Posts Tagged ‘Zombie Insects’


// October 21st, 2009 // 2 Comments » // Sex and Reproduction

A slight departure, one could even say a step backwards (wink) from the usual Reproduction Wednesday. Today is about love… well, sex… well, aphrodisiacs.

Greek Myth Time! In the times before time really began, the great gods of old stalked heaven and earth and they were dark and shady characters. Uranus, the sky god, beheld Gaia, the earth goddess, and lay over her to make love to her. Gaia became with child, and Uranus realised that one day one of these children would take over as king of all the lands and was jealous, so he kept them stuck inside the darkness of her cave, and would not let her give birth to them.

Gaia was not pleased, and so gave her youngest son Cronus a scythe and some instructions. Next time Uranus decided to get freaky with Gaia’s cave, Cronus took the scythe and cut off his penis! Uranus flew up to the sky, where he remains to this day, and the children of Gaia walked the earth and were called Titans. Cronus threw the penis into the ocean, and from droplets of semen that fell into the sea, Aphrodite was born and came ashore in a wash of “sea foam.” Stunningly beautiful, Aphrodite is the goddess of love and sex, and gives the word aphrodisiacs their name.

But on to the science.

Plenty of one night stands can be blamed on an overconsumption of ethanol, but that doesn’t make it an aphrodisiac. Ethanol, like all the CNS depressants, lower inhibitions and reduce anxiety, which can lead to a certain kind of reckless confidence involving eventual loss of underpants. HOWEVER taking alcohol can make it hard to get hard; in the words of Shakespeare ala Macbeth “it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance.” Plus you might end up passing out, snoring loudly, and drooling all over the pillow. That’s not hot.

“The time has come, the Walrus said, to speak of many things.” Did the Walrus want to get it on with the Carpenter? I like to think not, that’s a kids book and as if the drug references in Alice in Wonderland weren’t enough! The general consensus is that oysters are believed to be aphrodisiacs because they remind people of a lady’s reproductive organ. Another theory is that they are from the sea, birth place of Aphrodite. Yet another is that they are high in zinc, which has been shown to increase testosterone production which could lead to increased libido (see below). They all sound dodgy to me, and the zinc story I first heard from a really sleazy guy so I like to believe it’s not true. If I had to pick one, I’d choose the first one – there’s plenty of examples of aphrodisiacs that look like reproductive organs, like bananas and rhino horn It makes sense if you’re looking at something that makes you think about sex, you’ll be more inclined to have sex. It’s like subliminal advertising.
So called aphrodisiac fungus from Tibet. WTF? This is the creepy zombie-inducing insect fungus I blogged about here – the real life X-File and THE MOST disturbing thing I’ve ever come across in the natural world. How is THAT a turn on?! I guess it’s so freaky you wouldn’t be able to sleep which could lead to other bed-related activities to pass the time, but I wouldn’t take this stuff if you paid me. Aphrodisiac fungus from Tibet my ass.

They say Cordyceps works because it mimics testosterone. I have the same shudder reaction to testosterone as an aphrodisiac as I do to the zinc theory because of the same sleazeball who seemed just full of theories on aphrodisiacs. Ugh. Anyway, there’s some evidence that testosterone increases libido in women and in men with hypogonadism. Nowhere is this discussed better than here, with a fascinating history of “cures” for female “frigidity” back in the 1930’s and 40’s, when they were also afraid of increasing a woman’s libido TOO MUCH.

How about just being a nice person?
Seriously guys, why mess around trying to trick nature and hormones into getting yourself laid? Just be the good person you are and I’m sure SOMEONE will find you attractive. Maybe read the Kama Sutra for some tips? I don’t see why we should all go leaping for pills unless it’s a physiological problem, such as one viagra could assist with. “A good meal, a bottle of wine, and a good film of her choice, are often excellent aphrodisiacs,” according to a South African physician in 1976. Amen to that.

The Freakiest Fungus on the Face of the Planet

// August 4th, 2009 // 2 Comments » // The Realm of Bizzare

This is the freakiest fungus I have ever seen, freakier even than the giant man-eating one in “Field Trip,” my favourite episode of the X-Files (Season 4). The story is a bit like an X-File too, so for the purposes of this blog picture me red-headed, scientifically rigorous and secretly in love with Mulder (that last one’s true.)

This class of fungus they call Cordyceps, and once released their spores drift down like gentle dew upon unsuspecting insects. If successful, the spore will ninja past the exoskeleton and into the host tissue where it begins to grow. And grow. And grow.

When it is big enough it infects the brain and kills the insect. Then, and this is the freaky part, it pushes out the fruiting body out of the insect like an evil seed germinating in fertile soil. And man does it look messed up. Check it out.

Cordyceps unilateralis cordyceps_tuberculata

Some species seem to direct the insect to find a place with the right humidity and temperature to encourage the growth of the fungus just before it dies. It’s discussed awesomely at The Loom, who I am forever grateful to for telling me about this horror-movie.

Speaking of horror movies, David Attenborough did a piece on this once, check it out below. It’s just about the scariest documentary I’ve ever seen, my skin is still crawling from it.

Is anyone else getting a flashback from Alien?

It’s not the only thing that feeds on insects and messes with their heads, the Gordian Worm infects grasshoppers and other insects as a larva, growing to immense sizes (relatively speaking) and then apparently making the insect commit suicide by drowning so that it can escape into the water and swim free as an adult. Reminds me of The Happening. Video below, but be warned, it is creepy.

Crazy, no? Have you ever SEEN anything like it? I… no pirate words can describe it.

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