Yartsa Gunbu – The World’s Most Expensive Parasite Is Worth Three Times Its Weight in Gold

Yartsa Gunbu, a fungus that infects ghost moth caterpillars on the Tibetan Plateau, is considered by far the most expensive parasite in the world, fetching up to $50,000 a pound.

A close relative of the tropical parasite that infects ants and turns them into zombies, Ophiocordyceps sinensis is only found on the Tibetan Plateau, where it infects the larvae of ghost moths while they are buried deep underground and feeding on plant roots. The larvae are most vulnerable in the summer, when they shed their skins, becoming more easily infected. The parasite slowly grows in its hose by consuming it during the fall and winter, and just when the snow starts to melt, it pushes its dying larvae host upward and grows a plant-like, spore-filled stalk that pierces the ground, becoming the way to spot the valuable Yartsa Gunbu. It is then harvested by local villagers and sold modest prices that turn into a fortune as the fungus passes through several middleman, costing the final client more that three times its weight in gold.

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Lucifer’s Fingers – A Rare and Potentially Deadly Delicacy of the Sea

Because to their thick, finger-like trunks and their eerie claw-like feet, the gooseneck barnacles growing on the rocks of Portugal’s most south-western coastline are known as Lucifer’s Fingers. They are sometimes referred to as the truffles of the sea, both because of their rarity and high price, but also because of how hard and risky they are to harvest.

Restaurants in Portugal and Spain charge up to $115 for a plate of Lucifer’s Fingers, which may sound sound outrageously expensive two some people, but is justified by their rarity and the dangers barnacle hunters expose themselves to when harvesting them. Lucifer’s Fingers, or percebes, cannot be farmed and only thrive on the on rocks in the ocean intertidal zone, where crashing waves provide them with plankton. This makes them notoriously dangerous to harvest, with hunters risking getting crushed against the rocks by crashing waves, or being rendered unconscious by the impact and drowning. The lucky ones escape with broken limbs or severe abrasions.

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