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So basically we have zombies. And they are not just normal zombies... they are walking human corpses reanimated by slime molds growing around their bones! The zombies are moved around like puppets by the slime molds as they chase down, bite, and kill the living. (They track prey down using the receptors of the slime molds) Then the spores of the slime molds (spread by the bites) grow around the dead victim's skeleton, eventually making another zombie. Hooray!!

Since slime molds don't have any brains, you won't be able to kill the zombies via headshot. To make things easier for the heroes I decided to add something else: if you do enough damage to the zombie's torso or head (stabbing, shooting, or bashing will do) they will be rendered unconscious, but after a few hours (4~6?) they would get up once again unless you burn them or smash all their bones, making them immobile.

There's a huge problem with this though: people in real life get knocked out because when they get hit their brain gets moved out of place, in the process disconnecting some neural pathways. (I think so, can't remember the details) But (again) since slime molds don't have a nervous system I can't think of why this would happen to them.

QUESTION: Why could zombies reanimated by slime molds get knocked out when they don't have any brains?

EDIT: The zombie mold is engineered as a bio weapon by the way. People are assuming that it's naturally evolved which could lead to some confusion.

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    $\begingroup$ How can they be knocked unconscious, if they're never conscious? $\endgroup$
    – John O
    Mar 2, 2023 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ Slime molds move the same speed as plants. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Mar 2, 2023 at 18:10
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    $\begingroup$ “Zombies aren’t real” $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2023 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnO that’s the point of the question. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Mar 3, 2023 at 8:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Daron That's true, but in this case they are engineered so they would move faster than they should be. Not sure if that's biologically possible. $\endgroup$
    – Hi0401
    Mar 3, 2023 at 9:40

13 Answers 13

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they are walking human corpses reanimated by slime molds growing around their bones

If the hits cause enough damage to disconnect the bones, they zombie has little to no capability of moving.

Disconnecting the hand from the forearm is less disabling than disconnecting one or two limbs from the torso. This explains why the damage has to be given to the torso: it increases the chances of disconnecting arms or legs, turning the zombie into the black knight...

enter image description here

... until the mold manages to recompose the skeleton, which is why the effect is only temporary.

The zombies are not actually unconscious, just incapable of moving, which is practically equivalent.

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    $\begingroup$ Wow. That was QUICK. Interesting. $\endgroup$
    – Hi0401
    Mar 2, 2023 at 11:11
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    $\begingroup$ It'll take more than just a flesh wound to stop a zombie $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Mar 2, 2023 at 13:34
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    $\begingroup$ Alright, we'll call it a draw... $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2023 at 21:40
  • $\begingroup$ What are you going to do? Drop slime mold on me? $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2023 at 15:41
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Humans have a dedicated set of sensors to detect the environment, the balance of its body and the position of its body. Your slime molds need a similar replacement for all these tasks to operate the body. Some things are simply best placed in the head or torso: a gland to assess the balance of the torso for example. Or eye like contraptions if you want fast zombies that can navigate terrain.

If you kill or damage the glands that handle any of these critical things your zombie will need to repair and recalibrate them. A child is build with human body balance in mind but it can still take years for that function to be complete enough not to stumble everywhere. This is going to be even harder for your slime molds but I suspect you want to wave that away.

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  • $\begingroup$ Wait slime molds have glands? I always assumed they would just ooze out chemicals... sorry Im dumb $\endgroup$
    – Hi0401
    Mar 3, 2023 at 9:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Hi0401 they don’t have glands that I know off, but if you want them to operate a body this type of slime mold will need some organs and glands. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Mar 3, 2023 at 11:57
  • $\begingroup$ If the slime molds have image-forming eyes how do they process the data? They must at least have insect-level brains to do so... $\endgroup$ Mar 5, 2023 at 6:36
  • $\begingroup$ @KevinKostlan they have some kind of processing anyway to do any zombie task. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Mar 5, 2023 at 9:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Demigan: Smell and "move to noise" isn't really much "processing" in that bacteria can do that (taxis). But sight is generally. $\endgroup$ Mar 5, 2023 at 15:25
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Slime moulds have something, even if we would not recognise it as a nervous system. If they are going to make a blob that moves like a slug, then need some sort of internal communication so they don't try and go in two directions at once.

