This may look like something out of a horror or science fiction movie. A tarantula that looks like it has antlers growing out of it could easily haunt the darkest corners of cinema, but the fact that this is real makes it that much more terrifying. This poor little bugger is being attacked by Cordyceps, “a parasitic fungus that replaces its host’s tissue with its own.” Again, this is something straight out of genre cinema.
Cordyceps are a species of fungus that infest insects and other arthropods. After the Cordyceps invades the host, the mycelium (the vegetative part of the fungus) gradually replaces the host tissue. “Once the arthropod is dead, cylindrical or branching growths emerge from the creature’s dead body.”
As if all of this isn’t freakishly horrifying enough, some species of Cordyceps also have “mind control capabilities.” They can control behavior. Really? This stuff will climb into the host and drive it around until they find the ideal place for the fungus to grow. Then the host dies and the fungus propagates. This is some serious alien invasion/body snatching horror stuff here. Watch this video from BBC’s Planet Earth series if you want to have nightmares. It shows the Cordyceps invading and taking over ants…
Cordyceps have long been used for medicinal purposes. They’ve been employed as tonics, aphrodisiacs, anti-depressants, and even as supposed athletic performance enhancers. Use dates back to the 15th century, but there is little concrete evidence to back up these claims.