A naturalist acquaintance tells me about the fungus that infects, then hijacks ant brains. “It does what?!” I ask. She tells me that the fungus, in the manner of a crane operator driving a crane, drives its ant host down from the tree canopy to the forest floor where it forces the ant to attach itself to the underside of a leaf, that environment being more conducive to fungal fecundity, and there the ant dies.
Soon after, the fungus blooms straight out of the ant’s head, bursting it open like a piece of popcorn. “Holy shit!” I say.
But the ants are proactive, she says. They take measures. If a guard ant senses that another ant is packing fungus, the guard ant cuts off the infected ant’s head and buries it. Buries the head. And then, my naturalist acquaintance tells me, the guard ant cuts off its own head, which its still animate body proceeds to bury also.
“Fuck me!“, I’m about to say, but I don’t really know her that well, so all I say is “Fuck!”, dimly aware that my butt has gone numb and my stomach feels like a giant ball of cotton. Even at this anecdotal distance, I’m undone by the spectacular, brutal, brilliant machinations of the natural world.