Zombie Ant Fungus

Mankind is pretty smug, we see ourselves as jewels in the evolutionary crown – top of the food chain, dominant species, masters of our domain, Terms like “natural order” or “balance of nature” play second fiddle to foolish notions of superiority.  Language and opposable thumbs gave birth to civilization,  evolution dealt us a good hand. We tend to forget nature dealt every species a great hand.

Consider a spore producing organism – no brain, nervous system or ability to move other than mature spores catching a breeze or falling to the ground – you’re pondering Fungus. Now imagine spores that only attach themselves to carpenter ants – spores able to kill hosts just outside their home, use the corpse to mature, grow new spores, and toss them to the ground. Spores guaranteed to infect oblivious ants entering the nest – now you’re pondering Zombie Ant Fungus.

Assistant professor David Hughes of the Entomology Dept. at Penn State c0-authored a paper on Zombie Ant Fungus.

“Ants are remarkably adept at cleaning the interior of the nest to prevent diseases. But we also found that this fungal parasite can’t grow to the stage suitable for transmission inside the nest whether ants are present or not.”

“What the zombie fungi essentially do is create a sniper’s alley through which their future hosts must pass. The parasite doesn’t need to evolve mechanisms to overcome the effective social immunity that occurs inside the nest. At the same time, it ensures a constant supply of susceptible hosts.” – David Hughes

Nature runs a tight ship, evolution knows when to act and react. Zombie fungus isn’t a freakish accident. Dealt the hand needed to maintain balance – a hand no different than the one we got – everything happens for a reason. there’s a reason for everything. If nature decides mankind needs a zombie fungus  – use your opposable thumb to tweet #Zombiespores.



Canadian Zombies

One of my children used to have zombie nightmares. Not your run of the mill, average “don’t worry, it was just a bad dream” sleep disturbances – full on 3D IMAX extravaganzas occurring frequently enough to deserve a creative solution. Rather than trivializing or poo-pooing Zombie dream invaders, we became a Zombie escape and defense plan family.

With the same matter of fact thinking applied to fire or earthquake scenarios –  Zombie invasion made the list – no more or less important, simply considered from all angles, openly discussed then placed on the shelf within easy reach.

Understanding your enemy is the first step – driven by instinct they can’t form strategies, have no interest in nor ability to zombify the family pets, can’t swim, and can only be put out of their misery by destroying their brain. Armed with practical knowledge, “what ifs” became second nature. “What if” they attacked our house? How about while driving or at the grocery store? What if they came while on vacation or in unfamiliar surroundings? We had practical, fighting chance answers to all those questions.

It wasn’t long before Zombie night terrors became infrequent annoyances. Stripped of all consuming horror by acknowledgement and solutions. Along the way offering years of entertaining, hypothetical debate.

Michael Ross, a University of Alberta Engineering grad recently compiled a list of Canadian cities most and least likely to survive a Zombie attack. Based on criteria such as population density, proximity to military bases, climate and obesity/fitness  – his conclusions are linked below. Naturally gun ownership was a factor –  knowing what I do about Zombies I highly doubt our gun toting neighbors to the south should shrug off or exclude Zombie outbreaks from their list of paranoia.



For Americans seeking their chance of surviving a  Zombie apocalypse click on the link below.