Real-Life Zombies: 10 Examples of Mind Control in Nature

Ants with Fungus on the Brain

(image via: national geographic)

That right there is a mushroom growing out of an ant’s brain – a fungal parasite called Cordyceps that infects its host’s brain, directs it to a location where the fungus can best grow and spread, and then kills it. Researchers believe that there may be thousands of zombie-creating fungi in tropical forests across the globe.

Worms That Make Grasshoppers Kill Themselves

(images via: wikipedia)

Crickets and grasshoppers that pick up the parasitic hairworm Spinochordodes tellinii develop a death wish. The parasite, which is transmitted in larval form through water, grows into a worm inside the cricket or grasshopper’s body to a length that can be three or four times that of its host. Once mature, the worm directs the zombified grasshopper to plunge itself into the water and drown. That way, the worm can reproduce, sending out more larvae to start the process all over again.

Barnacles Turn Crabs into Mindless Surrogate Mothers

(images via: wikipedia)

Not only do Sacculina barnacles latch onto crabs as parasitic hitchhikers, they also castrate the crabs if they’re male, causing them to lose their desire to reproduce. The barnacle injects itself into a joint on the crab’s body and molts, since it no longer needs its own shell – the crab has effectively turned into its shell. All the energy that would normally be expended on the crab’s own reproduction is diverted to the Sacculina‘s growth. Then, once the Sacculina releases its eggs, the mind-controlled crab stirs the water with its claw to help them spread. The crab then cares for the eggs as if they were its own.