Remember that brain fungus that forces "zombie ants" to leave their colonies and march around feeding a fungal organism in their brains until one day it pops out and kills them? What if the terrorists get their hands on it?

As we noted last night, an ancient fungus is infecting ants' brains and releasing chemicals that change their behavior. Like jihadi marionettes, they march away from their families and loved ones, feeding that which will eventually destroy them. Quoth the Guardian:

The final stage of the parasitic death sentence is the most macabre. In their last hours, infected ants move towards the underside of the leaf they are on and lock their mandibles in a "death grip" around the central vein, immobilising themselves and locking the fungus in position.

"This can happen en masse. You can find whole graveyards with 20 or 30 ants in a square metre. Each time, they are on leaves that are a particular height off the ground and they have bitten into the main vein before dying," said David Hughes at Harvard University.

Quoth national security blogger Adam Weinstein of Current Intelligence: "The armchair strategist in me thinks: How can our enemies use that?"

I'm no chemical or biological weapons expert, so if you are, tell me if I'm crazy, please: Can you imagine a future powder solution, not unlike weaponizable anthrax or botulinum agent, that spreads a fungus capable of commandeering a human brain? Could particular strains be developed to direct hosts into this behavior or that: jumping out of windows, refusing to eat, choking strangers out? Could it even be used to turn reasonable, free-thinking individuals into PBIEDs—that is, suicide bombers?

Setting aside the zombie genre for a minute (my preferred anti-zombie paradigm, social constructivism, doesn't get much respect anyway), mind-control has been mined by film producers before, from the suspenseful (original) Manchurian Candidate to Reggie Jackson's would-be royal assassin in The Naked Gun to the M. Night Shyamalan vehicle The Happening (which is laughably horrid even by M.-Night-Shayamalan-vehicle standards). So, much of my gathering horror over some "zombie ants" is likely rooted in my movie well as my lack of serious scientific training.

But still. I can't be the only person unsettled by this whole system of ant seppuku, can I?

Holy crap, dude. You were the only person unsettled by ant seppuku. But now, craven armies of humanoid zombies with exoskeletons, pinschers on their abdomens, and explosive devices strapped to their chests will fill all of our nightmares. (Is that the plot of District 9?) Thanks a lot, Adam Weinstein.

[Current Intelligence, Guardian, image via Flickr]


The 48-Million-Year-Old Fungus That Controls Ants Like Zombies