The brain has some limited ability to repair itself. There are cases where people have lost their sight due to a brain injury, and then regained it as the brain has re-purposed some nearby part to handle the missing function. But this is rare, and it can take ages to work. Most of the time any injury of that sort is fatal. Your slime moulds have developed to recover quickly from major trauma. So your cut up slime mould might send out feelers for neighbouring parts. "Hello! I was the top part of a leg". "That's handy, I have most of a torso here, including a part of an arm. I can try and find you. Let us know when you feel an arm."

To answer your question - the mashed up slime mould will have to check all its neighbours to work out what is missing, first on the cellular scale, then on increasingly larger scales. This is the 'being knocked out' stage. When it is a fair idea what resources it has left, and what it can make of them, it can start sticking itself back together.

I don't know how this would re-attach an arm well enough so the skeleton functions. But we can assume it does, and it will be particularly zombie-like if it doesn't make a particularly good job of it.

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How does the slime mold find their next victim?

they are walking human corpses reanimated by slime molds growing around their bones!

Based on this sentence the slime molds are hidden under tissue layers (skin/muscle etc.)or clothes. Meaning the slime molds need some way to spot there next dinner and steer their puppet towards it. Lets assume the slime molds hijack the nerve-system of their hosts, using the human sensory systems to know were to go.

Overloading the nervous system would incapacitate the zombies, for example trauma to the body, disjointing nerves (cuts), an electric shock or chemicals that disrupt the nervous system. A human body) can recover from the last two mentioned options. The zombies would not be completely defeated by a headshot, but this solution will introduce human frailty to a certain degree to your zombies.

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    $\begingroup$ Overloading is brilliant. Protect your family by going to a rave! $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Mar 2, 2023 at 22:37
  • $\begingroup$ The slime molds grow on the skeletal system of a dead human then moves around with it. If it relied on the nervous system they would have to keep the brain alive which could get kinda complicated I think. Also headshots would actually kill them. $\endgroup$
    – Hi0401
    Mar 3, 2023 at 9:37
  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't the slime molds 'become' the brain? they would need the infrastructure of nerves not the hub (brain) that gives and receives the commands normally. $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2023 at 12:39
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My immediate thought was fainting goats. They don't faint because they got hit in the head. It's just a hereditary condition triggered by over-excitement or being startled. (If you read through the wikipedia page, it may be evolutionary selection in the sense that the local farmers preferred goats that fainted.)

So I'm thinking you can apply a similar concept to the slime molds: it's not that the physical damage incapacitates their nervous system. It's that "fainting" is an automatic, hereditary response, perhaps one that developed as natural selection from being zombies. The ones that didn't faint would get mashed to a pulp or burned until they were well and truly dead. The fainting molds became dominant because "whew, we killed it, look, it's not moving". Or you have a horde of zombies coming, you shoot them all, and the fainting ones lay there in the tall grass and "survive" while the non-fainting varieties keep coming until totally destroyed, ending their line.

After a few hours, this effect wears off and the surviving "fainting slime-molds" get back up and resume their hunt.

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    $\begingroup$ Creepy... Evolving zombies $\endgroup$
    – Hi0401
    Mar 3, 2023 at 9:33
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It's a biological fact that each slime mould is a single cell.

As long as the nucleus of the cell is in the head, you can easily knock it out by smashing the head.

Even if your zombies are infested with more than one slime mould, we can still imagine that they go for the skull as the safest shelter for their nuclei - just as the bone-armoured skull is the safest place for our brains.

The slime mold Physarum polycephalum has been puzzling researchers for many decades. Existing at the crossroads between the kingdoms of animals, plants and fungi, this unique organism provides insight into the early evolutionary history of eukaryotes -- to which also humans belong.

