(L.) Fr. (1818)
List of species
Cordyceps // is a genus of ascomycete fungi (sac fungi) that includes about 600 species. Most Cordyceps species are endoparasitoids, parasitic mainly on insects and other arthropods (they are thus entomopathogenic fungi); a few are parasitic on other fungi. The generic name Cordyceps is derived from the Greek word κορδύλη kordýlē, meaning "club", and the Greek word κεφαλή cephali, meaning "head".
The genus has a worldwide distribution and most of the approximately 600 species that have been described are from Asia (notably Nepal, China, Japan, Bhutan, Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand). Cordyceps species are particularly abundant and diverse in humid temperate and tropical jungles.
C. sinensis was shown in 2007 by nuclear DNA sampling to be unrelated to most of the rest of the members of the genus, and as a result it was renamed Ophiocordyceps sinensis and placed in a new family, the Ophiocordycipitaceae, as was "Cordyceps unilateralis". Other species previously included in the genus Cordyceps have now been placed in the genus Tolypocladium.
Cordyceps and Metacordyceps spp. are now thought to be the teleomorphs of a number of anamorphic, entomopathogenic fungus "genera" such as: Beauveria (Cordyceps bassiana), Lecanicillium, Metarhizium and Nomuraea.
When a Cordyceps fungus attacks a host, the mycelium invades and eventually replaces the host tissue, while the elongated fruit body (ascocarp) may be cylindrical, branched, or of complex shape. The ascocarp bears many small, flask-shaped perithecia containing asci. These, in turn, contain thread-like ascospores, which usually break into fragments and are presumably infective.
Sources and uses
The Cordyceps fungus is depicted as a core plot element in the video games The Last of Us (2013), The Last of Us: Left Behind (2014), and The Last of Us Part II (2020), in which a mutated form of the fungus infects humans and causes the collapse of civilization.
In the novel The Girl with All the Gifts (2014) and its film adaptation (2016), a mutation of Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is responsible for an infection which also infects humans and causes the collapse of civilization.
In the video game Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling, Cordyceps infected bugs are enemies that can be encountered. Cordyceps also serve as a major plot point in the story.
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- Edmond Tulasne & Charles Tulasne, Select. fung. carpol. (Paris) 3: 20 (1865)
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