My wife and I both grew up on farms. So when we think of animals and plants, we imagine the former attacking the latter.
After all, birds eat fruit and mice eat grain and squirrels chow down on those heirloom tomatoes you’ve worked so hard all season to keep healthy. The poor plants can’t do much to stick up for themselves, right?
Well, perhaps not. The two have a complex relationship, and sometimes green growths help animals — and sometimes they hurt them.
Take the sloth. According to The Daily Mail, these notoriously sluggish mammals sleep up to 20 hours each and every day.
They move so little that algae actually starts to grow on their fur. And it isn’t any ordinary kind of pond scum.
Scientists from the University of Helsinki discovered that this particular type of algae grows only on the world’s six species of sloth. What’s more, it benefits the long-limbed critters by camouflaging them and serving as a source of food.
However, a specific type of fungi known as Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is far less friendly to the creatures it encounters. But it doesn’t grow on sloths; rather, it attacks ants.
Here’s how this creepy plant/animal interaction works. Wired states that once the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis infects an ant, it doses its brain with a potent chemical cocktail.
The ant then staggers away from its colony and heads toward a leafy plant. Then it proceeds to bite said leaf in a very specific pattern, one designed to spread the fungus in the most efficient way possible.
The horror of Ophiocordyceps unilateralis has caused some to dub it the “zombie ant fungus.” It has also inspired zombie-themed media such as the video game “The Last of Us” and the M.R. Carey novel “The Girl With All the Gifts.”
But that fungus has nothing on an ordinary soybean plant found growing in a very unordinary place. The Daily Mail reported that a farmer from Madhya Pradesh, India, made the remarkable discovery.
Datar Singh was inspecting his crops on August 7 when he ran across a rat. Given that the vermin love to munch on produce, it wasn’t much of a surprise.
What shocked Singh, though, was that a soybean seemed to have exacted no small revenge on the rat. The creature had a full-blown soybean sprout anchored in its back.
The farmer figured that the rat must’ve somehow become injured. Then a seed dropped into the wound.
Somehow it germinated. And although it caused the rat some pain, it left the rodent mostly functional.
“It’s a miracle,” exclaimed biology professor A. Siddiqui, who teaches at a college in nearby Barnagar. “Though the plant had grown in the region near the neck, there was no brain damage.”
Singh wasn’t content to let the animal suffer. He took it home and carefully removed the growth.
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