Its body is a giant single cell made up of interconnected tubes that form intricate networks. This single amoeba-like cell may stretch several centimeters or even meters, featuring as the largest cell on earth in the Guinness Book of World Records. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210223121643.htm

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    $\begingroup$ Textbook says that slime molds are single cells with multiple nuclei. Could be outdated info tho $\endgroup$
    – Hi0401
    Mar 3, 2023 at 9:32
  • $\begingroup$ That still doesn't stop the nuclei all migrating to the skull. $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2023 at 11:00
  • $\begingroup$ True I guess... $\endgroup$
    – Hi0401
    Mar 3, 2023 at 12:15
  • $\begingroup$ Wait, if the blows could rupture the nuclei does that mean headshots would kill them after all? $\endgroup$
    – Hi0401
    Mar 3, 2023 at 12:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Hi0401 - That's what I'm saying, yes $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2023 at 14:57
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Punctured Membrane.

enter image description here

A slime mold is like a wet garbage bag. Give it a poke and it starts leaking nasty bin juice all over your clean carpet.

The bin juice (cytoplasm) is full of free-floating nucleases and other nifty organelles that make the slime mold go. The organelles are supposed to stay on the inside or else the slime mold has a really bad day.

For zombies, the garbage bag is safely contained under the flesh of the rotting corpse. But smack him hard enough and the slime mold springs a leak.

The leak damages the hydraulic action the mold uses to control the cadaver. The slime must shut down and go into repair mode until it has the leak fixed. The zombie stops moving for a few hours. Then it gets back up and chases you some more.

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I think that you sort of answer your own question.

The question you have answered already (albeit implicitly) is "how do single slime molds, which are brainless, turn into a volitional organism?" - how does the community of individuals develop a central nervous system as a group?

Bees have nervous systems - but the hive itself is said to have a mind of it's own, which itself has greater cognitive ability than any one bee-mind. Of course, such intelligence is driven by evolutionary collective conditioning - but then one could argue the same is true of primates.

Or, consider the amoeba Toxoplasma Gondii - completely brainless, but which is able to make rats think that cats are their best buddies: effectively generating a set of hormones and neural connections in rats that lead to them becoming suicidally friendly to their natural enemy.

One could argue that there is an emergent central nervous system, rather than a biological one, and this applies to your zombies: The zombie is able to walk, determine routes, meet the goals that it has been conditioned with, etc, because there is an emergent/hive consciousness that arises from the community of infested bones. Why not?

Then the means of 'knocking them out' is to do with creating some sort of disconnect along their means of communication such that the network - the hive - ceases to be established.

Needless to say, the molds being buried in the bones makes them quite resilient - but we would have to consider the connection points of each bone - I'm guessing that there's a sort of fast hormonal messaging happening between slime-mold-inhabited bones. Or, for instance, it could be that the budding/invasion method (from one bone to the next) the slime mold uses transforms into a synaptic connection whenever such bones turn out to be inhabited already.

In this sense, then, a slime mold seeps into a bone, then sends out (biologically driven) fruiting tendrils which seek (and find) corresponding bones, which are then inhabited by child slime molds, gradually extending to the entire skeleton. But when such 'brainless' fruiting tendrils find a (now / or prior) inhabited bone, then they establish a synaptic link between those bones.

Therefore, the way to knock out a zombie is to hit it on it's joints - where such a sudden shock may temporarily break the bonds between connecting bones - A sudden hit to a hip or shoulder joint will detach 30 of the 208 bones - effectively reducing the cognitive ability of the zombie by about 14%. Hitting all four such joints will reduce the cognitive ability by 58%.

Not good enough.

Let's try another: A good knock on the back of the neck takes out the 28 bones of the head. A knock at the lower back will separate the upper body from the lower body, splitting the two legs and the hips (about 63+ bones, depending on which of the vertebrae were hit). We will still need to hit the shoulders also - this then dislocates the slime mind into five separate clusters - the largest of which are the 63 bones in the lower body - and a hit to either hip joint will split them roughly evenly. The largest cluster, at about 36, will be the middle part of the body.

