Like something straight out of The Last of Us, scientists have found a parasitic fungus in Brazil that attacks trapdoor spiders, The Guardian reports. It is not clear yet whether the fungus takes control of the spider before killing it like the zombie ant fungus that the TV show is based on.
"It's a really beautiful thing," said João Araújo, a Brazilian mycologist with the New York Botanical Garden, who discovered the fungus. "They infect trapdoor spiders, and it's one of the very few cordyceps that are purple, which is a cool feature." He adds that the new species "belongs to a mega-diverse group of fungi," of which "we know about one percent of its diversity, so we know very little."
The fungus was found in the Atlantic Rainforest, the lesser-known but just as diverse rainforest. The forest has lost over 80 percent of its tree cover due to deforestation. Restoring the forest "would combat climate change, safeguard exceptional biodiversity, and boost Brazil's rural economy," scientists believe. "This type of mushroom has been collected very few times in the world, mainly in Thailand. This will likely be the first time we sequence a species like this from Brazil," Araújo commented.
Understanding the species more deeply could lead researchers to "investigate new medical compounds or use them to protect against pests in crops." Some of the initial research conducted included on-site DNA sequencing. Dr. Natalia Przelomska, who worked on-site, remarked that "what was really special about the field trip was that we could go and use some of the newest DNA sequencing technologies with the people working there."