How a parasitic fungus turns ants into zombies can be explained by looking at the reproductive behavior of this particular fungus. The name for the fungus in nature is Microsporum and it normally occurs on plants as either a fungus or mold. As an organism, the fungus is a single-celled organism and it cannot reproduce by division. It must reproduce by means of division and that is what happens when it infects its host cells. The disease causing Microsporum fungus takes over the living tissue present in the case of the infected animal or human.
There are many species of fungi that cause infection and they usually occur naturally on plants. If you have ever noticed spots of mold growing around your house or on your garage floor, you probably are dealing with one of these natural species. Most of the time you will not even know that you have been infected with any kind of fungal infection until you notice that the ants are dying. When you look closer, you will see that the fungal infection has made the infected areas really ugly and they look like they are ready to collapse.
A popular scientific finding in recent years has been the study of how plants “know” when to stop growing. The DNA replication process is triggered by a specific protein, which researchers have found is present in all plants. In fact, the protein is so specific that the dosage required for activating the cell cycle must be very precise-more so than would be done in laboratory experiments, where scientists are able to control variables much more easily. However, despite this power, determining when a plant has reached the maximum possible level of reproduction can be a real challenge.
It turns out, according to a paper just published in the journal Science, that plants can “remember” a set of factors which they must use in order to trigger a complete DNA replication cycle. Specifically, they suggest, a plant might require the correct temperature, and light environment as well as water levels in order to trigger the genetic changes that initiate the DNA replication. But plants also have a natural way of preventing DNA replications-in fact, it is their very defense against pathogen attack. And these mechanisms apparently only work to keep them healthy. In other words, they can’t slow down or stop the rate of cell division even if they could.