We all know that people can become zombies. Just look at people as they take the subway mindlessly staring at their phones or scrolling up and down through Facebook. Most of us are already zombies in our real lives, we don’t need an infecteous pathagon.
That aside, nature also produces a wonderful array of zombie-like insects and parasites. Let’s talk about them
Often times, a zombie is the result of a parasitic infection between an individual bitten by a “zombifying” source. The victim is rendered senseless and no more will of its own and is under control of the one who bit it. The “zombified” victim might rely on its source for nourishment or allowed to forage for food. What is certain is that the zombie obeys the wants of its source, like a servant to his master.
While all that seems pure human imagination, one might be surprised to know the zombie parasite relationship is existing in nature and much observed in the Animal Kingdom. For years, scientists have studied and observed thousands of animals and discovered several undeniably zombie parasites. These animals victimize others and turn them into unwilling but subservient hosts.
Fortunately for us, almost all these zombie parasites are very small, sometimes even microscopic. The following are some of the well-documented and extensively-watched zombie parasites:
Unlike normal wasps that get pollen from flowers to make honey and sting if threatened, there are species of wasps that are zombie parasites. A good example is the Glypatapanteles species. This type of wasp preys on a caterpillar, laying eggs inside it. The eggs hatch into larvae, who promptly gobble on the caterpillar’s body. What amazes scientists is as the wasp larvae mature and form cocoons, the caterpillar stops eating and focuses towards guarding the cocoons, warding off predators.
So small yet so amazing, that’s how you describe this worm that zombifies crickets. Crickets eat mosquitoes, to which hairworm larvae hatch inside the cricket’s body and proceed to nourish the insides. As it matures, the hairworm infects the cricket’s brain and orders it to look for water, which is ill-advised as the cricket is not a good swimmer! The cricket drowns, the hairworm swim out of its victim and the cycle continues.
Smaller than the naked eye yet quite terrifying, T. gondii infect mostly rodents but have been shown to infect humans. Studies show it is able to influence the brains of rats, rendering them unable to distinguish the smell of cat urine, also slowing down their reflexes. Rats infected with T. gondii are easily preyed upon by cats. And there are reports that people infected by T. gondii have slower reflexes, making them accident-prone.
These three mentioned are but a small sample of the other zombie parasites existing in our world, some with equally if not more terrifying zombie abilities. Aren’t we glad they don’t primarily choose humans as their hosts?