☆ (theidolhands) wrote in 1word1day,


Sunday Word: Ophiocordyceps Unilateralis

o·phio·cor·dy·ceps u·ni·lat·er·al·is [ōfē-ˈkɔrdəsɛps/ ˈyo͞onəˈlatrəˈralˈi-z]:
origin: (1849) Ancient Greek; óphis= snake, Latin; cord, club; ceps= head, uni= of one, or combining form,

The so-called "zombie fungus", one from the genus of cordyceps (or parasitic fungi), infects its host through spores that attach to the outside of the insect. As ants famously do not spend a lot of time bathing, let alone in cleansing chemicals, the fungus is free to grow and develop enzymes and pressure necessary to break through the exoskeleton.

Once inside the body of its host, Ophiocordyceps Unilateralis (or O. Unilateralis to its homies), the ant will lose control of its ability to function, tissues are replaced with fungus that mimics -- presumably (science isn't yet sure) -- the chemical language necessary to trigger muscle responses, then dramatically altering its behavior. Eventually the ant will be made to climb high up a tree and attatch itself to the underside of a leaf, via the bizarre growth, sticking out from its skull like a unicorn horn; for this is the ideal level of moisture and temperature that the fungus requires to release spores.

The fresh spores, having exploded from the ant's brain, hope to attach themselves to new hosts, ergo, allowing the entire life cycle to repeat! Leaving behind eerie, ethereal skeletons, reticent of something from Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. This is how parasitic creatures survive and reproduce, by utilizing a host for a function they themselves haven't adapted to do alone; no matter the inconvenience or destruction caused for the sake of their own survival.

But...what keeps these creepy fungi in check, why aren't they taking over the world, you ask?

Well, there is such a thing as a hyperparasite, which simply is a parasite that only invades other parasites (perhaps you'd prefer the term "Inception parasite") and O. Unilateralis is not immune. Actually, very few of the spores ever manage to perfectly reproduce through this horrifying and manipulative technique.

Oh yes, my little ones, truth is stranger than fiction!

Sir David Attenborough elegantly describes "zombie fungus", your life is complete.
Tags: greek, latin, noun, o, scientific, wordsmith: theidolhands

  • Sunday Word: Merrythought

    merrythought [ mer-ee-thawt] noun: (British English) the wishbone or furcula of a fowl, the forked bone between the neck and breast of a…

  • Friday Phrase: Sui generis

    Sui generis, pronounced SOO-ee JEN-ər-iss, is a Latin phrase that boils down to "unique" or something in a class by itself. Kind of like this fuzzy…

  • Friday Phrase: Mother Hubbard

    If you have heard this old nursery rhyme, you probably didn't think too much about Mother Hubbard: Old Mother Hubbard Went to the Cupboard, To…

  • Post a new comment


    Comments allowed for members only

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded