Zombies roam the animal kingdom — and some of them may be after us

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The zombies in "World War Z" are just actors — but in the animal world, zombies are a fact of life. Evolution can come up with some fiendish twists: For example, there are some species that bend other creatures to their will to keep their bizarre life cycles going. Or just to feast on their delicious braaaains.


To celebrate the premiere of "World War Z," here's a top-ten list of zombies from the animal kingdom, finishing up with a particularly pernicious parasite that can pose a risk to humans:

Zombie ants: There are special kinds of zombifying fungi that infect carpenter ants in Thailand and Brazil. The fungus grows into the ant's brain and compels it to climb down and clamp onto to the low leaves that provide the fungus with its favored breeding ground. After the ant dies, the fungus sprouts from its head and shoots out spores to infect other ants. But this zombie isn't invincible: Scientists recently discovered a different kind of fungus that can castrate the zombifying fungus before it spreads.

Zombie bees: A parasitic fly known as Apocephalus borealiscan inject its eggs into a honeybee's abdomen, where the fly larvae mature. The parasitized bees abandon their hives and walk in circles — but eventually they fall over. "It really painted a picture of something like a zombie," says San Francisco State University's Andrew Core. About seven days after infection, the mature larvae burst out from the dead bees' bodies, renewing the gruesome circle of life. It gets worse: The zombie bees are spreading.

Written By: Alan Boyle
continue to source article at cosmiclog.nbcnews.com

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  1. They all seem to be linked by the fact that the hosts have their nervous systems manipulated by smaller endoparasites… except for the zombie bird section, which is simply about birds eating bat brains. That seems a bit out of place…

    • In reply to #1 by Zeuglodon:

      They all seem to be linked by the fact that the hosts have their nervous systems manipulated by smaller endoparasites… except for the zombie bird section, which is simply about birds eating bat brains. That seems a bit out of place…

      Does follow the whole zombie eating brains thing!

  2. The amazing paths within the sphere of evolution are a continuous fascination!
    Recently Prof Iain Stewart(a geologist) has pointed out how continental drift and climate change has had profound evolutionary effect.

  3. So much for All Things Bright and Beautiful.

    If there are any creative types out there in Internetland who come across this thread and know how to do it, I think it would be pretty cool to see this cloying hymn illustrated on YouTube with images of what your man with the white beard and the scrumping odium created after he was finished magicking up fluffy bunny wabbits and puppies and kittens and piglets and baby giraffes and daisies and penguins and hummingbirds and heffalumps…

    • In reply to #4 by Katy Cordeth:

      So much for All Things Bright and Beautiful.

      If there are any creative types out there in Internetland who come across this thread and know how to do it, I think it would be pretty cool to see this cloying hymn illustrated on YouTube with images of what your man with the white beard and the scrumpi…

      In the meantime, here’s the Monty Python treatment.

  4. If mitochondria (not to mention other creatures that free-load on us regularly) were once free-floating bacteria-like organisms that become encased in (eukaryotic) cells, aren’t all creatures with complex cell structures, including humans, zombies whose bodies have been taken over by another organism?

  5. “Great tits look so cute when they’re perched on a branch. You’d never know that they have a taste for bat brains. In Hungary, the birds listen for the calls sent out by the cave-dwelling pipistrelle bats when they rouse themselves from hibernation. Then they track down the groggy bats, crack their skulls open and eat their brains.”

    What’s new about this? Great Tits have been doing this to men’s brains and consuming them in testosterone since humans walked upright…

  6. There is a zombifying neurological affliction in humans. It afflicts those with a heightened sensitivity to cognitive bias in observed small data sets. They begin to wear strange clothes, mutter incoherent and surreal incantations, perform completely unnecessary actions for inclusive fitness and try to infect others with the zombiness and finally the afflicted host may even either kill others with competing forms of the zombiism or even destroy themselves because they believe they will be better off afterwards.

  7. This is one of the scariest parts of nature – when another beings ‘will’ overtakes you from the inside and you don’t even realise you are being controlled so you don’t think to fight it….in fact you don’t think at all you just obey the command of the higher being who lives in your head…..Those parasites suck you dry from the inside and use your dead body as a grow bag to grow their mushrooms…erm sounds familiar…
    Wonder if the parasites told the ants they’d go to ant heaven..??

  8. In reply to #16 by Zeuglodon:

    In reply to #4 by Katy Cordeth:

    So much for All Things Bright and Beautiful.

    If there are any creative types out there in Internetland who come across this thread and know how to do it, I think it would be pretty cool to see this cloying hymn illustrated on YouTube with images of what your man wit…

    Thank you Zeugy, even if bluebird did beat you to the punch. I’m a fan of Python_†_, and was surprised that I’ve never heard this song before. I knew the boys had made some records, but I think I thought it was just the Flying Circus stuff transferred to vinyl.

    I might have a shufty at the iTunes and see if the albums are available there.

    Always nice to hear from you.

    fnarr

    • In reply to #17 by Katy Cordeth:

      Thank you Zeugy, even if bluebird did beat you to the punch.

      How did I miss that?… is what I was going to say. But I’m not even surprised at this sort of thing anymore. I didn’t spot the gorilla, and my ability to spot the unexpected has only gone downhill since then. Sad, but true.

      I’m a fan of Python†, and was surprised that I’ve never heard this song before. I knew the boys had made some records, but I think I thought it was just the Flying Circus stuff transferred to vinyl.

      I think the song was originally played in the movie The Meaning of Life, though I haven’t actually seen that film, and I only know about it because Dawkins included the lyrics in The Greatest Show on Earth.

      • In reply to #18 by Zeuglodon:

        In reply to #17 by Katy Cordeth:

        I think the song was originally played in the movie The Meaning of Life, though I haven’t actually seen that film, and I only know about it because Dawkins included the lyrics in The Greatest Show on Earth.

        I think you might be thinking of this scene from that motion picture.


        I didn’t spot the gorilla, and my ability to spot the unexpected has only gone downhill since then. Sad, but true.

        I’m not entirely sure what you’re getting at, but I’ve seen Peter Jackson’s film a few times now and the gorilla is pretty hard to miss.

        • In reply to #19 by Katy Cordeth:

          In reply to #18 by Zeuglodon:

          I’m not entirely sure what you’re getting at, but I’ve seen Peter Jackson’s film a few times now and the gorilla is pretty hard to miss.

          I was referring (rather obliquely, as it turns out with hindsight) to the famous psychological experiment on attention blindness involving a short video and a person in a gorilla suit. Although given the King Kong reference, I get the feeling you’re just winding me up…?

          • In reply to #20 by Zeuglodon:

            In reply to #19 by Katy Cordeth:

            In reply to #18 by Zeuglodon:

            I’m not entirely sure what you’re getting at, but I’ve seen Peter Jackson’s film a few times now and the gorilla is pretty hard to miss.

            I was referring (rather obliquely, as it turns out with hindsight) to the famous psychological experiment on attention blindness involving a short video and a person in a gorilla suit. Although given the King Kong reference, I get the feeling you’re just winding me up…?

            Only a little bit. I knew what the experiment you were referring to was. I included what I think they call a cookie in my comment.

          • In reply to #21 by Katy Cordeth:

            In reply to #20 by Zeuglodon:

            In reply to #19 by Katy Cordeth:

            In reply to #18 by Zeuglodon:

            I’m not entirely sure what you’re getting at, but I’ve seen Peter Jackson’s film a few times now and the gorilla is pretty hard to miss.

            I was referring (rather obliquely, as it turns out with hindsight)…

            As the Internet tradition goes: (rolls eyes) Oh, you!

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