Therefore, I would suggest the following (if we accept that a hard blow to a joint can temporarily sever the ganglion-connection between connected bones):

  1. Hit the zombie in the lower back. This will slow it.

  2. Now hit it in the back of the neck - this will disorient it.

  3. Now hit a hip - this will immobilise it

  4. Now hit a shoulder joint - it will lose access to one arm.

  5. Now hit the remaining shoulder joint - it will be totally disassociated.

Until the connections recover - maybe five minutes? That's really up to you to determine. But it seems like one could go on zombie knockout training!

Needless to say, you could choose a number of bones which is the critical mass for gaining an emergent consciousness - if that were set to, eg, 78% of the bones must be connected, then a sharp hit to the lower back would be enough.

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Slime mold cell structure

The slime mold is made by a lot of multinucleate amoeba-like cells. They are multinucleate in order to get better surviving chances if a cell is chopped in two halves. But they aren't very dense in the number of nucleus to avoid consuming too much energy.

The cells have a lot of signaling mechanisms, like neurons do and also are capable of differentiating into different specialized cell types.

Also, the cells have some chloroplasts in order to get some energy from the sun and melanin in order to get into the sun and be protected from UV rays.

Further, the slime cell also features an immune system similar to the one existing in plants, and the chloroplasts are important for that.

In fact, it is not a simple slime mold. Since they are genetic engineered, they are very complex transgenic slime molds organisms with genes coming from fungi, animals, plants, bacteria and some novel ones created specifically for it.

Infection level 1: Breathing skin

The slime mold would also need to breath oxygen. If it doesn't have access to oxygen, it would have to have a very slow anaerobic metabolism and it would make the zombie unable to walk and also unable to self-mummify quickly enough to fight off body decay and co-infections. So, once established, the first thing that the slime mold would need is to get access to oxygen. Also, since it lacks a circulatory system, the slime mold would need to diffuse oxygen from cell to cell.

The best way to get enough oxygen is to wrap around all the skin with specialized respiratory cells. Also, since the skin or an open sore is the most probably place where the infection starts, this might start right from the start. So, to simplify the biochemistry, let's assume that the slime mold is simply unable to grow without oxygen.

Once established on the skin of the victim or into an open sore, the slime mold reproduces very fast in its skin border areas in border in order to conquer all the skin. To get enough energy for that, it would also need to consume some flesh in those border areas. However, since it also needs the most preserved flesh, it eats just the minimum necessary.

Further, in order to optimize its energy and oxygen needs, those skin cells are large in area but thin in thickness. Also, they are actually double layered: One layer is over the skin and another one under the skin. Between those cell layers there is the host dead skin or perhaps some other exposed host tissue.

Both cell layers are purposed in conquering the skin. The outer layer also have the purpose of getting oxygen, giving oxygen to its neighboring slime cells, exporting waste dissolved but concentrated in water (like sweat or urine). The inner layer is purposed to regrow the outer layer if it is removed (e.g. by washing, showering or abrasion).

Further, both cell layers communicate in a way that if the outer cell layer is intoxicated or damaged (e.g. by soap or gelified alcohol), they break their connection until the outer layer gets better and restarts orderly or the inner layer regrow an outer one. The connections are small synaptic-like or hypha-like threads between the cells. Since those cells are large in area, they don't need too much of those threads to communicate, and this also avoids overcrowding the host skin with those threads.

Since breathing would consume oxygen and produce carbon dioxide, this means that breathing loses carbon. They solve this by having chloroplasts, get sunbathing and doing photosynthesis. The photosynthesis absorbs almost all of the carbon dioxide, at least during the day, it also consumes some carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Working chloroplasts are multiplied in the outer skin areas only when they get sunlight. Slime mold cells that don't get sunlight keep just a few inactive chloroplasts.

Also, the slime mold drinks water when the zombie enters a river, a pool or a sewage. A zombie kept with no access of water would die from thirsty.

