All the infected you killed in The Last of Us were still fully conscious humans, or so the science says.

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The fungus that turns ants into zombies he was inspired by Naughty Dog for The Last of Us apocalypse is even more complex than the game showed. For starters, no talking about zombies as a synonym for infected.

Every single mushroom-faced human you ruthlessly killed in The Last of Us and its sequel were, in reality, humans fully aware of what was happening. It was the cordyceps unilateralis that was in charge of moving the muscles against their will.

The real phenomenon that inspired The Last of Us

When in the early 2000s the BBC published the documentary Planet Earth, the images shown in each of its chapters amazed the world. However, there was specifically, episode 8 dedicated to the jungles, which uniquely affected the video game industry.

Issued in April 2007 and narrated by Sigourney Weaver -instead of David Attenborough’s classic voice from the original version published a year earlier-, that episode would make the masses known, and the team of Naughty Dogone of the most impressive phenomena in the animal world: the attack of the cordyceps unilateralis.

The funguswhich attacks one type of ant but can also end up attacking other insects, seizes the host, makes it climb to the top of a plant near the anthill, sticks its mandibles into the stem and begins to sprout from the body, thus taking advantage of the height to spread their spores.

The spectacular graphic document became the inspiration for The Last of Us pandemic. A cordyceps unilateralis like that of these ants that, under the influence of an unknown virus, grew in power and ambition by also attacking humans, turning them into zombies that infected by biting or reproducing those aforementioned spores after dying.

Much more than zombie ants

Both the success of the documentary and the video game helped spread the name of cordyceps unilateralis and, among all those who were captivated by the impressive force of nature, there was a group of entomologists and biologists who were especially interested. They wanted to discover what was behind such a curious prodigy.

The result, as they collected in their article for the United States National Academy of Sciences, is that the concept of uncontrolled zombies was far removed from what the fungus really caused. In fact, they found that it did not affect the brain, which invalidated that the cordyceps change the behavior of the ant.

Cordy

What they discovered was that the infection reproduced inside the ant’s body until it created a network of interconnected cells that acted only peripherally, taking over the muscles of its joints and moving the ant at will despite orders to the contrary. emitted by the intact brain.

So yes The Last of Us was inspired and took the name and operation of the cordyceps unilateralis to build their mycology and underworld monsters, we were actually shooting infected who were fully aware of what was happening but couldn’t do anything about it. If The Last of Us 2 questioned our spiral of violence within the game, now the gates of heaven have just closed a little more on us.

Image | Thomas Wievegg

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