Are you the sort of horror fan who enjoys a good monster flick, all the while basking in the comfort that the nasty beasts that terrorize the main characters are “not real” and its all just “fantasy”? Are you especially into that form of comfort while watching apocalyptic zombie flicks (or TV series, or graphic novels or videogames), especially given how completely implausible the scenario is? I mean, we’re talking about an army of undead. Shambling corpses that eat brains? I mean, how could that ever be a reality?
Photo courtesty of The Walking Dead/AMC
Well, the good folks at io9 have come to rip that particular comfort away, in revealing a plausible scenario wherein zombies could actually become real. The trick? It’s not bacteria or virus that could turn humans into walking dead, but fungi.
We know that fungi can infect humans. We also know that fungal networks exist in most of the world’s forests. These mycorrhizal networks have a symbiotic relationship with trees and other plants in the forest, exchanging nutrients for mutual benefit. These networks can be quite large, and there are studies that demonstrate the potential for chemical signals to be transmitted from one plant to another via the mycorrhizal network. That, in turn, means that fungal filaments could perform both vascular and neural functions within a corpse.
Gross, yeah? While it’s not exactly the most likely thing in the world to happen (I tend to think that an infection strong and virulent enough to turn us into zombies is more likely to simply kill us), zombies just got a whole lot closer to reality than vampires ever will be.
That is, until someone writes a semi-scientific article about night-bound bloodsuckers. You’ll never watch horror movies the same way again.