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The Science of Werewolves

Part I

Compared with vampires and zombies, werewolves are poorly understood. They live an isolated existence and have such refined senses that observing them in the wild is impossible. Watching them in captivity is futile too, as every werewolf ever captured for research purposes has died within one week of capture. Much of what we know about the biology of werewolves comes from post-mortem examination of werewolf tissue and anatomy. Unfortunately, werewolf research ground to a halt after the FVZA was disbanded in 1975, so the current knowledge comes from a time when genetic research was less advanced.

The lupine parvovirus
magnified 225,000 times

The Virus

Wolves are natural hosts for the lupine parvovirus, or LPV, the virus responsible for werewolves. The virus contains two mutations that distinguish it from other parvoviruses. Wolves transmit the virus to humans through a bite, and so werewolf occurences closely mirror wolf populations. Hunters and fur trappers have always been common victims. There is a fear that wolf recovery programs in the United States will result in an increase of werewolves, especially in suburban areas.

As you may know, a virus is a protein shell that attaches itself to a cellular membrane and injects its genetic material into the cell. In effect, the virus takes over the cell and uses it as a factory for viral proteins. LPV is different from most viruses in that it doesn't destroy its host organism; rather, it transforms it.

Transformation

The transformation of a human being to a werewolf shares some similarities with that of vampires and zombies. After infection, there is a period of high fever, chills and other flu-like symptoms. The victim is likely to experience extreme thirst as well. These symptoms last approximately 48 hours. Unlike people infected with vampiric virus or zombie virus, werewolf victims do not ever slip into a coma.

A person infected with LPV comes out of the fever in a highly dangerous state. The victim will display fierce aggression and bloodlust. Their communication degrades into grunts, growls and hisses. They will make great efforts to flee the company of humans and complete their transformation in a more secluded area, such as a forest, a sewer or an abandoned structure.

The werewolf's profile (center) is closer to
that of a wolf (left) than a human (right)
The physiological transformation to werewolf begins approximately one week after infection, as the virus essentially takes over the body's process of cellular differentiation. The viral DNA selectively turns on and off certain parts of the human genome based on the final design of the organism. Bone growth occurs at the skull and along the spinal column. The torso becomes elongated and the bones and musculature of the pelvic and shoulder girdle expand. Coarse hair will grow all over the victim's body. There are numerous other significant physical changes: hands become paws, fingernails become claws, the jaws and teeth take on a lupine appearance and the eyes develop a yellow hue and the pupils become narrow.

The full transformation from human to werewolf takes up to six weeks to complete. At the end of the process, the werewolf will walk and run on all fours. Werewolves can continue to grow during the first years after transformation, especially when the food supply is abundant.


Go to: Werewolf Behavior

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