If you’re panicking over the continuing zombie invasions that threaten to wipe out humankind, take heart. Nature may have a solution.
As a prey species ourselves, we humans are understandably nervous at the thought of being eaten. We like to think of ourselves as being top predators, munching down on sharks and increasing our virility by consuming tiger parts. So being eaten by dead people can understandably be a bit of a downer, especially if you’re the kind of zombie-like person who believes in “human exceptionalism”.
But while we’d be helplessly trying to fend off attacks by zombies, the world’s true predators and scavengers would be having a field day. Zombie humans … yummy!
Zombies are essentially walking carrion, and Mother Nature doesn’t let anything go to waste. Carrion is on the menu for a vast number of species, from tiny micro-organisms to the largest carnivores.
As scavengers, vultures and other birds would start picking off the dead before they even turn into zombies. Once they’ve turned and are walking around, your typical slow-moving zombie would be no match for the predators, from bears to hyenas. The faster-moving World War Z types might be a bit more of a challenge at first, but wildlife would quickly figure out how to bring them down, too.
Mizejewski says that non-carnivores would probably get in on the act. So if a zombie started lumbering into a herd of moose, they would quickly stab it to death and stomp on it.
Zombie humans would be excellent news for the birds – more so than even Alfred Hitchcock could have imagined. Rats, mice and other local wildlife would be able to get in on the feast. As would your pets once they perceive that you’re not fully alive. Fido and friends would be more than happy to aid in your proper disposal.
Vultures are already well-schooled in disposing of dead humans. In the Himalayas, where it’s hard to bury people in the cold, hard ground, many communities conduct “sky burials” where, as part of the funeral service, the body is ritually laid out at the top of a hill and vultures are invited to come and consume it. (Sadly, vultures are now a threatened species in the region, which is impacting the sky burials.)
But overall, zombie humans would be excellent news for the birds – more so than even Alfred Hitchcock could have imagined. Mizejewski explains:
Ravens, crows, and magpies are expert scavengers, in addition to being bold and extremely intelligent. Many species of gulls, known for their brash behavior when it comes to scoring a meal, would also gladly feed off slow-moving zombies in coastal areas. These birds usually require other animals to break through or break down the tough skin and hide of their carrion meals. So they’d have to wait until the zombies decomposed a bit, or were dismembered by others animals, before they tucked in. But once started, nothing would stop them from devouring the undead with gusto.
There is, of course, a new wrinkle in all this good news. (Note: spoiler alert coming up.) As we saw on The Walking Dead last weekend, it’s possible that Violet the pig is about to become a zombie. This may throw a wrench in the works.
It’s unlikely that all species would contract the zombie virus. Nature doesn’t work that way. Pigs, however, might well be the first nonhumans to catch it since humans and pigs are already very good at exchanging flu viruses (as in swine flu).
And then the condition might well spread to all the other farmed animals whom we like to cage up in confined areas as a food commodity.
But wouldn’t that just be another case of our chickens coming home to roost?