I first heard about the “zombie fungus” from Robin Maytum when we were working together at Queen Mary. The story captivated my imagination: The fungus infects an ant, eats up most of its interiors, leaving intact a few key neurons and muscles. Once its feast is done, the fungus can still control the ant’s locomotion, which then moves on to a leaf from where the fungus can best spread out its spores.
If you are the ant, you are unlikely to hold Ophiocordyceps unilateralis high in your esteem, even more to befriend it. Robin was the first cell within the infected ant I encountered. Other tissues were quite unprepared for the infection and so our university (the ant) was overtaken by those fungus-like managers. I have not stopped telling that story ever since.