Animal Zombies are nonhuman victims of the zombie virus, appearing in many forms based on their species. Numerous types of animals have been portrayed as zombies – a zombie dog appeared in The Last Man on Earth in 1964, and an infected dog is the source of the zombie virus in REC (2007). Night of the Zombies features a scare from a zombie cat, as does Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. A jump scare scene featuring zombie dogs in the first Resident Evil is considered to be a seminal horror scene in video game history. A scary zombie tiger showed up in 2020 Zack Snyder’s Army of the dead.
Animal Zombies help human zombies spread the disease, and more intelligent undead may keep them a pets and mounts. Since their type widely varies, they have abilities akin to their living form, as well as the typical zombie powers.
The natural world is full of zombies under mind control. Zombie spiders and cockroaches babysit developing wasp larvae — until the babies devour them. Zombie fish flip around and dart toward the surface of the water, seeming to beg for birds to eat them. Zombie crickets, beetles and praying mantises drown themselves in water. Zombie rats are drawn to the smell of the pee of cats that may devour them.
All of these “zombies” have one thing in common: parasites. A parasite lives inside or on another creature, known as its host. A parasite may be a fungus, a worm or another tiny creature. All parasites eventually weaken or sicken their hosts. Sometimes, the parasite kills or even eats its host. But death of the host isn’t the freakiest goal. A parasite might get its host to die in a certain place, or be eaten by a certain creature. In order to accomplish these tricks, some parasites have evolved the ability to hack into the host’s brain and influence its behavior in very specific ways.
One classic case is the zombie ant. The parasite is a mind-controlling fungus (Ophiocordyceps camponoti-rufi pedis) that manipulates carpenter worker ants into straying far enough from the colony that their social immunity is impaired. The fungus makes the ant bite down underneath a leaf, where it is anchored until it dies, then the ant’s corpse is used by the fungus to grow. The fungus also releases spores that rain down and infect more ants, and so the nightmare continues.
Another insect group responsible for zombifying its victims and turning them into mindless drones are wasps.
The jewel wasp (Ampulex compressa) injects venom directly into the brains of cockroaches, targeting two specific locations that render the roach’s free will useless. The wasp leads the cockroach to a burrow and lays an egg on the roach’s abdomen. The zombie roach only dies once the egg hatches and the larva devours it piece by piece.
Another wasp species, the green-eyed wasp (Dinocampus coccinellae), makes light work of harnessing the power of the ladybird. The wasp lays her eggs inside the bug, and new evidence suggests that a virus also attacks the ladybird’s brain, paralysing and enslaving it as a zombie babysitter. The larva emerges and weaves a cocoon between the ladybird’s legs so the paralysed bug acts as a bodyguard until the larva is ready to leave. Amazingly, a quarter of ladybirds recover from their zombification!