Tales from the (manus)crypt: Mind-controlling mushrooms

The video game and TV show “The Last of Us” captivated audiences with the concept of a fungal pandemic. The story is set in a world ravaged by a fungus that infects people and turns them into zombies. But what’s the likelihood a human fungal pandemic could happen? Scientists Teresa O’Meara and Tim James separate fungal fact from fiction and talk about what real fungal fears keep them up at night.

This episode was produced by Molly Magid and mixed by Collin Warren. Art by Jace Steiner.


Shane Hanlon:              00:00                Hi, Vicky.

Vicky Thompson:           00:00                Hi, Shane.

Shane Hanlon:              00:03                I would like to know what your thoughts are on zombies.

Vicky Thompson:           00:09                Like am I pro zombie? Pro? Con? Like against? Anti-zombie?

Shane Hanlon:              00:15                Pro zombie agenda?

Vicky Thompson:           00:16                Yeah.

Shane Hanlon:              00:19                So I mean, this is becoming a theme in this series.

Vicky Thompson:           00:23                Right.

Shane Hanlon:              00:23                But yeah, when you hear zombies what do you think of? Or the zombie genre, is it something that interests you, entertains you? Are you’re interested in the media, as I say?

Vicky Thompson:           00:36                In the media. So zombies, I think, out of a lot of horror stuff, zombies are really scary to me. I do not like human things that move in inhuman ways.

Shane Hanlon:              00:52                Oh.

Vicky Thompson:           00:52                That’s a specific thing that gets me in the… I don’t know if this is in The Exorcist. Or when there’s some horror movie-

Shane Hanlon:              01:00                I think the most [inaudible 00:01:01] is The Ring.

Vicky Thompson:           01:01                The Ring.

Shane Hanlon:              01:03                Yeah.

Vicky Thompson:           01:03                The way she moves freaks me out, and I feel like zombies are very similar. And then also I have this… Apparently I have a lot of feelings about zombies.

Shane Hanlon:              01:03                Apparently.

Vicky Thompson:           01:12                I have this thing where I feel like a zombie would be really far away from you and then really close to you in an instant and just attack you.

Shane Hanlon:              01:22                There are different genres of the slow moving zombies, which is kind of the more historical.

Vicky Thompson:           01:28                There are different genre zombies within the-

Shane Hanlon:              01:28                Zombies?

Vicky Thompson:           01:32                Oh my gosh.

Shane Hanlon:              01:33                Genres.

Vicky Thompson:           01:34                Darn it. Yeah.

Shane Hanlon:              01:35                Yeah.

Vicky Thompson:           01:36                Within? Like there’s different-

Shane Hanlon:              01:38                Yeah. Well, there’s slow moving zombies. There’s fast moving zombies, which is a la 28 days later or something like that.

Vicky Thompson:           01:45                Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Shane Hanlon:              01:47                So on my end, I think zombies are interesting. I’ve actually read a lot of, fictional of course, books about zombies. But yeah, I don’t know. There’s something about… Did you ever read World War Z the book? Not the movie.

Vicky Thompson:           02:04                No. But the ad for the World War Z video game.

Shane Hanlon:              02:12                Okay.

Vicky Thompson:           02:12                Used to have high rotation on free apps that play ads to fund them.

Shane Hanlon:              02:18                Oh, really?

Vicky Thompson:           02:19                That’s a scary game. It looks scary.

Shane Hanlon:              02:23                I like the book because I feel like with zombie stuff sometimes they go more into the kind of geopolitical part of it. Like what happens when a society falls apart.

Vicky Thompson:           02:32                Right. [inaudible 00:02:34].

Shane Hanlon:              02:33                And that sounds like super chipper, but I think… I don’t know, I’m just like a nerd. Like, “Oh, yeah. I think that’s kind of interesting.” I think that’s like, I don’t know, an interesting sub-part of the genre? This is a really bad non-answer. Zombies are cool, I guess.

Vicky Thompson:           02:48                No, so the geopolitical aspect is the pro zombie agenda.

Shane Hanlon:              02:54                Bringing it all around.

Vicky Thompson:           02:55                Right.

Shane Hanlon:              03:01                Science is fascinating. But don’t just take my word for it, join us as we hear stories from scientists for everyone. I’m Shane Hanlon.

Vicky Thompson:           03:01                And I’m Vicky Thompson.

Shane Hanlon:              03:12                And this is Third Pod from the Sun.

                                    03:17                All right. So our zombie discussion is appropriate because Halloween is creeping up on us. Like, one might say, a huge lumbering zombie.

Vicky Thompson:           03:33                Oh. So not creeping up, kind of drooling and lurching up.

Shane Hanlon:              03:39                Oh, we should just keep going with this and just make this the whole episode. No, no. So this Halloween season we’re taking the opportunity to explore some of the science behind the spooky, the sci-fi, the horror, or whatever it might be. And for this one, I’m going to bring in producer Molly Magid to explain more. Hi Molly.

Molly Magid:                03:58                Hi Shane.

Shane Hanlon:              04:00                All right. I guess I’d probably figure this out, but what do zombies have to do with today’s episode?

Molly Magid:                04:07                Well, so today we’re discussing the science behind the hit video game and TV show The Last of Us. It’s essentially a zombie story with a mycological twist.

Vicky Thompson:           04:19                Mycological like mushrooms?

Molly Magid:                04:21                Yeah, exactly. The world in The Last of Us has been transformed by a fungal pandemic that’s caused by the Cordyceps fungus. This is a fungus that can infect humans and it uses mind control to turn them into zombies, who then spread the fungus to other people.

Shane Hanlon:              04:41                So full disclosure here, Molly scripted out this beginning for us and had this prompt where I essentially say how farfetched that is. And sure, maybe, but I got to be honest, I mean if human zombies were ever to actually be a thing, I could maybe see it being like this.

Vicky Thompson:           05:00                Well, Shane, don’t you have a PhD in Disease Ecology? You teach a class in it. How can you say that?

Shane Hanlon:              05:08                Well, this is a thing. So I do, and I’ve seen some things, but though in other parts of the animal kingdom, and admittedly not in humans.

Molly Magid:                05:20                Okay, yeah. Perhaps it’s best that I talked with experts Teresa O’Meara and Tim James to fact check this fungus.

Teresa O’Meara:           05:32                My name is Teresa O’Meara, I am an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan. I’m actually affiliated with the Michigan Medical School and I’m in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology.

Tim James:                   05:44                I’m Tim James, I am a professor in the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Department at the University of Michigan, and I am the Curator of Fungi at the university’s herbarium.

Molly Magid:                05:59                Wow, that sounds super interesting. So I also want to get onto our main topic, which is the show and video game called The Last of Us. So first of all, have either of you seen the show or played the video game?

Teresa O’Meara:           06:17                Not really. I heard that there was children getting hurt in it, so I didn’t watch it.

Molly Magid:                06:24                Yeah, fair enough. It is pretty dark.

Tim James:                   06:27                Yeah, I watched it. It was interesting. It’s basically a zombie flick and there’s a bit of fungi in there.

Molly Magid:                06:36                Yeah, what did you-

Teresa O’Meara:           06:37                I’m familiar with the premise.

Molly Magid:                06:39                What did you think of the fungi use in it? Were you excited or were you kind of like, “Oh no, this is giving people the wrong idea.”

Tim James:                   06:47                Well, I mean I wanted more fungi actually. They didn’t emphasize it too much. Graphically you see zombies and they’re kind of supposed to be infected with fungi, and maybe have fruiting bodies coming out of them, but it could be even more fungal friendly and emphasize the transmission of fungal spores and some of the fungal biology. But it was really mostly a zombie flick.

Molly Magid:                07:17                If you were talking to the show creators, or you had some input into this show, what would you put in that you think would really highlight the challenges or the horror of fungal infection?

