Questions for ‘Zombies are real’

An Ophiocordyceps fungus grows out of a dead wasp.

Susanne Sourell (suse)/Mushroom Observer/Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

To accompany feature “Zombies are real” 


Before Reading: 

1.  When you think of zombies, what kinds of creepy behaviors do you imagine?

2.  Do you know any ways that plants and animals influence each other’s behavior?     

During Reading: (heading 3)

1.  What is the stalk that emerges from the head of the “zombie” ant?     

2.  What are four examples of real-life “zombies” in nature?

3.  What is a parasite?

4.  How do some parasites influence the behavior of larger, smarter animals? 

5.  What is Toxoplasma gondii’s trick for completing its life cycle inside a cat?   

6.  Why does the Ophiocordyceps force its host, an ant, to crawl up a plant, face north and bite down on a leaf when the sun is at its highest point in the sky?   

7.  How does the Reclinervellus nielseni wasp manipulate its spider host?  

8.  What is the “brain surgery” that a jewel wasp does to a cockroach’s brain?   

9.  Why do California killifish infected with the brain worm Euhaplorchis californiensis dart toward the surface of the water, twist their bodies around or rub against rocks?   

10.  What practical benefit could come from figuring out the secrets of zombie mind control in the natural world?

After Reading:

1.   Which “zombie” mind control method that you read about in this article seems creepiest to you? Explain why.

2.  If you were a parasite and wanted to control the behavior of your host in order to survive and reproduce, what would be your major goals?  What would be two minor goals?