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New Zombie Fungus Discovered in Brazil

Brazil’s rainforest fungus mummifies and exhibits zombie-like effects.

The fungus in Brazil known as Purpureocillium, according to Mirror, is related to cordyceps, which sprang to fame as a result of HBO’s The Last of Us, and it predominantly preys on trapdoor spiders. Spores that settle on the victim and enter its body are how the fungus infects its hosts.

According to Joo Arajo from the New York Botanical Gardens, the fungus multiplies as yeast-like cells inside the host spider’s body, defeating the host’s immune system and leading to disease. These yeast-like cells kill the host and then organize into chains, expand into filaments, and eventually form a fruiting body, which usually emerges from the spider’s cephalothorax.

Scientists still didn’t know why the fungus had such a vivid purple color, and they thought it might be made up of several different unidentified species. Arajo, however, asserted that the discovery was exclusive to South America or Brazil and that the zombie fungus was a “complex of species.”

Following the success of the HBO series The Last of Us, which included a plotline about a fungus infecting people, the prevalence of parasitic fungi attracted attention. According to an earlier theory by Arajo, cordyceps first infected beetles and then moved on to ants, which frequently lived in the same tree trunks, some 45 million years ago, causing them to become zombie ants.

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