(L.) Fr. (1818)
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 forests.
C. sinensis was shown in 2007 by nuclear DNA sampling to be unrelated to most of the rest of the members of the genus; 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
Cordyceps is depicted in the 2013 video game, The Last of Us, in which a mutated form of the fungus that infects humans creates a widespread pandemic that eventually causes the collapse of civilization. In the game, the Cordyceps fungus that creates zombie-like symptoms in insects kills 60% of the human population over the course of 20 years and leaving the remaining human population to fight for survival.
In the 2016 film The Girl with All the Gifts a mutation of Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is responsible for an infection which turns hosts into "hungries" which attack humans. The fungus has a multistage life cycle which manifests in external growths and "seed pods" during the final stages.
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- Kyle Hill (25 June 2013). "The Fungus that Reduced Humanity to The Last of Us". Scientific American. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
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