You may think zombies exist only in movies, but zombies are actually a very real trend among animals, insects — and even humans.
Consider the classic zombie movie plot: a plague that turns humans into mouth-frothing predators that eat other humans. The zombie theme is basically founded on a virus and how it alters the mental state or actions of other animals. These changed actions help the virus to spread. Like all organisms, the virus just wants to flourish and reproduce.
Check out 4 REAL examples of zombies in nature!
Zombie Dogs and Cats
How would you describe zombie symptoms? Vision disturbances, slurred speech, loss of coordination, delirium, frothy saliva (hypersalivation), constant irritability and changes in attitude and behavior. How would you describe rabies? Not much differently.
Rabies is an infamous zombie-like condition and may even be the inspiration behind the Hollywood movies.
In the “furious phase” of rabies, an animal may eat anything, be highly aggressive and have no fear of its natural enemies.
These actions greatly increase the probability that the rabies virus will spread to other animals through a zombie-like bite, or just the classic cat fight.
Zombies are in the trees, too! Gypsy moth caterpillars normally hide on the branches or bark of trees during the day and come out at night to eat leaves. Once they are infected with baculivirus, their minds are manipulated. The zombie caterpillars climb to the top of the tree where they die. Their bodies are liquefied and fatally drip virus-filled goo onto the caterpillars below. The virus is manipulating the caterpillars to die in just the right location to infect new hosts. Sounds like a horror film, right? Nope, just the zombie nature channel.
Normally mice avoid cats and cat scents like the plague.
But when a mouse is infected with the mind-manipulator Toxoplasma gondii (Toxo), they lose their fear of cats, putting them in predatory danger. In fact, infected mice may even become aggressive to cats. There can be only one winner in this encounter: The cat eats the mouse, gets infected with Toxo and its feces may be spread around for more mice (or rats) to get infected.
Photo Credit: Flickr via Creative Commons/zaimoku_woodpile
Your Cat Has the Power to Zombify You!
Humans can get infected with Toxoplasmosis, too. We can get infected through a cat’s feces. (This is why pregnant women are warned not to change cat litter boxes.)
It is estimated that one third of the human population is infected by a latent form of Toxo. The zombie effect here is not confirmed, but isolated studies have shown a correlation between Toxo infection, schizophrenia and suicide and self harm.
Toxoplasmosis may also actually trick us into liking cats more!
One study done on humans with toxoplasmosis found a noticeable increase in their love of cats, especially when compared to humans who didn’t have the infection. A parasitic disease is a drastic way to win over one’s affection — but in the feline world, it seems to be working!
Jaroslav Flegr, a Czech Biologist who’s studied this condition for decades, believes Toxoplasmosis impacts our lives more than we know. Flegr says the organism contributes to car crashes, suicides and mental disorders such as schizophrenia. Flegr explains, “When you add up all the different ways it can harm us, Toxoplasma might even kill as many people as malaria, or at least a million people a year.” Toxoplasmosis may be tweaking our brains, changing our response to frightening situations and altering our preferences for certain scents — according to Flegr.
Once again, cats become the bad guy host! Too bad, since I like cats!
The Party-Too-Hard Zombie
Humans think that we are at the top of the food chain and we control and manipulate other plants (and animals) for our benefit.
If you look at it from the perspective of plants though, they are the ones who are benefiting. Plants can’t move around as well as we can, and without our help they would not be so abundant and diverse.
One of the plants that has mutually benefited from man is the cannabis plant. What was once a skinny ditch weed with scattered populations has now become the most intensely grown and nurtured plant on earth because it can produce a molecule (THC) which can change our consciousness and brain chemistry.
People are so “zombified” by this plant that 750,000 people are arrested every year for consuming it illegally. Worldwide, cannabis users shoot to 150 million. Hollywood even made a mock horror film about it called Reefer Madness, where students who smoke synthetic marijuana turn into zombies, creating mass hysteria.
The plant continues to magically persuade humans to help it flourish. Marijuana plants are grown with the highest technology and expertise of any plant on this earth. Since marijuana use is growing, the cannabis species is thriving. This may not have the same zombie relationship as the previous examples, but if you are a worried parent of drug-using teenagers, you might interpret their actions as completely taken over!
What to Do?
Nature is infinitely creative and invincible. You can’t worry about every little bacteria or parasite out there.
But you can balance and detox your body to maintain a strong and heathy immune system. And you can also improve your mood with foods, exercise and breathing so you are more centered within your own true nature. What do you think of these zombie animals?