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.