Tim James:                   07:33                Well, that’s a good question. So they have this young teenage girl, I guess, and the story’s wrapped around she’s immune basically. So they got to figure out what it is in her body that’s making her immune, and that seems reasonable. But then this other thing about the antifungals, or some other kind of compounds that we could use to maybe fight against them, I guess that’s the first thing that came to my mind.

                                    08:08                The mycelium component… And this is just an imagery thing. So when they have mycelium worked in there, it’s not fluffy enough for me. It’s almost like really big and octopus arm like. So that’s not what fungi do. They’re still always fluffy, tiny little hyphae that are always just microns big. A big fungus is just fields and fields of these tiny little threads, and I don’t see that they’ve gone that direction with the imagery.

Teresa O’Meara:           08:43                I feel like lots and lots of tiny threads of horrible mycelia. This is also a horror show, it doesn’t have to be a wet octopus thing and it can be spiderweb vibes and terrible.

Molly Magid:                08:57                What is mycelium?

Tim James:                   08:58                Yeah, it’s basically the body of the fungus. Most fungi. Some fungi are yeast, like they’re single celled organisms that kind of bud and divide like that. But the mycelium is that collection of the threads, the individual stringy cells, that are all connected together and it looks like a cobweb kind of creeping around in the substrate in nature. You want to see mycelium, you can go to a dead log in the forest or a log and pull off the bark that’s coming off and you’ll see it there. Or you flip over a log and you’re likely to see mycelium. You pull up the leaf litter. The forest is full of mycelium of many different species of fungi.

Teresa O’Meara:           09:48                Or leave a piece of bread out for too long.

Tim James:                   09:51                Hmm.

Teresa O’Meara:           09:51                Also mycelia.

Tim James:                   09:54                Unless it’s Wonder Bread. We had a student do that, actually. My very first Master’s student was interested in sort of how food stuffs that are transported around could be transporting fungi. Well, at any rate, she tried to see what mold would grow on some of these highly preserved breads and nope. Pretty much she got it wet and left it in the bag and nothing grew on it.

Molly Magid:                10:22                I don’t know whether that’s good or bad.

Tim James:                   10:23                Hmm. Yeah, it’s a little-

Teresa O’Meara:           10:28                I mean, sometimes when my farmer’s market bread gets moldy after two days I’m just like, “$8 and I didn’t have time to eat it all.”

Tim James:                   10:28                Yeah.

Molly Magid:                10:36                Do you have anything else that you would add to a fungi flavored horror show?

Tim James:                   10:44                Well, there’s not much scientists in the show. So I think they had the scientists to open the show, and then there’s not any scientists really fighting the battle. They can have mycologists in there.

Molly Magid:                11:01                Yeah, the mycologists would be the first ones to survive. They know what to do.

Shane Hanlon:              11:18                So I get where Tim is coming from. I studied fungal disease in frogs and turtles for my PhD, which is super exciting to get to talk about this on this platform in a way that’s topical. But I’m pretty sure that none of that would actually help me in a fungal pandemic.

Vicky Thompson:           11:36                Oh, don’t say that. I think it would help you, and you might be in the top couple of people that I would call if there was a fungal pandemic. You never know when that PhD can come in handy.

Shane Hanlon:              11:50                So I’m handy handy. Like legitimately. Potentially.

Vicky Thompson:           11:55                Are you?

Shane Hanlon:              11:55                Yeah. No. Wow.

Vicky Thompson:           11:57                Sorry. No, I believe you are.

Shane Hanlon:              11:59                Well, no. In ways that could be maybe useful in survival ways, but probably not actually in the sciencey ways.

Molly Magid:                12:07                I mean, having some fungal disease knowledge might help. For example, the fungus that was portrayed in The Last of Us is actually based on a real Cordyceps fungus that infects ants.

Vicky Thompson:           12:19                Okay. So how does this Cordyceps fungus cause disease in ants then?

Tim James:                   12:25                There is mind control involved, but the idea is that the fungus is infecting the insect potentially systemically, so throughout the whole body, and somehow the fungus is in basically the brain and secreting some kind of chemical signals that are modifying the insect behavior. And I think that the story is that normally when pathogens get in a colony, those individuals kind of get kicked out. And so in this case, the Cordyceps basically convinces that infected individual to leave and then go out into a place where they can then disperse its spores onto the colony. So for example, the individuals that are leaving the colony… And it’s fascinating, they really don’t know exactly how the fungus does it. But the insects will walk up the vegetation above the colony and then clasp onto it, often on the underside of the leaf so they’re kind of pointing downwards, and then the fruiting bodies will be produced… The individual will die after it clasps onto the leaf. The individual dies, fruiting bodies are produced and the spores are produced, which then rain down on those workers that are coming out of the colony and then they get infected and that’s how it’s transmitted.

Molly Magid:                13:55                Yeah, it looks pretty-

Tim James:                   13:57                It’s bizarre. And the real mystery is how they’ve evolved to produce some kind of signal to get those insects to behave that way. So it’s kind of mind-boggling.

Molly Magid:                14:09                In terms of human transmission of fungus, is there anything similar? Or is fungal disease just really different within humans?

Teresa O’Meara:           14:19                I think most of the human fungal diseases that people get are through airborne spores. So that’s not really changing behavior, but people are breathing in things like Aspergillus spores or Cryptococcus spores, and those things are ubiquitous in the environment, there’s not a behavior that’s required. And then most of the time that’s not being transmitted from person to person. It’s all in the environment getting into the lungs but it’s not really spreading from person to person, unless you have really rare cases, like a lung transplant, so you get the whole thing.

Molly Magid:                14:53                So it’s kind of just out in the environment already?

Teresa O’Meara:           14:57                Yes.

Molly Magid:                14:57                Do people’s immune systems usually fight it off no problem?

Teresa O’Meara:           15:02                Yes. So most of the time people’s immune systems are fine. Cryptococcus is really associated with HIV/AIDS patients. Aspergillus can be more in cystic fibrosis, and there’s a specific kind smoker like allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, ABPA, and other lung risk factors. But most of the time people’s immune system take care of it.

Molly Magid:                15:29                Yeah. So it sounds like in general it’s not a huge thing where there’d be spreading between humans, but would there ever be a concern for something like a fungal pandemic that’s shown in the show?

Teresa O’Meara:           15:44                I have concerns about fungal pandemics, but not like shown in the show.

Molly Magid:                15:48                That’s fair. We can separate those two out.

Teresa O’Meara:           15:52                So I guess one of the fungi that I work on right now is Candida auris, which is in the news a lot for causing outbreaks in hospitals. And that’s going to be a problem because it’s really hard to eradicate from hospital settings. A lot of times they are resistant to disinfection, some of the quaternary ammonium disinfectants that are often used in hospitals it’s resistant to those, and it can really spread in a hospital and it’s very hard to get rid of. The Candida auris is transmitting between people. So in hospital settings it might be directly from patient to patient, or it could be from patient to surface to patient. There’s been some estimates of just a really high fungal burden on the skin of patients with Candida auris in hospitals. There’s been some studies where it gets into the hair follicle, which means even when you wash it off you can’t get rid of it. And so then months later you’ll become positive, and so patients could come into a hospital, get colonized, decontaminate as best you can, and still carry Candida auris out of the hospital into the community. So that’s something I worry about in the dark hours of the night, but I don’t think there’s any evidence of community transmission so far.

Molly Magid:                17:04                So yeah, I guess just clarifying my understanding, it sounds like this fungus is somewhat more prevalent in hospitals, and then it might be spreading between surfaces and objects? Is it spores that are spreading it?

Teresa O’Meara:           17:21                It’s just the yeast. Spore sort of implies a mating cycle, which we haven’t seen yet. It’s just that could desiccate the yeast and they can survive on surfaces for months.

Molly Magid:                17:34                And what is that infection kind of like within people?

