9 True Facts About Zombie Biology From Expert Max Brooks

As long as they aren’t fast zombies, humanity should be OK. Max Brooks, author of World War Z, sat down at New York Comic-Con to discuss what makes the undead tick.

1. Chain swarms, or zombie herds, are accidental.

When a zombie sees a human, it emits a moan. According to Max Brooks, this is not a signal to other zombies in the area, but just an instinctual reaction to seeing a target to infect. However! If there are more undead in the area, they will hear the moan and come toward the area, themselves moaning the whole way. So while not a “dinner bell,” the behavior can still draw dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of zombies to one area.

2. Zombies do not think humans are delicious snacks.

Brooks uses zombies as a virus transference. They want to bite you to spread the infection, not to taste the sweet, sweet flesh of human one more time.

3. The living dead still have use of all their senses.

But they use them all equally. As apex predators, Brooks told us, humanity pulls most of our information from sight even though all our other senses are constantly inputting data too. So while the zombies might not have 20/20 vision, they can hear that tin can hit the floor or smell the spices from that dry ramen packet you ate six hours ago.

4. The undead do decompose, just at varying rates.

Since they aren’t eating human flesh for survival, the undead are still decomposing. Brooks told us people in the tropics would have the shortest half-life before their undead stop being dangerous, but with the freeze and thaw cycle in the temperate zone, zombies could survive for years as the winter preserved their bodies.

5. Zombies would be totally fine underwater, regardless of depth.

One of the most terrifying thing about Brooks’ undead is the underwater swarms wandering the oceans of the world. He says the only reason humans implode under water pressure is because of the gas in our bodies. Zombies don’t have gas, and a liquid cannot crush a liquid. Sorry if “deserted island” was your zombie plan.

6. Being undead is not a superpower.

While they might use all their senses equally, that does not mean zombies have the advantage over humans…other than not feeling pain, being able to continue without limbs, never needing to eat or sleep… OK, they have lots of advantages, but super-strength isn’t one of them. Brooks says you’d have a better shot of getting away from a child or elderly zombie than undead Hulk Hogan.

7. Walkers only have the muscle memory they had when bitten.

There’s a reason we don’t see many zombie babies depicted in media. According to Brooks, they’re just all lying around wherever they happened to be when they turned. A 4-month-old baby zombie will not gain the ability to crawl or walk, as its muscles don’t have the strength. So at least there’s the comfort that tiny Chucky-sized zombies won’t wiggle through the grates in the night to bite you.

8. The virus would most likely affect humans only.

Sorry, Resident Evil and 28 Days Later. It is exceptionally difficult for a virus to make the jump between species, even when that virus isn’t of the zombie variety. Brooks says the Earth better hope the undead infection can’t bond with every species of RNA or, much like with rage zombies, we’re just doomed.

9. Brooks’ zombie virus was a metaphor for the AIDS virus.

Brooks says the idea was that — much like with AIDS — had humanity stepped in faster, they could have kept the virus from turning into a plague since it is incredibly difficult to contract. Shamblers aren’t exactly masters of stealth or surprise. However, in both cases, human hubris and arrogance led to us ignoring the problem under the guise of “it could never happen to me” until it was too late.

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