Parasites that inspired The Last of Us can control living beings – Evening Edition Podcast
What if a parasite could control your mind and actions, turning you into a puppet for its own ends? It may sound like the plot of a science fiction movie or video game, but such parasites exist in reality. In fact, the concept was the inspiration for the popular video game The Last of Us. In this blog, we will explore the parasites that inspired The Last of Us and their real-world counterparts.
Parasites that control host behavior
Parasites that manipulate their hosts’ behavior are known as parasitic manipulators. These parasites alter the behavior of their hosts to increase the likelihood of their own survival and reproduction. One well-known example of such a parasite is the toxoplasma gondii, which can infect rats and alter their behavior to make them more likely to be eaten by cats. The parasite then reproduces inside the cat’s gut and is released in its feces, which can infect other rats and continue the cycle.
The Cordyceps fungus
The Cordyceps fungus is another example of a parasitic manipulator. It infects a variety of insects, including ants, and controls their behavior to ensure its own survival. The fungus grows inside the ant’s body, eventually killing it and sending out spores to infect other ants. The behavior of the infected ant is altered during the later stages of infection, causing it to climb to a high point and attach itself to a leaf or twig. The fungus then sprouts from the ant’s head, releasing spores in the process.
The Last of Us and Cordyceps
The Last of Us is a post-apocalyptic video game set in a world where a mutated strain of Cordyceps has infected most of the human population, turning them into zombie-like creatures. The infected humans, known as clickers, are not controlled by the fungus in the same way as their insect counterparts, but their behavior is altered nonetheless. The game’s portrayal of the fungus has been praised for its accuracy and attention to detail.
In conclusion, parasites that manipulate their hosts’ behavior are a fascinating and somewhat terrifying aspect of the natural world. The Cordyceps fungus and toxoplasma gondii are just a few examples of the many parasites that can control their hosts in various ways. The Last of Us is a prime example of how science can inspire art, introducing players to the concept of parasitic manipulators in a new and exciting way.
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