If popular entertainment has taught us anything over the past few years, it's that humanity will meet its demise not through nuclear war or natural catastrophe, but through the zombie apocalypse. Yes, we're all doomed when the day arrives where the dead rise up and eat the living, spreading their foul contagion to each person they bite. We've all been living in fear for the past 40-plus years (Romero's 'Night of the Living Dead' debuted in 1968), quietly waiting for the first sign that the end is at hand. Today, we have it.
Topless Robot reader RenGeek81 pointed out a Live Science article wherein researchers in the Brazilian rain forest have made a startling discovery: Fungi is turning carpenter ants into zombies. (RenGeek81 is probably a good guy to hang out with when the zombie sh*t hits the fan. If you're a "Ren Geek," you probably have swords and other medieval weaponry, which are great for killing the undead. Of course, if he's just a huge fan of 'Ren and Stimpy''s asthmatic chihuahua Ren Hoek, his usefulness in the zombie apocalypse drops dramatically.)
Hit the jump for the horrifying details.
According to the article, scientists have discovered not one, but four kinds of fungi that turn ants into zombies and eventually kills them. The ants may not then rise from the dead and attack the living, but they do spread the fungi to other ants because it literally explodes from their body after death.
Researchers witnessed the phenomena at two different sites in the Brazilian rain forest. Each of the fungi types targets a different species of Carpenter Ant. Once infected, the ant receives chemical signals from the parasite that force it to leave the colony, bite on to the underside of a leaf and remain there until death. Once the ant passes on to the great ant mound in the sky, the fungus then sprouts from the dead insect's head (and in some strains, the entire body) and releases spores into the air with the goal of infecting other ants. Heading over to Live Science will show you an amazingly terrifying photo gallery, including a shot of a zombie ant biting the neck of one of his former brethren. We are doomed.
The article does offer a ray of hope in all of the gloomy zombie apocalypse news, though. According to researcher David P. Hughes, one of the strains seems to be dying out. Hughes suspects the cause is temperature change in the area brought about by global warming. This article is like an anti-environmentalist's dream – global warming is actually good, and if the rain forest is producing zombie fungi, maybe slashing and burning the place to the ground is the way to go. Take that, tree huggers!
All we know at the moment is that our zombie apocalypse survival kit is getting a little bigger today. Now we're not only stocking it with guns, chainsaws, bladed implements and various tools, but also canisters of Raid and Rid-A-Bug. We'd also like to take this time to say goodbye and that it was nice knowing you all. Humanity had a good run while it lasted. Please be sure to use the comment section to coordinate your (futile) survival plans.