Ophiocordyceps genus are a species of fungi that have evolved a very special means of spreading their reproductive spores. By exposing insects to the spores of Ophiocordyceps, the fungus infects brain tissue and can essentially take control of the insect’s body, making it a “zombie” that can further spread the spores. Specifically, the fungus spread in the insect’s body and presumably produce compounds that affect the insect’s brain, utilizing the evolutionary trait of an extended phenotype to manipulate the behavioral patterns exhibited by the insect (Hughes, Andersen, Hywel-Jones, Himaman, Billen, Boomsma). When the fungus has matured enough to reproduce, it directs its victim to a vulnerable position, and emerges from the insect’s body, pushing stalks upward and outward, where spores will eventually burst from, infecting any insect of the same species that comes
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Due to environmental factors and predatory species, Cordyceps are kept in check, and mass extinction is not possible. Ironically, one of the biggest threats to the cordyceps fungus is, in fact, fungal infection. A hyperparasitic fungus that infects the O. unilateralis effectively castrates the fungus, preventing it from releasing its spores and infecting other ants. Environmental conditions affect the viability of spores because if specific conditions are not met, the spores cannot germinate. Studies have shown that only 6.5% of O. unilateralis spores released are viable (Hughes, David). The ants themselves have developed defenses against this sneaky fungus. They have begun to recognise the symptoms and remove infected ants from the colony. They take the infected out of the range of the colony to hopefully prevent more ants from being attacked (Jernigan,

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