Teresa O’Meara:           17:39                So most people that are colonized don’t get fully infected. And so when I say infected, I mean like a disseminated infection that’s in their bloodstream. And when they get bloodstream infections, it’s very similar to other kinds of sepsis. So high fevers, a lot of immune infiltrate, sort of a very strong immune response to the infection. Mortality rates from studies that people have been doing so far estimate around 30% mortality if you have a systemic infection. And so, one of the problems with that is that Candida auris often intrinsically drug resistant, especially certain strains. And so even if you have it, and we try and treat it, there are some strains that are pan-resistant, so there are no antifungals that are effective against this. And because it’s often infecting people who are immunocompromised, there’s also no immune response that’s taking care of it. So it’s bad news to get a systemic infection, and that’s why in a lot of places it’s a reportable disease. So most hospitals have to send it to the state health departments and sort of track some of these outbreaks.

Molly Magid:                18:47                Right. And have these outbreaks become more common over time?

Teresa O’Meara:           18:53                Yes.

Molly Magid:                18:55                Are there factors that are contributing to that? Has that kind of been investigated?

Teresa O’Meara:           19:02                Candida auris was first discovered in 2009, so everything’s happening since 2009. There’s been a couple 100% increase in rates, it’s been found in all 50 states I think. Well not necessarily full outbreak, but it’s been reported. There’s a couple factors for what might be causing an increase. There could be more hospitalized patients, especially with the pandemic. There’s been a lot of comorbidity between COVID and then also getting other infections. Potentially the rate of transfer of patients between hospitals also increases the spread, or transfer of patients from hospitals to skilled nursing facilities and back. So I think it’s the increasing population of people that are exposed with healthcare, and then hospitals are still learning how to put into place screening procedures and infection control procedures that will take care of Candida auris. So I think if there’s a better movement on those fronts, it will help. Now that we know that there’s a problem we can sort of build in the protocols to take care of it.

Vicky Thompson:           20:08                So fungal disease can be a concern for some people and in some settings like hospitals, I guess, but it doesn’t sound like it’s on the scale of what is shown in The Last of Us.

Molly Magid:                20:17                Right. Both Teresa and Tim said they’re not really concerned about a fungal pandemic in humans, but they are worried about fungal pandemics in other species.

Shane Hanlon:              20:28                Yeah. See, it’s all coming back. This is my wheelhouse now. Let’s talk about Chytrid fungus.

Molly Magid:                20:36                Yes, that’s right. Tim actually talked about his research on Chytrid fungal infection in amphibians.

Tim James:                   20:43                This work relates to amphibians and the problem they have with a fungal disease called chytridiomycosis. And it’s kind of a major problem where it’s caused some extinctions, definitely some species declines. And it’s another thing where kind of out of the blue, all of a sudden people notice the disease, they notice frog populations are declining, and then as soon as they get out there trying to find where’s this disease and where is it not? Within that 25 year period, it’s pretty much expanded everywhere. So the genetics also behind the disease really support this rapid expansion basically, and it appears to have emerged out of Asia specifically. There were some strains there that have been dispersed. The fungi themselves can’t get around that well, even though some of them make tons of spores. You would think, “Well, they could get blown around across the whole world.” It turns out mostly they can’t, and it’s really humans when they kind of get in there with their airplanes and their boats and start moving things around that you’re bringing spores along with it. And we’ve also been kind of looking at the role of the intercontinental trade of amphibians that had probably been responsible for moving some of this Chytrid around.

                                    22:08                I mean, we’ve seen major pandemics happen because of the movement of fungi by humans, and the Chytrid is one example. Another one is this white-nose syndrome, and that’s another thing that’s just rapidly within 20 years kind of spread across almost all of North America and decimated some bat populations. We know that that was introduced probably from Europe, a single strain introduced into New York and from there it spread like wildfire.

Molly Magid:                22:41                Hmm. [inaudible 00:22:41]

Tim James:                   22:41                And you can go on and on about all these fungal introductions. So are we going to be lucky? So the North American chestnut pretty much driven to extinction, and that’s one species. And there are other amphibians that are driven to extinction. So are we so lucky or smart that we’re going to avoid extinction from an infectious disease at some point? I’m not sure.

