As reported recently by The Guardian, scientists have discovered a fungus that appears to turn carpenter ants (Camponotus leonardi) into zombies.
The fungus latches onto the ants as they cross the forest floor. It grows inside the ants and releases chemicals that take control of their brains, leading some of the ants to wander away to find fresh leaves, while others fall from their tree-top havens to leaves closer to the ground.
The Guardian describes the last stages of the infected ants’ lives:
The final stage of the parasitic death sentence is the most macabre. In their last hours, infected ants move towards the underside of the leaf they are on and lock their mandibles in a "death grip" around the central vein, immobilising themselves and locking the fungus in position.Once the ant is dead, the fungus sprouts from its head, producing a pod of spores that can infect other ants.
Until recently it had been thought that the brain-altering and eventually fatal effects of this fungus were to be found only in carpenter ants.
Alarmingly, however, it appears that the fungus has mutated and is now affecting humans.
Experts noticed last week that, after a lengthy period of seemingly irrational and contradictory statements and policy positions, the five members of the ACT caucus begin to display signs of the terrible illness.
Some of those signs indicate that the disease may be in its final stages.
“The symptoms were there all along,” said Francis Glodwing, an entomologist and specialist in ant species. “Some of the caucus members have been acting weirdly for quite a few years. But we just assumed they were a bunch of regular nutjobs, and not actually infected."
Mr Glodwing said it now appears the fungus can live for years inside the human brain before killing the host.
“In the case of Roger Douglas, there were signs over twenty years ago that his brain wasn’t functioning properly. That’s when the first zombie-like symptoms may have begun to manifest themselves. His leaving the Labour Party to obsessively pursue laughable and nonsensical economic policies can be compared with the infected carpenter ant abandoning its colony and locking its mandibles into a leaf in a different part of the tree.
“I wish we had seen the signs earlier.”
Doctors now hold grave fears for the five members of the ACT caucus. Their behaviour has become increasingly inexplicable, and there are fears that their public tearing and clawing at each other may be the first signs of the dreadful “death grip” seen in the ants.
The carpet-chewing and mouth-frothing associated with ACT policies on law and order, welfare reform, and government spending also indicate that the fungus may have infected the wider party membership.
A graphic illustration of the the effects of the fungus. ACT MP John Boscawen is pictured