The second or third time I watched Stamets show a video of a Cordyceps doing its diabolical thing to an ant—commandeering its body, making it do its bidding, and then exploding a mushroom from its brain in order to disseminate its genes—it occurred to me that Stamets and that poor ant had rather a lot in common. Fungi haven’t killed him, it’s true, and he probably knows enough about their wiles to head off that fate. But it’s also true that this man’s life—his brain!—has been utterly taken over by fungi; he has dedicated himself to their cause, speaking for the mushrooms in the same way that Dr. Seuss’s Lorax speaks for the trees. He disseminates fungal spores far and wide, helping them, whether by mail order or sheer dint of his enthusiasm, to vastly expand their range and spread their message.
It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?
But once the ants and termites jumped the high barrier that prevents the vast variety of evolving animal groups from becoming fully social, they dominated the world.
In many environments, take away the ants and there would be partial collapses in many of the land ecosystems.
My mom was a huge Adam and the Ants fan. My granddad listened to a lot of Motown and Elvis and Johnny Cash. So I was kind of well-rounded.
I was not a nice little girl. My favorite summertime hobby was stunning ants and feeding them to spiders.