#1 By: Boing Boing, October 14th, 2013 15:30
#2 By: Sébastien Paquin, October 14th, 2013 15:55
Cool story, but all of this hinges on the hypothesis that animals couldn't be infected and that they would want to feed on zombies.
#3 By: retepslluerb, October 14th, 2013 16:10
Well, if zombies could infect animals, the apocalypse would be over in days, as there is no way the surviving humans could protect themselves against zombie sparrows, crows or even zombie insects.
And even if large animals would abhor zombies, it's unlikely that said decomposers and single cell organism or fungi would leave them alone.
#4 By: Liz Miller, October 14th, 2013 16:30
So, If the wildlife took care of all the zombies, I'm thinking there might be a much bigger problem. The overpopulation of the wildlife.
#5 By: Marc Wilson, October 14th, 2013 16:48
This is why the Mira Grant zombies make more sense. Anything warm-blooded and over 40 lbs can become a zombie through viral amplification. It doesn't have to die first.
So the critters don't take out the zombies, they become the zombies.
#6 By: Marja Erwin, October 14th, 2013 16:49
Funerary cannibalism is rare because of the disease environment, not because of some universal instinct. I think that, knowing diseases can be contagious, and encountering zombies, and not knowing whether zombeism can be transmitted by eating infected flesh, most of us will naturally avoid eating infected flesh. I suspect that some animals might be more sensitive to our diseases, and others less so, and even in species susceptible to our diseases, some individuals might be immune. Like with myxomatosis.
#7 By: Shuck, October 14th, 2013 17:18
Given that in zombie narratives, that they fail to decay beyond a certain point or be affected by insects, that tends to indicate they're inedible, somehow. That wouldn't stop them from having run-ins with aggressive animals, of course. I'm imagining an elk with a zombie stuck on the end of its antlers...
#8 By: mkirkland, October 14th, 2013 17:25
None of the predators would know how to kill a zombie. They'd try to rip out its jugular and/or bite down and strangle it. Meanwhile it would be biting back and/or ripping out intestines.
Insects are more likely, but presumably they must only rot/be edible to a certain extent if they're still shambling months/years down the line.
#9 By: Preston, October 14th, 2013 17:36
Someone pointed out a couple years ago that the zombies would go down under a swarm of maggots in a couple weeks. Also bacteria of all kinds would attack their flesh, not just the disease causing pathogens that are good at evading our immune system. Heck, after a while you'd see them sprouting mushrooms (has happened a couple time in humans IIRC). For that matter, they'd start to sprout trees after a while.
Pretty much everything organic is swiftly degraded by the biosphere. There a few inorganic products of live organisms, such as sea shells, that can accumulate in vast geologic layers. Although there aren't many biological artifacts like this, there can be huge piles of the stuff lying about.
#10 By: big_ryan, October 14th, 2013 17:37
it would be a really neat shot in a zombie movie to have a hoard of zombies being picked to pieces by a giant flock of crows as they bear down on the surviving heros of the story
#11 By: Rob Beschizza, October 14th, 2013 18:06
First read this as "giant flock of cows"
#12 By: fuzzyfuzzyfungus, October 14th, 2013 18:07
In WWZ, the zombies were explicitly toxic(in some probably-scientifically-problematic way). At least one section discusses military working dogs, which cannot safely bite the zombies; but are valuable in detecting, avoiding, and/or putting a bullet through the head of, them. However, zombie-toxins are otherwise never mentioned, and appear not to leach out into bodies of water where active zombies are hiding, affect humans who survive close combat encounters with zombies that would (in the case of an actual toxin) leave the place spattered with aerosolized whatever-it-is, and so on.
I suspect that, as with most things zombie, it comes down to the fact that zombies just don't make thermodynamic sense, and so are either 'rabies++' zombies, which are aggressive, fast-moving, and still very much alive(at least until their dubiously logical behavior causes them to starve or die) until they are just another dead mammal or they are supernatural necromancy zombies, who are indeed decaying like the dead meat they are(albeit possibly at a rate dictated more by narrative causality than strict adherence to real-world decay rates); but will simply become skeletons, animated by the same unnatural powers of undeath, once the meat is gone.
