New fungus that MUMMIFIES its prey and shoots a fuzzy purple-colored stalk out of the corpse is discovered in Brazil

A startling revelation from the heart of the Brazilian rainforest has unearthed a chilling organism, a sinister fungus that mummifies its prey in a macabre dance of death. Emerging from the shadows, this enigmatic specimen has been christened “Purpureocillium,” and its tale is as dark as it is intriguing. It feasts upon the unsuspecting trapdoor spiders, casting an eerie purple shroud over their doomed existence, a hue that mystifies even the experts. This newfound creature shares a bloodline with the infamous zombie ant fungus, a name etched into popular culture through HBO’s ‘The Last of Us.’ But what sets Purpureocillium apart is a horrifying tale of infection, penetration, and a grotesque transformation that defies imagination. ( (

Photo credit: The spore forms a bell shape as it grows out of the spider’s head and releases millions of spores into the air

In the intricate web of nature’s cruelty, Purpureocillium, much like its zombie ant counterpart, relies on an insidious modus operandi. It all begins with spores, tiny, insidious seeds of doom, drifting through the rainforest air until they alight upon an unsuspecting victim. ( Once these microscopic invaders penetrate the spider’s body, a slow and sinister transformation unfolds. Fungal tissue, akin to a relentless invader, fans out through the arachnid’s form, sowing the seeds of an inescapable demise.

Photo credit: The specimen, which feasts on trapdoor spiders in the rainforest, belongs to the same family as the zombie ant fungus made famous in HBO’s ‘The Last of Us

But the most grotesque chapter in this ghastly narrative takes shape as these insidious yeast-like cells multiply and interconnect. In the aftermath of the spider’s demise, these once-isolated cells meld together into filaments, known as hyphae, creating a nightmarish spectacle that sprouts from the hapless arachnid’s body. It’s a ghoulish transformation, and the point of origin varies with the species. In the case of Purpureocillium, it is the spider’s cephalothorax that serves as the macabre stage for this unholy spectacle.

Photo credit: Cordyceps has only been found to infect ants, turning them into zombies in order to spread more spores

While Purpureocillium has cropped up in various corners of the globe, including Japan, it has long masqueraded as a single species. João Araújo, of the New York Botanical Gardens, has shattered this illusion. He contends that P. ( atypicolum, the new discovery in Brazil, is but one facet of a larger “complex of species.” A chilling revelation, hinting at the unseen horrors that lurk beneath the surface of our planet. It is a discovery that may hold the key to a peculiar mystery – the fungus’s radiant purple hue, a riddle yet to be unraveled, a secret that beckons researchers to delve deeper into its enigmatic depths.

Parasitic fungi, exemplified by the likes of the zombie ant fungus, have seized the public’s imagination, thanks in no small part to HBO’s ‘The Last of Us.’ The series has painted a dystopian portrait where a fungal apocalypse transforms humans into cannibalistic fiends. Although this nightmarish scenario doesn’t unfold in reality, it does possess an eerie connection to nature’s intricate dance. ( Cordyceps, a close relative of Purpureocillium, evolved to turn ants into zombies, a chilling process that defies belief. It all began some 45 million years ago when the fungus first infected an unsuspecting beetle, and from there, it leaped to ants, setting the stage for nature’s most grotesque ballet.

In the HBO series, the infected appear as savage monsters, but reality spins a different tale. ( The infected ants, far from becoming aggressors, behave in a bizarre, intoxicated manner. Their sole purpose is to find a tranquil and hospitable spot, a final resting place that caters to the insidious whims of the parasite growing within. It’s a nightmarish puppetry that leaves the ants in a state akin to inebriation, their lives bartered for the survival of a merciless invader.

While Purpureocillium and its kin may not threaten humanity anytime soon, a chilling reality persists. In our world, other fungal nightmares lurk, menacing our very existence. The haunting echoes of a scientist’s warning in the 1960s, portrayed in ‘The Last of Us,’ resonate as a chilling prelude. In October 2022, the World Health Organization unveiled a grim roster of health-threatening fungi, a compendium of 19 fungal terrors that loom ominously on the horizon, representing an ever-present menace to public health.

As we peer into the depths of this fungal abyss, it’s a stark reminder of nature’s capacity to astonish and horrify in equal measure. The rainforests, those lush, emerald sanctuaries, cradle not only the wonders of biodiversity but also the macabre secrets of Purpureocillium and its ilk. They serve as a somber testament to the age-old battle for survival, where even the smallest organisms wield the power to reshape the world, painting it in hues both beautiful and dreadful. (

Yael Wolfe

Writer, photographer, artist, and big, bad wolf. I’m a writer, photographer, and artist. I use my work to explore what it means to be a woman in this world.

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