Nature is amazing. I mean, the specifics of it. It boggles the mind. Over millions of years, the way certain things have evolved, the intricacies of the whole web of life. All these living things in competition to survive. Germs aren’t out to get us because they’re bad. They’re just trying to survive, and to reproduce, which is just the flip side of survival, survival of the species. Everything preys on something else, or has evolved a way to exist symbiotically with it. Predation, though, is far more common. And some of those forms predation takes are awe-inspiring. And scary.
Toxoplasma gondii lives primarily in the intestines of cats. When it infects a rat, it short-circuits the rat’s instinctive fear of the odor of cats, causing the rodent instead to feel sexual attraction to the odor. Thus they approach rather than run from cats and are quickly eaten—which gets the pathogen back in the cat’s intestines. It makes the rat the zombie middleman. What the fungi Ophiocordyceps unilateralis does to certain ants is even worse. It infects them, making them climb trees to bite down on leaves—and stay there affixed until they die. Then the fungi blossoms inside the ant and shoots sprout from the ants head. Hey, the fungi can’t climb up there by itself, can it?