Anything not in one of those two camps, you are really just handwaving for the sake of having zombies; because that's an end in itself.
#13 By: fuzzyfuzzyfungus, October 14th, 2013 18:12
Presumably, unless your zombies are directly animated by Dark Powers (as skeletons are), substantial destruction of muscle tissue would still 'kill' the zombie in terms of being an actual threat, even if massive intracranial trauma is the canonical weak point.
It'd probably surprise the first few crocs who tried to win a drowning contest with a zombie in their jaws(though the tearing caused by the croc snapping its head back and forth would be severe), and it would reduce the efficiency of a lot of other predator's preferred methods; but every major muscle compromized or tendon severed would be another blow at the actual danger presented by the zombie, until the smaller decomposers finished the job unto the last edible molecule...
#14 By: bwv812, October 14th, 2013 18:46
This here is some great scientific analysis. It has just the right quotient of scienciness, as Colbert might say.
I especially liked how Zombies would be fodder for vultures and bears because they are carrion, but would be prey for big cats because those cats don't like carrion but prefer fresh meat—and what could be fresher than the undead who are being decomposed by bacteria and insects? I have no doubt that "if a zombie got too close, a moose would stomp it into an immobile pile of gore without a second's hesitation": walk around Newfoundland for a while and you'll see the little piles of gore all over the place from every time a human out for a stroll got too close. And in places like Banff where there are large population of Elk within the townsite people are impaled and dismembered on an almost daily basis.
#15 By: mkirkland, October 14th, 2013 18:51
If we're talking about The Walking Dead zombies, any part still substantially attached to the head seems to work, even if it's just the head itself.
Also, a single bite seems to kill via an infection not exactly the same as the one that causes zombieism, as all the humans already have that and don't drop dead. Potentially any predator that tried was wiped out rather quickly.
#16 By: cheem, October 14th, 2013 19:13
Even without the microbes, wouldn't the sun more or less desiccate the zombies into motionlessness? A few weeks of sunshine and no circulatory system, means that everything would shrivel up, especially if there are open wounds.
#17 By: petzl, October 14th, 2013 19:33
Great point. It's not vultures, eagles, or wolves that's going to take down a decaying zombie. It's the maggots.
#18 By: Preston, October 14th, 2013 19:55
Well to be fair, that's only because the Newfies are trying to have sex with them.
#19 By: Trent_Baker, October 14th, 2013 21:53
In WWZ (the book) the zombies are infected by the Solanum virus which turned the flesh toxic and thus immune to most forms of organic breakdown including bacteria, presumably until bacteria evolved to overcome the toxin just as we are inadvertently developing super-bugs by overdosing on anti-biotics.
This doesn't seem the case with the Walking Dead virus, But any bite is typically packed with bacteria, zombie causing or not and so an animal that tries to eat a zombie could possibly die from an infected bite.
Also concerning aggressive herbivores, we don't make a habit of actively attacking such creatures with our hands and teeth, in fact unless we are hunting them we try to keep a wary distance which suits both parties just fine.
#20 By: RFMarine, October 14th, 2013 23:11
rabies ++ zombies (seen in the movie I am legend and the game left 4 dead) are still living animals. As living animals they would be at worst only slightly more vulnerable to the carrion eaters in the article as compared to normal aboriginal humans (like primitive tribes). But probably more vulnerable to hunting animals or animals they spook like big carnivores, moose, elk, etc since they have no sense to stay out of the way
if they are living animals then they have to eat and drink. If water sources are plentiful and the weather is good, then food is the limiting factor. Imagine a city and the surrounding countryside. Now cut off the trains and trucks that deliver food and have all the farmers go on strike. A city would run out of food in a few days to weeks. Same thing if everyone in a city became a zombie. No one imports food an no one is farming or raising livestock. Within a month or two cannibalism and starvation would reduce the zombie population to very low levels, levels that could be sustained by foraging and hunting
in an isolated city with poor climate like las vegas in summertime, thirst alone will kill a lot of zombies. In northern cities like new york, a single bad winter would do the same
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