The Fungus Overlords
July 30, 2009 5:51 PM   Subscribe

Now you've got me thinking about psylocibin and hippies.
posted by jenkinsEar at 6:01 PM on July 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

That is some scary shit, right there. Makes me glad I'm not an ant. Or something.
I'd seen that Attenborough footage before, years ago, but it hadn't lost any of its shock value. (It's beautifully shot, as a bonus.) Yipes. The very phrase "fruiting body," in this context, at least, gives me the willies.

I hereby issue a MeFi challenge: someone else use the "Ophiocordyceps" tag!
posted by Dr. Wu at 6:47 PM on July 30, 2009

Darkness is Void; Juffo-Wup is light.

Juffo-Wup is the power of life... hot warmth in the cold Void. It flows through all things, binding them together, making them one. You are Non-Juffo-Wup, you cannot understand.

We look to Juffo-Wup for direction, and it provides the pattern -- endless expansion with purity of achievement and intolerance of error.

Juffo-Wup fills in my fibers and I grow turgid. Violent action ensues.

Juffo-Wup is inevitable.
posted by The Whelk at 6:54 PM on July 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

The video is nothing new, it's been around for a good long while. But I thought the texty meat of the post was pretty fascinating.
posted by Dumsnill at 6:55 PM on July 30, 2009

Ick. Fungus just creeps me right the hell out. Not quite plants, not quite bacteria, they thrive on rot and decay and pop out of nowhere to contaminate your food (or your skin). Spreading their weird bulbs and stalks and tendrils all over the place. And don't get me started on those puffball things... *shiver*

I'm pretty sure that fear stems to a shock image I was exposed to a few years ago, showing some kind of horrific fungus deconstructing someone's hand. I don't mean rotting it out or something similarly gory. It was more like the dude's skin went from normal, to some bizarre segmented beehive-looking texture, to empty space. You could see right into his hand. Still gives me nightmares.

(It might sound counterintuitive, but if anybody knows what this thing I described is I'd love to know. Somehow I think it'd be better to read about it in a technical way and understand it's an extremely rare thing, rather than something you can pick up if you make a wrong move in the more humid parts of the world.)
posted by Rhaomi at 6:58 PM on July 30, 2009

Cordyceps is used in traditional Chinese medicine. Look for it at a large co-op or health food store in the supplements aisle. Yes, those are zombie caterpillar pills, but you'd never know from the label.

Here's a page with pictures of people in Tibet tracking down and gathering caterpillar fungus in the wild for eventual sale.
posted by gimonca at 7:23 PM on July 30, 2009

This is how I know my s.o.'s family is cool. Sitting around the dinner table with her dad, making conversation, I say I'd recently read about this crazy fungus that takes control of a bug, makes it climb high, then clutch in a death grip until the thing can "fruit" from it and continue the cycle as spores fall to new, unsuspecting bugs.

"Oh, you mean cordyceps?"

... Can I call you pops?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:52 PM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Mushrooms always made me want to climb trees too.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:55 PM on July 30, 2009

posted by alms at 8:02 PM on July 30, 2009

"Oh, you mean cordyceps?"

... Can I call you pops?

Having spent time with my extended family for an extended time , I'd like a transfer.
posted by The Whelk at 8:12 PM on July 30, 2009

Get yer Cranberry Cordyceps drink right here.
posted by hermitosis at 8:36 PM on July 30, 2009

You know where you are? You're in the jungle, baby. You're gonna die.
posted by schoolgirl report at 8:42 PM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Reminds me of the morel, from Hothouse.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:56 PM on July 30, 2009

Is this where I mention Toxoplasma Gondii? The plucky little protozoan that infects the brains of little critters and by pushing all sorts of biochemical buttons turns them into cat-loving suicide machines.

T.Gondii completes it's adult lifecycle in the cat and turns the feline into a t.gondii-laden poop dispensers (with no apparent harm to the cat) whereby the miracle of the 'circle-of-life™' means that the eggs end up in little critters again.

The best bit is that T.Gondii also infects humans and charmingly also lives in our brains. If you live in Western Europe you have a 1 in 3 chance of having some of these critters incubating inside your head. T.Gondii infection has been implicated in 'including slower reaction times and a 6-fold increased risk of traffic accidents' and possible links to an increased (or decreased, I forget) chance of sufferring from clinical depression.

Sweet dreams!
posted by JustAsItSounds at 9:02 PM on July 30, 2009

When the ants ended up in this particular kind of spot, the fungus grew in the same consistent pattern. It developed an orange tube that ran the length of the animal, rich in carbohydrates. A big black ball of fungal tissue grew in the ant’s abdomen, and white threads, known as hyphae, spread through the rest of the body. Within 24 hours after death, the hyphae began to emerge out of their host, making the ants fluffy. Some of the hyphae grew out to contact the leaf, lashing the host in place. By the second day, a pinkish stalk began pushing out of the ant’s head. As the entire ant became covered in a mat of hyphae, the stalk grew to be twice as long as the ant itself. At first the fungus produces asexual spores, but after a week or so, the stalk produces sexual spores. Each night, both kinds of spores rain down on an area of about a square meter on the forest floor.

