For Inappropriate St. Patrick’s Day Chills, How About Real Life Zombies?
Some fungi, viruses and bacteria have evolved a spine-chilling way of being transmitted from one host to another. They turn their hosts into witless zombies. Say what? But this is the subtitle of a decidedly non-fictional article,”Real-Life Zombies that Are Stranger than Fiction” by Chris Baraniuk, published earlier this week on BBC.COM. To quote Baraniuk further: The zombies we know from fiction are ferocious, flesh-eating post-humans. And while such stories have never come true, nature is full of disturbingly similar cases of zombification among plants and animals. Sometimes the parallels are striking. And moreover this isn’t something new. While the “victims” thus far seem to be confined to such lower life forms as insects and spiders, at least one zombie-inducing parasite will attack frogs.
So are humans next? I have a story, “Swarms,” coming out on Earth Day, April 22, in MOTHER’S REVENGE (Scary Dairy Press, see March 8, et al.), that takes a similar spin from possibly mutated ichneumon wasps — another insect of interest in itself. But according to Baraniuk, some ants, at least, have been so affected for 48 million years.
Interest whetted? Then gird your stomach and take another big swig of green beer, then check it out by pressing here. But do so at your own risk as, to quote its author once more, [t]here is something particularly disconcerting about the idea that an animal’s behaviour could be drastically changed by an infection or parasite, but it is a phenomenon well-established in nature.