Everyone knows about fictitious zombies from the movies but there are real life zombies lurking everywhere in the animal kingdom and some of them are far more gruesome than anything film makers could ever imagine.But don’t worry just yet about the zombie apocalypse unless you’re a:Zombie ant:Let’s just say you’re a regular old ant, out doing whatever it is you do. You unknowingly inhale a tiny spore, barely notice it, and go about your antly duties. What you don’t know is that it is already too late for you. That spore will develop into a fungus that will take over your mind. Now you’re just a host and the parasite that controls you wants you dead.The fungus quite literally spreads into the ant’s brain and manipulates it in very specific ways. The ant will soon begin to wander around aimlessly, and eventually it’ll fall from the tree canopy where its fellow ants are working. The zombified ant will find a low hanging leaf, climb to its underside, latch its jaws tight to that leaf, and abruptly die. The ant didn’t want to do any of this, the fungus made it. Soon after the ant is dead the fungus will sprout a stalk right out of its poor dead head.We’ll come back to ants in a minute. It appears mother nature hates the little guys.Zombie fish:The Killifish (with a name like that you’re just asking to be turned into a zombie) is another victim of a parasite that specifically wants it dead. The Killifish doesn’t stand a chance. This parasite works in such a convoluted fashion it makes you wonder if it’s some kind of genius.The parasite is a type of flatworm. This little monster has an unusual and highly calculated life-cycle. The eggs are released in bird poop. Horn snails eat the poop and become instantly sterile. But it doesn’t end there. Oh no, this parasite has loftier goals. It swims out of the snail as larvae and finds a Killifish to take over. It travels in through the gills and follows a nerve right into the brain. It forms a layer on the brain that immediately causes the fish to make its way to the surface of the water and flop around so that birds can more easily spot it. The birds eat the fish, thereby starting the parasitic cycle all over again.Zombie grasshopper:Poor little grasshopper. All you wanted was a nice refreshing drink of water. What you got instead was involuntary suicide. You gulped up a baby hairworm which then grew inside of you. It grew so large that only your head and legs weren’t filled with it. By the time it reached maturity (by filling nearly your entire cavity) it needed to mate. But hairworms only mate in water. How was the hairworm going to get to that water? The cunning hairworm has a plan. It’ll hijack your central nervous system and force you to commit suicide by drowning yourself.And that’s what happens. Grasshoppers will jump into pools of water and promptly die, allowing the hairworms within them a chance to escape and multiply.Zombie spider:This poor guy never stood a chance. A type of wasp uses a spider in a very sinister way. It will paralyze it, lay an egg on its abdomen, and then just fly on out of there. The spider wakes up from its paralysis, shrugs it off, and goes about his business. But right before the wasp larva is ready to pupate, it begins to control the spider by injecting a chemical into its blood stream. This causes the spider to start weaving odd-shaped webs that it normally wouldn’t weave. When it’s done it moves to the center of the web and waits. The larvae then molts, kills and sucks the spider dry, gets rid of the body, and promptly builds a cocoon that hangs from the newly reinforced web. It then emerges from the cocoon as a wasp, ready to lay eggs of its own.Zombie cockroach:A wasp is the culprit again. This wasp will sting the cockroach first to paralyze its front legs. When that’s done, it stings it in its brain. It does this to inhibit the escape response within the cockroach. Then it gnaws off half of the roach’s antennae, possibly to let some of the venom escape so that the roach doesn’t die right away. You see, the wasp needs the roach to live, for the time being anyway. The wasp then leads the larger cockroach to its burrow by pulling it by an antenna like a dog on a leash. When the sleepy cockroach is tucked away safe and sound, the wasp lays an egg on its abdomen. You know where this is going, don’t you. The wasp leaves, but the cockroach just hangs out in the burrow. Over the course of the following week, the larva grows, eats, then when the roach is dead, builds a cocoon right inside its empty husk of a body.Zombie snail:A flatworm that lives in the intestinal tracts of birds has a weird way of getting out to see the sights. It’s excreted in bird droppings where it is then gobbled up by disgusting snails (note to self – never eat escargot). The snails then begin to exhibit odd behavior. Rather than hiding in the shade, they’ll make their way out into the sunlight because they no longer have the ability to sense light.The worst part is this: the flatworms invade the snails tentacles and enlarge them to the extreme. And guess what a passing bird sees as it flies overhead? It sees two fat juicy worms sticking up so it does what it was born to do; it eats them. Thus enabling the flatworm to joyride from one species to the next, ignorant of the consequences.Zombie ant (again):Those poor ants. This time it’s not a fungus that does it, but rather, a fluke worm. This fluke starts out life in cow manure. A snail eats this manure (and the eggs hidden therein) and then wanders off to do snail-like things. The eggs hatch, gather around the snails lungs, and wait for the snail to cough them up. Once the snail hacks up the eggs, passing ants notice these delicious morsels and gobble them up. Well, you dumb ants, maybe you shouldn’t be eating snail phlegm. The fluke worms make their way to the ants nervous system and that’s where the story ends for Mr. Ant. The ant will wander off from the other ants and find a nice long blade of grass to climb. Once it’s climbed to the top, it clamps its jaws on the grass and waits. If nothing happens, it’ll go back home and try again tomorrow. The next day it wanders off from the group, and does the same thing. This time, a passing cow eats the ant accidentally as it’s grazing. The fluke worm is now home.Isn’t nature beautiful!!!
Zombies of the Wild
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