Cordyceps, Nature's Beautiful Killer

You know how some things are better off unknown? That would be the case for cordyceps and me, ever since I found out about it from a nature documentary the first thought of it makes my skin crawl. For the uninitiated, cordyceps is a parasitic fungus that slowly and agonizingly eats away at insects while they're still alive, and replaces their live tissue with long tendrils of fungus...the fungus grows and eventually alters their behavior...making them plant themselves on a leaf or somewhere high that the spores can spread. Then - here's the kicker - a bulbous, fruiting body grows out of the host insect and they slowly die while the spores get distributed among whatever is around the area where they died.

There have been signs of fossilized cordyceps-infected insects from as far back as 48 million years ago. Luckily for humans, the fungus cannot attack our tissues in the way it can for insects and arthropods. Actually, certain strains of cordyceps are known for their medicinal properties and are sold for 10,000 - 60,000 yuan in the Tibetan Plateau. They have also shown anti cancer properties in in vitro and animal studies. In mice, they produced an anti depressant effect. As awesome as all that (and other studies) sounds, I just don't think I have the inclination to ingest something that does THIS to insects. Cordyceps is one of those reminders that insects have to deal with uncomfortable and horrific things too, but I doubt that anyone can refute that it is quite the beautiful killer.

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