Molly Magid:                23:08                So one thing that I am curious about, that was also mentioned very briefly in the show, was that with a warming planet the evolutionary changes that could happen in fungi would make them more likely to be able to infect humans. Both of you or either of you talk a little bit about that.

Teresa O’Meara:           23:08                Tim, you want to take this first?

Tim James:                   23:28                Okay. So speculation here, of course. So I think the answer is that there is some reality there. That as we warm the planet somewhat rapidly, but on the timescale of fungal generations somewhat slow enough, that we can basically create this regime of selection for strains or mutants that can tolerate higher and higher temperatures. And so as we slowly ratchet it up, we’re basically selecting for organisms whose thermal maximum growth rates or growth tolerances will be closer to the human body temperature. And the point I guess to make is that most fungi like it cold, actually. So most fungi, if you put them at the human body temperature, can’t grow. And all those things that Teresa was just talking about, they can grow quite fine at human body temperature, and even higher. But there will be organisms right on the cusp, right at body temperature, and that’s their maximum. And as we start to select for those, we’re going to be exposed more and more. The percentage of organisms that we’re exposed to that can handle those high temperatures is going to be more and more thermal tolerant.

Teresa O’Meara:           25:01                I think there’s also some idea that a lot of the endemic fungi are spreading as their temperature range increases. So people have seen the expansion of valley fever and histoplasmosis in the US, probably other diseases in other places. But there’s also other things that humans are doing that are changing fungal spread. Sort of not necessarily temperature, but I mean all of the Chytrid work that Tim’s been doing, I feel like a lot of that is caused by human intervention in the wrong places.

Molly Magid:                25:37                And it’s interesting that you said humans are really key to helping the fungus and helping the spores move around, and there already are these fungal diseases that are impacting humans. Is there concern around agriculture and things like that being infected by fungus?

Teresa O’Meara:           26:03                Yeah. I mean, fungi are one of the major causes of food insecurity and rot, right? If you think about your fruit going bad, it’s because covered in fungal spores, all this stuff. I think about a lot of the agricultural work in terms of developing antifungal drug resistance. So one of the problems for fungal infections is that there’s only three classes of antifungals that people like to use, and that’s a pretty small set compared to the dozens of antibiotics that are available. Part of it is the basic biology in that fungi are much more closely related to us than bacteria are, they’re more closely related to us than to plants, so a lot of the core biological processes that we’d want to target are conserved. And so partly the role is evolutionary relationship between fungi and humans, both being eukaryotes.

                                    26:53                Part of it is that there’s not a lot of investment in antifungal development. A lot of companies no longer have antifungal or even antibiotic development programs. So that’s hard. They require a lot of investment in development, and the goal is for people to take them and then be done with it so maybe there’s less money in this process. There aren’t a lot of antifungal focused vaccines. There’s some that are in development, but it’s not a huge population. And if you think about the things that we worry about, like drug resistant bacteria, we’re also going to have the same problems with drug resistant fungi for people. We use the same, a lot of the same antifungals on crops as we do on people, maybe slightly different formulations but it’s the same mechanism of action. And so I think there was a recent study that came out that showed Aspergillus cases in patients had the same mutations as the strains that were found in crops that conferred the drug resistance. So it’s potentially from the same origin, and so people were getting infected with fungi that had pre-developed antifungal resistance because they were crop pathogens to begin with and they can also cause disease in people.

                                    28:06                So I think one of the features about some of the fungi that Tim was talking about, maybe that’s different from other pathogens, is that he was talking about multiple extinction level events. And I think that’s something we should think about.

Tim James:                   28:19                I’m really worried about pandemics on agricultural crops. We’re relying so heavily on a certain small subset of crops, and they’re often very genetically homogenous like bananas, and those are clones. And we have current threats to them, especially like bananas. But in the past we’ve also had things like Irish potato famine that was caused by a fungus, and you have a particular kind of climate in a given year. Like in that particular case, the Irish potato famine, the potato blight was caused by a particularly cold, wet year. In a perfect environment, and then you had so much of the population dependent on potatoes for sustenance, and you get these sort of mass starvation events. We’re cutting a pretty thin margin, I guess, on how we grow food and feed the planet. So we don’t have a lot in reserve.

