Disclaimer: The scenario here is modelled after the M. R. Carey's book The Girl With All The Gifts and its sequel The Boy On The Bridge, so it will contain some spoilers.

Scenario: Most of human population and civilisation ended in the Zombie Apocalypse, which was caused by a parasitic fungus of the Cordyceps family. This pandemic happened in a matter of days to weeks, and was spread by means of saliva and blood through the infected and rapidly 'zombiefied' people. Initially, several thousand people, (in Great Britain) escaped being infected, but about a decade later, the fungal spores became airborne, so that there are only about one hundred survivors left (living in alpine conditions). Meanwhile, the children of female zombies who got infected in pregnancy develop a symbiotic relationship with the fungus, which modifies their physiology in the following ways:

  • They develop rapidly after birth (within semi-realistic biological parameters) and are able to survive without parental care
  • They require a protein-rich diet
  • They have reflexes, sensory capacity (smell and vision), strength and endurance that is far above the human average
  • They have higher environmental tolerance than regular humans, e.g. they don't suffer from the cold in alpine conditions
  • Their cognitive abilities are within the normal range
  • Sensory proximity to warm-blooded animals involuntarily triggers them to temporarily enter a 'zombie' state, in which their reflexes of hunting and feeding suppress their cognitive control
  • They age at about a normal rate, and end their lives at an unknown age (at earliest in their 30s) as a substrate to the fungus' fruit body

These majority of these 'symbionts' grew up feral (in the absence of parental care), but organised themselves in 'packs' and later received some education from the 'survivors' (This is much of what the novel is about). About two decades after the apocalypse, the 'symbionts' form a society that is bening (and supporting) towards the 'survivors' and affine towards pre-apocalypse civilisation. The 'survivors' can provide school-level education and specialized domain knowledge (mainly life science and military), but there is little chance there are farmers, toolmakers, builders etc among them.

The actual question: Would the 'symbionts' take up animal husbandry, or sustain themselves with hunting?

I think this question is interesting because it determines the direction of where this civilisation is developing. Hunting provides more immediate gratification, but inhibits specialisation and would send the society into a direction of a primitive society that simply depletes the resources from pre-apocalypse civilisation. Animal husbandry requires more foresight and work, and at low population densities is not necessary, but would allow for specialisation and provide a basis for an Amish level of civilisation.

Here is some speculation on my part, but I might be wrong:

Initially their population density (there would be 'tribes' of some dozens in each major city) would allow for getting by with hunting, but as their numbers increase, the need to exercise extensive animal husbandry, focussing on providing pasture and eliminating predators, would increase. Furthermore, the 'survivor' enclaves would probably encourage and enable the 'symbionts' to do animal husbandry.

I hope the scope of this question is narrow enough for this site. I'm open to make further edits as needed.

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    $\begingroup$ In that case, symbionites can build a pretty normal civilization on ruins of human one. I assume that books and many artifacts have survived the apocalypse. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Mar 26, 2018 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ However, if symbionites can't sustain themselves on plant food and their feral instincts are so strong that they can't engage in animal husbandry, then we have a problem. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Mar 26, 2018 at 18:45
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    $\begingroup$ That being said, I agree with the too broad close votes. You've asked for the probable evolution of a society over a century, something that is not easily predicted. Additionally, you've mentioned four very specific and largely unrelated topics about society in general. Finally, you've opened the door to "any other aspects you can think of." These three things bring me to the conclusion that you want us to create your society for you, but it's your world and your story. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Mar 26, 2018 at 19:35
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe start small, looking at the core features of this people and challenging what I see as your basic assumption: they can develop a meaningful social structure. Frame this question as a yes/no answer with supporting conclusions, then ask other questions based on the answer to this question, if you need to. That should be a good starting point. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Mar 26, 2018 at 20:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre Alright, I will break the question down into the two most interesting points (will they develop animal husbandry, and a follow-up question on which tech level they will adopt). The book's author has already estalished these people's ability and willingness to form a society, so I won't put that to the question. Thanks again for the guidance! $\endgroup$ Mar 26, 2018 at 21:04

2 Answers 2


I suggest that the way these symbionts are written precludes their ability to form a high civilization, although they can presumably "mine" the ruins of the old civilization for generations.

Problem one is the reflexive response of the "hungries" to the presence of warm blooded animals. Attempting to keep animals on farms, in feedlots or (perhaps worse) in factory farm conditions will trigger the hunter/killer response in both the "farmers" and any passers by. Imagine a small group walking down the road when they sense a herd of cows. Suddenly they turn into feral creatures only somewhat smarter than a pack of wolves, tear over or through the fence and begin feeding. The "farmer", coming to investigate, suddenly smells lots of blood and fresh meat, rather than a farmer coming to protect his herd he becomes another feral animal racing to get its share of food (and possibly now having to deal with pack dynamics: does the feral farmer submit to the "Alpha"?).

Since this will happen repeatedly, the stock of domestic animals will be depleted rapidly (indeed, there was no sense in the first book that any domestic farm animals had survived). Feral symbionts will now be forced to hunt wild game in order to survive.

The second issue is the symbiont's life cycle. Since the creature will die in early adulthood to support the fruiting body of the fungus, there will be limited time to learn skills needed to master technology. Given the symbionts will likely be spending a great deal of time away from the cities hunting for food, this simply does not leave enough time to accumulate the skills needed.

  • $\begingroup$ The UK simply does not have enough wild game to support a large population of hungry ferals. Pheasant shoots here have to rely on breeding their own birds and releasing them before a hint to ensure shooters have enough game to kill for example. $\endgroup$
    – Sarriesfan
    Mar 27, 2018 at 6:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Sarriesfan rats and mice? Or feral cats and dogs and whatever else people used to keep as pets could repopulate nature. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2018 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Real Subtle the food source for large numbers of rats and mice even cats and dogs is human society our food stores and rubbish tips, without that their numbers would collapse leaving hungries without food. That's without the problem of the hungries predation on them. Many crops in the field now are highly specialised and require human intervention to grow so there is a limit to how much wild food for mice and rats there would be as well. $\endgroup$
    – Sarriesfan
    Mar 28, 2018 at 19:34
  • $\begingroup$ Deer and rabbits would thrive, that in turn gives feral cats and dogs a viable source of food..Many livestock that escape captivity would do quite well for themselves sheep, goats, chickens and pigs could survive easily; and there are already herds of wild cows in the British Isles. $\endgroup$
    – JeffUK
    Mar 29, 2018 at 10:47

Thucydides points out the difficulty these symbionts would have with animal husbandry: the zombie state, where they kill animals they perceive. There is only one workaraound I can think of. Yeah, you guessed it.

iguana farm https://costamayalife.com/2015/09/18/iguana-farm-in-mexico/

Iguana farm.

From OP:

Sensory proximity to warm-blooded animals involuntarily triggers them to temporarily enter a 'zombie' state

But the iguanas are cold blooded, so the symbionts can calmly interact with them. Iguana meat is tasty and iguana farms are a real thing. Apparently the economics of iguana farming are not good compared to other meat animals - but if all warm blooded meat animals are off limits that leaves the cold blooded, and the economics get a lot better.

Shrimp / crayfish / carp farms would work too but the pictures of those are not as fun as the iguana farm. Ooo - alligator farms too! That would be good for zombie world.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 for alligator farms in a zombie apocalypse! $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Jul 27, 2018 at 22:36

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