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The Science of Zombism

Zombic Biology

By Hugo Pecos & Robert Lomax

Return to Zombic Virology

Because of their catatonic state, zombies have been unable to offer any personal testimony to augment scientific research. Therefore, all we know about them is based upon empirical evidence. A person infected with the zombism virus is transformed into a single-minded hunting machine, with all changes to bodily functions serving the zombic imperative: locate prey, capture prey and feed. Overall, the changes that take place in zombies are more limited than in vampires, and primarily affect the nervous and circulatory systems, as well as some aspects of the muscular and skeletal systems.

For a more detailed account, click here.


Brain & Nervous System

This system has been of great interest to researchers, as zombic nervous tissue appears to have regenerative properties not found in humans or vampires.

Cross-sections of a normal brain and a zombic brain
show the extensive atrophy of the latter.
Brain: Contrary to most fiction, zombies are able to survive an enormous loss of brain tissue, as long as the lower brainstem remains intact. For instance, former FVZA zombie specialist Dr. Waxman Himmelburger tells of encountering a zombie who had lost over three quarters of its head from a shotgun blast, with no apparent effect.

Spine/Nervous System: Zombies have exhibited the ability to withstand significant trauma to their central and peripheral nervous system. In a famous series of experiments conducted by FVZA scientists in 1972, zombies who had their spinal cords severed regained the ability to walk within 24 hours. Thus far, researchers have been unable to unlock the mechanism for this process of repair.

Dopamine/Endorphins: The smell and taste of living flesh trigger a large release of these adrenaline-like neurotransmitters into the zombic brain.


Sense Organs

"Follow your nose" might be the zombic motto, as their powerful sense of smell compensates for the weakness of their other senses.

Ocular close-up of an early-stage zombie
Sight: Due to degradation of the lens and cornea, zombies suffer from severe myopia. In addition, they are colorblind, their scleras are red with irritation, and cataracts gradually obscure the pupils.

Hearing: Degradation and perforation of the eardrums cause zombies to go deaf within a few weeks of transformation.

Smell: Zombies have even more sensory cells than vampires. If the wind is right, zombies can smell humans from as far as a mile away.


Epidermis

The extremities are the first to experience
necrosis.
Like bad apples, zombies mostly rot from the outside in, because their surface tissues receive the least blood flow and the most exposure to environmental trauma.

Skin: Starting off pale and ashen, decay sets in shortly after transformation, becoming more jaundiced over the course of a week as liver function degrades. Gradually consumed by open sores, the skin turns dark and leathery before sloughing off completely.

Hair/Nails: Zombies who live long enough will lose all their nails and hair.


Muscular & Skeletal System

Changes here are of good news-bad news variety. Yes, zombies are stiff-limbed and slow, and they move along at a shuffle rather than a sprint; but they are also very powerful, with a vice-like grip and jaws that can bite through metal.

A normal jaw (l) and a zombic jaw (r).
Note the larger jawbone and thicker muscle of the latter.
Muscles/Connective Tissue: The muscle fibers of the hands, forearms and jaw become concentrated and take on the consistency of nylon rope. Ligaments and tendons thicken in response to the added stress.

Skeletal System: Important modifications occur to the zombic jaw: extra bone is deposited on the lower mandible to form an attachment point for larger chewing muscles. These adaptations enable zombies to bite through skull and bone to get at the pillars of their diet: brains and bone marrow. As with vampires, a zombie's entire skeleton hardens and thickens as it ages.

Teeth: Although early-stagers are smart enough to use heavy objects (or the pavement) to shatter skulls, older zombies are much less savvy in their eating habits. Unfortunately, zombic teeth are not adapted to the powerful forces exerted on them by the jaw, causing them to crack and fall out. Eventually, all the teeth are gone, and the zombie is forced to chew with its exposed jawbones.


Cardiovascular System

A pool of dried zombie blood
As anybody who ever emptied their gun into an advancing zombie can tell you: they just don't bleed to death. Their circulatory adaptations allow them to survive massive trauma that would kill even a vampire.

Blood: Saturated with extra iron and additional erythrocytes, zombic blood is thick and black, hence the nickname "zombie oil."

Heart: As with vampires, zombic blood is pumped by skeletal muscle rather than the heart. However, the rate of circulation is much slower, hence the tissue necrosis.


Body Temperature

Both vampires and zombies take on the temperature of warmer environments. However, when exposed to environments of under 60 degrees Fahrenheit, zombic body temperature ranges between 65 and 75 degrees, making them slightly warmer than vampires. This is due to heat released by the various parasites living in zombic flesh—a phenomenon that causes zombies to emit steam in cool weather and phosphorescence when in water.

Before (top) and after (bottom) thermal imaging of the transformation


Aging & Life Expectancy

The great irony of zombic life is that even as they voraciously feed, they too are being fed upon: a zombie's body is like a big Petri dish serving host to everything from bacteria and fungi to maggots and ants. The resulting state of putrefaction means, as terrifying as a zombie may be to the eye, it actually commits far worse offenses to the nose.

A long-held, common misconception is that zombies are immortal, when in actuality, the vast majority of zombies live less than a year. It is possible to determine a zombie's age based on their external appearance—specifically, their level of decomposition, also known as necrotic degradation.

The three stages of necrotic degradation

Stage I: 1-3 months. The skin is mottled, flaking, peeling and covered with open sores.

Stage II: 4-6 months. The ears, lips, nose and eyelids are rotting away. Loss of skin, teeth, hair, nails, fingers and toes. Swelling of tissues from gas and fluid buildup. Exposure of subcutaneous tissues.

Stage III: 7-9 months. Body is emaciated, with large areas of exposed muscle and bone. Loss of facial features, breasts, genitals and limbs. Outer tissues are dry, tough and leathery. Most (if not all) of the hair and teeth are gone, and one or both eyes fall out.

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