As a noted zombie expert, people ask me all the time, “Are zombies real?”
My initial reaction is to say, “What are you, retarded?”
What I actually say is, “Not yet… but… it’s possible.”
Why? Because while there is no such thing (yet) as zombie behaviour in humans or apes, or in other mammals, birds, fish or lizards… (I usually pause here for effect)… there are several cases of zombie-like behaviour in the insect world.
I’ve written about how wasps use ladybugs to act as zombie bodyguards for their larvae.
Over at the Kosher Samurai blog, we learned about zombie-like honeyees infested by fly parasites.
And here is yet another disturbing display of zombie-like behavior in the insect world… the parasitic hairworm. Like the above-mentioned cases (wasp/ladybug and fly/honeybee) the hairworm plants its young inside crickets.
The hairworm develops to maturity inside an unsuspecting cricket on land, but must live its adult life in water.
And this is where the zombie aspect enters the picture. You see, to make this transition from inside the cricket on land to living in the water, it takes control of the cricket’s brain and forces it to commit suicide by leaping into any available pool or pond. Once in the water the cricket quickly drowns, allowing the hairworm to emerge and swim away in search of a mate.
This is by no means a ‘new’ phenomenon. In September 2005, a National Geographic article reported that a team of French biologists discovered that hairworms, living inside grasshoppers, pump the host insects with a cocktail of chemicals that makes them commit suicide by leaping into water. The parasites then swim away from their drowning hosts to continue their life cycle.
As reported at Squidoo.com, “Inside the entire body cavity of the grasshopper except its legs and head, squirms a tiny hairworm. Upon arrival in its grasshopper host, the worm secretes a chemical cocktail that wreaks havoc on the grasshoppers central nervous system causing it to eventually take the final plunge. When the grasshopper hits the water, the hairworm, now three or four times longer than the grasshopper, can swim away and join its fellow hairworms in a giant writhing mass where it will breed.”
So next time someone asks, “Are zombies real?”, don’t say “No”…
Say “Not Yet!”