Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Zombieism: Eat, Sex, Poop

Hello there Zombiology Student, it’s great to have you with us at the ZomBlog.

Today we have a terrific trio of Zombie Science questions from some of our students.

First off we have Ida who asks, “Do zombies have a functional digestive system, and do they defecate?”

I love human, but it goes straight through me.
Let’s begin with the first part. In fiction Zombies have a continual craving for human flesh, yet they are said to not require nourishment. Regular visitors will know that here at the Institute we have a different idea of what a real Zombie would be like. First off, we don’t believe Zombies would be ‘undead’ but rather human beings suffering from a disease. Humans have to ingest certain materials which the digestive system processes and turns into energy in order for us to survive . Zombies move around, so they must be using some form of energy. In order to get this energy their bodies must be processing what they eat, therefore they will need to have a functional digestive system.

But do they defecate? Defecation is the last part of the digestion process whereby solid, semi-solid, or liquid waste is eliminated from the digestive tract via the anus. As we have established, Zombies are using their digestive systems and to use an old adage ‘what comes in must go out’. However, the damage a Zombie disease would do to a human brain could cause changes in behaviour. So don’t expect a Zombie to excuse themselves to the bathroom. They’d likely go wherever and whenever they needed to, we should count ourselves lucky that TV and Film has yet to develop smell-o-vision.

Except this Zombie, he has standards.
Next up is Paul who wanted to know, “Can they mate or bear children?”

The answer depends on how we approach the question. A Zombie disease that is spread by biting, akin to Rabies, is contained within saliva and transferred by a bite. The disease increases aggression raising the Zombie’s chances of biting someone, spreading the disease, and therefore creating infected Zombie offspring. So from that perspective, yes they can in a way create more Zombies.

However I believe Paul’s question really relates to whether a human with Zombieism could have intercourse and produce a child the ‘old fashioned way’.

This was the only appropriate 'Zombie Sex' image I could find. I saw things students, things I'll never be able to un-see. 

Surprisingly we have not conducted much research into Zombie Sex. Although in a previous ZomBlog we did answer the question, “If a Zombie bites a pregnant woman, would the baby become infected?” (

We believe that a Zombie disease would be affecting the human brain in a variety of ways, affecting memories and altering their personalities. This could mean that a Zombie may not be interested in sex, nor able to recall how to do it. Yet there is nothing to say that the biological facilities required to create a baby would be non-functional. If two Zombies did make love, it would be an instinctive behaviour, much like when two animals go at it in the wild. Of course the Zombie’s wouldn’t have hospitals, midwives, and so on. So if a Zombie did become pregnant, once she came to term the baby would simply drop out and without the proper care it is unlikely to survive for long.

A Zombie giving birth is essentially a packed lunch.
Lastly Colin asked, “Why don’t zombies feed on each other in a frenzy?”

This is a question that many have asked when watching Zombie films. A possibility may be that a Zombie is capable of sensing the Zombieism disease by smell, and therefore avoids it in favour of non-infected food. There are countless stories of animals such as dogs and cats being able to detect disease in humans. But, these animals have far superior smelling abilities than humans so it seems unlikely that a Zombie would have such a skill.

Did you hear that World War Z?

Another idea is that the disease may be altering their behaviour in such a way to discourage them from infecting those who already have the disease. There are many parasites who alter their hosts behaviour. When the malaria parasite plasmodium infects a mosquito it initially makes them more cautious and less likely to bite. This provides time for the disease to reproduce in their guts. Afterwards it makes them bite more frequently, and for longer, increasing odds the parasite will spread. Yet once a human becomes infected they give off signals that attract more mosquitoes.

At present we could hypothesize that a Zombie disease is in some way discouraging infected hosts from biting those who are infected. A reason for this would be because its aim is to spread the disease, and to do that it makes more sense to bite someone who is uninfected. But we would need to learn a lot more about Zombieism to provide a definitive answer. This is what makes studying Zombieism so exciting - the unanswered questions!   

My thanks to Ida, Paul, and Colin for their brilliant questions - I hope you are satisfied with the answers.

If you have a question about the undead please get in touch with me in the comments section below, and don’t forget to visit our Book of Faces ( I’m ready, waiting, and willing to answer your questions right here on the ZomBlog.

Remember in the fight against Zombies the greatest weapon is knowledge, and crossbows, but mainly knowledge.

Doctor Austin

Doctor Austin ZITS BSz MSz DPep, is a Theoretical Zombiologist and Head of the Zombie Institute for Theoretical Studies at the University of Glasgow, Scotland UK.

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