Well, the first season of The Last of Us has ended and the next season is not expected for at least a year. Where are we going to get our fix of apocalyptic fungus zombies? Why, at the library of course! There are plenty of books about fungus taking over. But all of these zombie mushroom stories may make you ask yourself, is it possible for fungus to control humans?
Over the years the fictional reasons for why people might become zombies have varied from mysterious (think Night of the Living Dead, opens a new window) to viral plague (think 28 Days Later, opens a new window). But what about human-mushroom zombies?? If you played the game version of The Last of Us, or watched the recent TV series, then you’ve learned about cordyceps, the fungus that takes over and controls its host.
Fungus is fascinating and can be very beneficial. Besides the interconnected webs, opens a new window of it under our feet, it is part of so much of our existence, from bread, opens a new window to medicine, opens a new window. It can also be deadly. But despite what science says about everything eventually becoming a crab, opens a new window (next step in our evolution??), or cat mind control, opens a new window (research at your own risk! It’s kinda scary!), it is not actually possible for humans to become fungus hybrids, opens a new window. For one thing, our average body temperature, ranging between 97-99 degrees Fahrenheit, is too warm of an environment for fungus to grow.
But cordyceps is a real fungus that does very creepy things. The Last of Us video game that the TV series is based on was inspired by this clip, opens a new window from Planet Earth, opens a new window where an ant is infected by cordyceps. The fungus takes over the ant's body, controls its movements, and uses the ant to proliferate. Horrifying! Gross! Poor ant. Fortunately for us, along with the body temperature thing, the human brain is too complicated to be controlled and manipulated by fungus. In a world that can be full of possible danger at least we don’t have to worry about fungus mind control?
If you’re still looking for more, The Last of Us isn’t the only story out there that asks, What if humans could be controlled by fungus? Check out these books that explore this creepy idea.