This Killer Fungus Turns Flies into Zombies | Deep Look


We like to think we’re in control … that
our minds are our own. But that’s not true for this fruit fly. Its brain has been hijacked by another organism
and it’s not going to end well. It all starts when the fly is innocently walking
around, sipping on overripe fruit. It picks up an invisible fungus spore, which
bores under its skin. For a few days, everything seems normal. But inside, the fungus is growing, feeding
on the fly’s fat … and infiltrating its mind. At dusk on the fourth or fifth day, the fly
gets a little erratic, wandering around. It climbs to a high place. Scientists call this behavior “summiting.” Then it starts twitching. The fungus is in control. The fly sticks out its mouthpart and spits
out a tiny drop of sticky liquid. That glues the fly down, sealing its fate. A few minutes later, its wings shoot up. And it dies. Now that the fungus has forced the fly into
this death pose … wings out of the way … nothing can stop it. It emerges. Tiny spore launchers burst out of the fly’s
skin. Hundreds of spores shoot out at high speed,
catching a breeze if the fly climbed high enough. They’re the next generation of killer fungus. It continues for hours, spores flying out. These flies are in the wrong place at the
wrong time. And if spores land on a wing, which they can’t
bore into, they shoot out a secondary spore to increase their chances of spreading. So how does a fungus take control of a brain? At Harvard, Carolyn Elya is trying to understand
that. She thinks the fungus secretes chemicals to
manipulate the fly’s neurons, maybe stimulating the ones that make flies climb. But don’t worry: The fungus can’t hurt
humans. Scientists have tried to harness its power
for our benefit, to kill flies in our kitchens and farms. They haven’t had any luck though. The deadly spores are actually pretty fragile
and short-lived. It turns out, this lethal puppet master does
only what it needs to for its *own* survival. Hi, it’s Lauren again. If you love Deep Look, why not help us grow
on Patreon? We’re raising funds to go on a filming expedition
to Oaxaca, Mexico. And for a limited time, we’re sweetening the
deal with a special gift. Link is in the description. And if you’re craving more spooky videos,
here’s a playlist of our scariest episodes. Don’t watch ‘em after midnight. See you soon.

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