The result is that the zombie breaths like an hybrid of a plant and a amphibian. Also, they have greenish skin. Also, they have foul smell since their excretion is all through the skin.

Finally, when conquering skin area, the slime mold would eventually enter the mouth, the nostrils, the ears, the eyes and the anus. By conquering the lungs surface, it gets a lot of breathing area.

Infection level 2: Flesh zombification

Once a patch of skin is conquered, the slime molds far from its borders enters its second level of infection: Mummify the area.

The slime mold produces substances to preserve the body and fight off co-infections of competing bacteria and fungi and also slow down the body decay. I.E. a zombie is self-mummifying. A way to make that happen is to produce a lot of nasty toxic chemicals that only the slime mold itself is immune to. This also have the side effect of poisoning and killing its host if it happens to still be a living person. Further, this also works as an immune system for the zombie.

Zombie-skin cells in this state reproduces much more slowly in order to avoid consuming the body too quickly or getting depleted from water, oxygen or energy. The outer layer just mostly supply oxygen and photosynthesized food for the rest of the slime mold. But the inner layer detects if there is non-mummified tissue and produce mummifying toxins that they release into those tissues. Further, they get the raw chemical materials for fabricating those toxins from the very non-mummified tissue that they are mummifying.

Note that a patch of infected skin would have borders in the first stage and its center in the second stage (or further stages). It isn't all in one stage. Each cell has its own stage and they look into their neighborhood and communicating with their neighboring slime-mold cells in order to determine their own stage and function.

Infection level 3: Getting to bones

Once a skin cell has no nearby unconquered skin and all the nearby flesh is mummified, it enters it third stage: Look for the bones. The slime mold inner skin layer cells will project hypha-like threads down away from the skin. When they find a bone, they create a specialized bone-bordering cell that have the purpose of controlling the skeleton. Also, those hypha-like threads will create ramifications in order to mummify the flesh. They also supply oxygen down into the bone-bordering cells.

Once the bone-bordering cells forms, they start to spread in order to conquer the bone surface just as the outer cells did.

The bone-bordering cells signals each other with the purpose of measuring the bone if the bone is completely conquered or not (bone-bordering cells that feels a unconquered area answer a loud chemical NO to that signal and the other cells around the same bone spread out that NO). Once the NO signal don't get answered

Infection level 4: Connecting the bones

Bone-bordering cell without nearby unconquered bone-border area nor without neighboring hypha-like threads from skin-layer cells will try to find other bone-bordering cells that aren't immediate neighbors. They do so by projecting out hypha like thread until they find another bone-bordering cell. Once two bone bordering cells contact, they will try to pull back and shorten that thread but not with enough force to break it. If necessary, the thread anchoring can slide under the cell surface in order to find the best anchoring place. This also have the purpose to make the connecting thread as short as possible. If the thread ends being a very short almost-zero-length bridge from two neighboring cells, it is deemed as unnecessary and broken down.

Those bone-bordering cells try to contact nearby bones quickly when they are newly formed and their conditions for doing so happens. But once they are long enough in that state, they quiet down and only for once in a while they tries to connect to another bone. Instead those old enough cells focus most in doing the next task: infection level 5.

Infection level 5: Making out slime-mold muscles

Muscles are necessary to have force. So, the bone-bordering cells that completed their level 4 tasks and couldn't connect to other bones starts to consume flesh in order to create muscle-like cells around them and those newly formed muscle-like cells do the same until they are signaled from the slime-mold skin cells that they are too close.

Infection level 6: Making out slime-mold nerves

Muscle-like cells signals each other in order to elect which one would turn into nerves-like cells. Locally, they can survey the neighboring cells in order to determine in which plane the bone-bordering cells and the skin-cells are, and the cells elected to be nerves should be in a layer in the middle of these.

Surveys are done by sending cell-signals into nearby cells, amplifying those signals into other nearby cells and comparing signals received from one direction to signals received from other directions. With this, cells can roughly determine which ones should be turned into nerves and in which direction the nerves should run.