Thanks. I didn't really feel like sleeping tonight. Or ever again.
posted by rtha at 10:39 PM on July 30, 2009

Here's a page with pictures of people in Tibet tracking down and gathering caterpillar fungus in the wild for eventual sale.

Meh. Doesn't everyone get that "I should go into the wilds and track down and gather caterpillar fungus for eventual sale" feeling once in a while?
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:35 PM on July 30, 2009

Oh, for chrissakes.

So, less than six hours after I post about how deeply fungus/mold/etc. creep me out, I take a big swig out of a cup of Red Diamond brand sweet tea and detect something lightly swishing in my mouth. I go to the sink, spit it out, and am left with a thick slimy string of something hanging from my mouth. I yank it out in horror and find it's the remnant of some kind of film that was suspended in the tea.

So I go to the fridge, take out the jug of tea (which doesn't expire until August 8th!), hold it up to the light, and am stunned to see these bulbous pods floating near the bottom. They look like jellyfish without tentacles. I'm now thoroughly disgusted, especially since I've been drinking the tea for the last few days and am almost finished with it. I guess that explains the sour stomach I had all day today.

To make matters worse, I search for the problem and come across the tactfully-titled, which tells the tale of a Texas couple who discovered oil refinery slop in their tea when they sent an evil-smelling sample to a private lab. They're apparently being sued by the company now for defamation. The complaints section is full of emails from folks in recent months who also found slimy clumps in their tea. And this group is backed up by reviewers from, who submit such charming reviews as:

I bought a gallon of it and drank over 3/4 of it. I was looking in my glass I had just poured and saw what I thought was the seedy head of a dandelion. I removed it from the glass, and upon further inspection realized it was some type of slimy bacteria. I hung onto it to see what would happen, and overnight just the slimey thing turned into a chia pet, but not the tea around it! I thought, "well, maybe it's just this jug, although it was nowhere near being expired." So, I went and bought another jug. Like an idiot, I just drank it without checking it. Lo and behold, I was drinking it and again noticed a slimey ball in it. I took the jug (once again, NOT expired) and poured it into a clear bowl in the kitchen sink. I found two more of those balls! This was now days ago, and they are like little bushes in the bowl (which is not sitting out where anyone or anything could consume it). I will NEVER drink it again.

Goddamn fungus. *shiiivers*

(And oh yeah, the Red Diamond website is conveniently down, and there's no phone number on the jug. I guess I'll ring the FD-fucking-A instead. Jesus.)
posted by Rhaomi at 12:52 AM on July 31, 2009 [3 favorites]

I, for one, welcome...
posted by ActingTheGoat at 2:09 AM on July 31, 2009

See also: the disgustingly creepy story The Seed from the Sepulchre from the great Clark Ashton Smith.
posted by Iosephus at 4:28 AM on July 31, 2009

Having spent time with my extended family for an extended time , I'd like a transfer.

On reflection, it was probably the toxoplasma talking.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:13 AM on July 31, 2009

Rhaomoi's lovely little experience reminds me of a bottle of Molson's I had years ago. It had some fungus/algae/alien sort of critter growing in it. The thing was attached to the glass about halfway up the bottle and there were all these little tendrils growing off of that, waving gracefully inside the green bottle. I kept it around for a couple of years. One of the most trouble-free pets I've ever had.
posted by metagnathous at 7:06 AM on July 31, 2009

I second the welcome. Crows and fungi, all hail!
posted by blucevalo at 9:14 AM on July 31, 2009

I've always found fungi/molds kind of fascinating, for precisely the reasons others hate them; they are omnipresent and not actually animals or plants, precisely, a concept that seems to break our brains. There's a type of slime mold that actually develops into a sort of slug, moves to the top of whatever debris pile it's in, then turns back into a fruiting mold. That's disgusting, but also awesome in the ways that it's so alien to us.

And of course, things like the giant Oregon fungus are also a clue that the organic world we think we know is really just a fragment of the whole.

We ourselves are not really single beings, but collections of bacterial co-ops, after all.
posted by emjaybee at 11:38 AM on July 31, 2009

Props to The Whelk for the Star Controll II reference. That game had the best dialogue ever.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:05 PM on July 31, 2009

Ah, the Running Fungus. I see you are a trader of distinction.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:12 PM on July 31, 2009

I don't know how I could possibly have missed this thread, but I thought I'd better post now than hold my peace:

The Whelk? I challenge you to an Internet game of The Ur-Quan Masters in melee mode!

On preview, this also goes for [expletive deleted]. Bring it on!!!

The gauntlet has been thrown down! If you ever played Star Control II, I expect you to accept this challenge! (And most likely to kick my ass at it, but no matter.)

If you're not aware, The Ur-Quan Masters is a (quite faithful) port of Star Control II to Mac OS X, Win32 (and maybe Win64?) and Linux. Please feel free to PM me to set up battles ;).

Juffo-Wup fills in my fibers and I grow turgid. Violent action ensues!

posted by Juffo-Wup at 7:00 PM on August 4, 2009

Happy camper unable to enjoy the sauce.
posted by The Whelk at 8:52 PM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Melee Ur-Quan Masters is all well and good, but Frungy is the sport of kings!
posted by [expletive deleted] at 2:06 PM on August 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

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