Molly Magid:                29:22                Yeah. Kind of the things that we rely on more than us getting infected. That’s still a huge problem for us.

Teresa O’Meara:           29:29                Yeah, I would agree. That’s a big problem. And a lot of times when we think about human health we don’t think about that aspect of it, but it absolutely would change the world economy if there’s a bad year or a bad strain of rice blight or some of the corn that we use would all get infected. Yeah, I think I would agree with Tim. Another thing to keep you up at night.

Molly Magid:                29:55                That should be the third season of the show. Just you’re not worried about humans anymore, just all the food.

Vicky Thompson:           30:17                We started talking about zombies, but I think fungal pandemics are much scarier and will definitely keep me up tonight, tomorrow night, the next few nights.

Shane Hanlon:              30:26                I know. I thought I was done with nightmares from my PhD.

Molly Magid:                30:31                No, I don’t think you’re ever really done with those, Shane. But to make things a bit less scary, in the conversation with Tim and Teresa, they emphasized that we can start preparing for fungal disease now through investing in research on antifungals and enacting protocols that restrict the spread of fungal disease.

Vicky Thompson:           30:50                Yeah, I guess that’s a good point. So The Last of Us might even help raise awareness about fungal disease.

Shane Hanlon:              30:55                Or, at the very least, it might prove for inspiration for a… Well a zombie, sure. But maybe a fungal Halloween costume? Vicky, you’re crafty. Do you want to work with me on coming up with something?

Vicky Thompson:           31:06                Sure. So what might that look like?

Shane Hanlon:              31:11                Well, so if we’re talking about Chytrid.

Vicky Thompson:           31:15                Okay.

Shane Hanlon:              31:15                The amphibian fungus. In a somewhat cruel twist of fate, Chytrid looks like tadpoles.

Vicky Thompson:           31:15                Oh, that’s pretty sad. Poor little guy.

Shane Hanlon:              31:28                Oh yeah, you know it really is. So perhaps we’ll come up with something more cheery, or just go with maybe just the traditional zombie attire? Costume?

Vicky Thompson:           31:41                That makes sense.

Molly Magid:                31:42                I like that that’s more cheery than the fungus now.

Shane Hanlon:              31:46                Well see, at least at this point it’s the only fictional thing. So we’ll at least stay within the realm of fiction. And so with that, that is all from Third Pod from The Sun.

Vicky Thompson:           31:59                Thanks so much to Molly for bringing us this story, and to Teresa and Tim for sharing their work with us.

Shane Hanlon:              32:04                This episode was produced by Molly, with audio engineering from Collin Warren, and artwork by Jace Steiner.

Vicky Thompson:           32:10                We’d love to hear thoughts about the podcast, so please rate and review us. And you can find new episodes on your favorite podcasting app, or at thirdpodfromthesun.com.

Shane Hanlon:              32:18                Thanks all, and we’ll see you next week.

                                    32:29                It’s still funny that you’re still not… Turn your camera off and on again. See if your connection will-

Vicky Thompson:           32:35                My camera?

Shane Hanlon:              32:36                Your camera. You’re still frozen.

Vicky Thompson:           32:39                How do I turn my camera on and off? Oh.

Shane Hanlon:              32:42                There’s a little camera button. There you go.

Vicky Thompson:           32:46                Can you see me move?

Shane Hanlon:              32:49                No. And your face is just… Actually, I want to take a screenshot of this to show you later.

Vicky Thompson:           32:55                Please don’t.

Shane Hanlon:              32:56                I’m doing it right now. Can I send you a pic? No, I can’t send you a picture right now. Okay. Anyways, it’s just-

Vicky Thompson:           33:07                You should save it and send it to me when I least expect it.

Shane Hanlon:              33:10                I will. All right. You just look so done with me, which is so appropriate.

Vicky Thompson:           33:15                Oh. Oh.

Shane Hanlon:              33:16                Yeah.

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