If the current plague of zombie movies and TV shows is any indication, people enjoy getting a little bit freaked out by the living dead. But, fear not, if zombie virus ever did begin turning humans into flesh-craving animated corpses, Mother Nature would quickly quell the invasion, naturalist David Mizejewski argues at BoingBoing. In the wild, flesh is considered a delicacy, and, to many a hungry creature, zombies would be walking buffets rather than menaces.
For starters, there are the vultures. At Texas State University’s body farm, scientists have recorded vultures reducing a human body to bones in a mere 5 hours. Vultures use their strong beaks to dig out a carcass’ eyeballs and get at the brainy goodies beneath. They can also smell decaying meat from a mile away. Once the vultures descend, a flailing zombie wouldn’t stand a chance.
Even if vultures aren’t around for some reason, smaller winged scavengers will happily take their place. Here’s how Mizejewski puts it:
Ravens, crows, and magpies are expert scavengers as well, in addition to being bold and extremely intelligent. Many species of gulls, known for their brash behavior when it comes to scoring a meal, would also gladly feed off slow-moving zombies in coastal areas. These birds usually require other animals to break through or break down the tough skin and hide of their carrion meals. So they’d have to wait until the zombies decomposed a bit, or were dismembered by others animals, before they tucked in. But once started, nothing would stop them from devouring the undead with gusto.
Feathered creatures are not the only ones who might find zombies tasty. Bears, wolves, coyotes and alligators are all carrion fans and could easily dismember or at least cripple a zombie. And if the large creatures were simply overwhelmed by the bounty of food available, the microbes and insects would not be. “Bacteria, fungi, molds, insects such as fly maggots or flesh-eating beetles, and other invertebrates, all make up nature’s diminutive clean-up crew,” Mizejewski writes. ”The clumsy undead wouldn’t have the dexterity to pick off these decomposers, even if they could see or feel them. It would just be a matter of time.”
More from Smithsonian.com: