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2010-08-06 Cordyceps militaris 1.jpg
Cordyceps militaris
Scientific classification

Fr. (1818)
Type species
Cordyceps militaris
(L.) Fr. (1818)
List of species
  • Cordyceps acridophila
  • Cordyceps albocitrina
  • Cordyceps amoene -rosea
  • Cordyceps ampullacea
  • Cordyceps bifusispora
  • Cordyceps blackwelliae
  • Cordyceps brasiliensis
  • Cordyceps cateniannulata
  • Cordyceps cateniobliqua
  • Cordyceps chiangdaoensis
  • Cordyceps cicadae
  • Cordyceps coccidioperitheciata
  • Cordyceps coleopterorum
  • Cordyceps confragosa
  • Cordyceps cuncunae
  • Cordyceps cylindrica
  • Cordyceps farinosa
  • Cordyceps fratricida
  • Cordyceps fumosorosea
  • Cordyceps ghanensis
  • Cordyceps grylli
  • Cordyceps guangdongensis
  • Cordyceps gunnii
  • Cordyceps gunnii var. minor
  • Cordyceps henleyae
  • Cordyceps hepialidicola
  • Cordyceps hesleri
  • Cordyceps ignota
  • Cordyceps imagamiana
  • Cordyceps isarioides
  • Cordyceps javanica
  • Cordyceps kirkii
  • Cordyceps koreana
  • Cordyceps kurijimeansis
  • Cordyceps kyushuensis
  • Cordyceps lepidopterorum
  • Cordyceps locusticola
  • "Cordyceps locustiphila"
  • Cordyceps memorabilis
  • Cordyceps militaris
  • Cordyceps morakotii
  • Cordyceps nakazawai
  • Cordyceps nidus
  • Cordyceps ninchukispora
  • Cordyceps ningxiaensis
  • Cordyceps nirtolii
  • Cordyceps ochraceostromata
  • Cordyceps pleuricapitata
  • Cordyceps polyarthra
  • Cordyceps poprawskii
  • Cordyceps pruinosa
  • Cordyceps pseudonelumboides
  • Cordyceps rosea
  • Cordyceps roseostromata
  • Cordyceps scarabaeucika
  • Cordyceps sinensis See Ophiocordyceps sinensis in §Subtaxa.
  • Cordyceps spegazzinii
  • Cordyceps sphingum
  • Cordyceps submilitaris
  • Cordyceps taishanensis
  • Cordyceps takaomontana
  • Cordyceps tenuipes
  • Cordyceps unilateralis See Ophiocordyceps unilateralis in §Subtaxa.

Cordyceps /ˈkɔːrdɪsɛps/ 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.[2] The generic name Cordyceps is derived from the Greek word κορδύλη kordýlē, meaning "club", and the Greek word κεφαλή cephali, meaning "head".[citation needed]

The genus has a worldwide distribution and most of the approximately 600 species[3] 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.


There are two recognized subgenera:[4]

  • Cordyceps subgen. Cordyceps Fr. 1818[5]
  • Cordyceps subgen. Cordylia Tul. & C. Tul. 1865[6]

Cordyceps subgen. Epichloe was at one time a subgenus, but is now regarded as a separate genus, Epichloë.[4]

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".[7] Other species previously included in the genus Cordyceps have now been placed in the genus Tolypocladium.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]


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.[8]


Polysaccharide components and cordycepin are under basic research and have been isolated from C. militaris.[9]

Sources and uses[edit]

Cordyceps are used in traditional Chinese medicine,[9][10] but there is currently no scientific evidence that their use has any clinical effect on human diseases.[9]


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.[11]

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.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cordyceps". NCBI taxonomy. Bethesda, MD: National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  2. ^ Nikoh, N (April 2000). "Interkingdom host jumping underground: phylogenetic analysis of entomoparasitic fungus of the genus cordyceps". Mol Biol Evol. 17 (4): 629–38. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.molbev.a026341. PMID 10742053.
  3. ^ Sung, Gi-Ho; Nigel L. Hywel-Jones; Jae-Mo Sung; J. Jennifer Luangsa-ard; Bhushan Shrestha & Joseph W. Spatafora (2007). "Phylogenetic classification of Cordyceps and the clavicipitaceous fungi". Stud Mycol. 57 (1): 5–59. doi:10.3114/sim.2007.57.01. PMC 2104736. PMID 18490993.
  4. ^ a b "Cordyceps". Index Fungorum. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  5. ^ Elias Magnus Fries, Observ. mycol. (Havniae) 2: 316 (cancellans) (1818)
  6. ^ Edmond Tulasne & Charles Tulasne, Select. fung. carpol. (Paris) 3: 20 (1865)
  7. ^ Holliday, John; Cleaver, Matt (2008). "Medicinal Value of the Caterpillar Fungi Species of the Genus Cordyceps (Fr.) Link (Ascomycetes). A Review" (PDF). International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. New York: Begell House. 10 (3): 219–234. doi:10.1615/IntJMedMushr.v10.i3.30. ISSN 1521-9437. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-02-22. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
  8. ^ Shrestha, Bhushan; Han, Sang-Kuk; Sung, Jae-Mo; Sung, Gi-Ho (2012). "Fruiting Body Formation of Cordyceps militaris from Multi-Ascospore Isolates and Their Single Ascospore Progeny Strains". Mycobiology. 40 (2): 100–106. doi:10.5941/MYCO.2012.40.2.100. ISSN 1229-8093. PMC 3408298. PMID 22870051.
  9. ^ a b c "Cordyceps". 14 September 2020. Retrieved 4 January 2021.
  10. ^ Yue, K; Ye, M; Zhou, Z; Sun, W; Lin, X (April 2013). "The genus Cordyceps: a chemical and pharmacological review". The Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. 65 (4): 474–93. doi:10.1111/j.2042-7158.2012.01601.x. PMID 23488776.
  11. ^ Kyle Hill (25 June 2013). "The Fungus that Reduced Humanity to The Last of Us". Scientific American. Retrieved 4 May 2021.