With those surveys, the cells should be able to roughly measure the bones, and then, those nerve-like cells will try to connect with each other in the direction that the bones are the longest. Further, once the nerve-like threads forms, they will try to rectify themselves with both cell-migrations and re-elections. Nerve-like-cells that are deemed unnecessary revert back to muscle-like-cells. Since those surveys occur in the muscle-like-layer only very-roughly knowing where the bones and the skin, it is able to jump over different bones and eventually connect the entire body.

The cell-surveys also have the purpose to make nerves lose ends join together to reconnect or perhaps determine that they are the actual nerve endings in the tip of the fingers or toes.

Y-shaped junctions will also progressively separate into disjoint threads. In order to know in which direction they should separate (i.e. a Y-shaped connection in the hand connecting two fingers and the forearm should separate in the direction of a forearm, not in the direction of one of the fingers), they survey for knowing in which direction is the nerve-endings in order to disjoint them into the opposite direction.

With this, nerves will eventually a net. They will connect the toes and other loose endings in the feet and legs through the spine in the direction of the head. Endings in the torso will also be guided by the ribs to find their way to the head. Nerves in the arms will connect the fingers and other loose endings in the hands and arms through the shoulder and neck into the head.

Infection level 7: BRAINS!

Zombies don't need brains to live, but those that have brains are much tougher and better than those that doesn't. When the slime mold gets into the brain, it tries to conquer it as quickly as possible.

Neurons have structure and that structure will decay quickly if nothing is done to preserve them. And here, the slime mold try to attack the neurons and imitate their structure as quickly as possible before it decays.

Once the slime mold can possess the brain, mummify it, eat it and imitate its former structure, we will have a zombie that have some memories, some knowledge, some abilities, some intelligence and possibly even be capable of speaking. Also, since the slime-molded brain isn't immutable, it also even have some learning capability! Of course, since the brain-conquering process is inherently imperfect and must be done very quickly in order to work, brained zombies are still stupid and have only a fraction and the behavior of their former selves. Also, the imitation brain works much slower than a true brain. But this might be enough to:

  • Have a zombie walk in a house chasing victims without stumbling over walls.

  • Have a zombie getting a street cone and using it as a helmet.

  • Have a zombie using the elevator and knowing to which floor it wants to go.

  • Have a zombie getting a ladder in order to jump over a wall.

  • Have a zombie with a crowbar smashing a window glass and a locked handle in order to enter a house.

  • Have a zombie posing as a beggar in order to approach victims without making them notice that until it is too late.

  • Have a zombie saying "Breeeiiinzzzz, Iii wwwaaaant breeeeiiiinzzzz!"

  • Have another zombie saying "Ssstteeeeeveee, uuu'lll jooooinn uuuzz nnooooowww!"

  • Have a zombie writing a letter to a victim "Hello, This iz your Muther. Please come over to myhouse for "Meatloaf" Leave your front door open and your lawn unguarded. Sincerely, Mom (not the Zombies)"

  • Have a zombie driving a car without crashing.

  • Have a zombie grabbing a gun and then saying "IIITTSSZZ PPLLAAAYYYTTIIIMMEE! HAA HAAA HAAAA!"

  • Have a zombie writing a love letter "Carol, come back, please! We lived together and now we can unlive together!"

  • Have a zombie opening its e-mail and looking for how to reach its next victim on facebook.

  • Have a zombie ordering stuff from Amazon and paying with a credit card. When the intended package arrives, it also tries to kill the deliveryman and rob the truck.

  • Have a zombie telling an human: "Wweee aaarrr ddeee zzooombiiis. Uuu'lll beee aaziimmmiillaateeed. Reeezziizzttaansee iiizz ffuutiillee!"

  • Have a zombie telling his wife: "Liillyyy, Iii loooovveeee uuuu! Kiilll mmee anndd rrruunnn! Ssaaveee uur ssooonnnn!"

Infection level 8: Expiration

Eventually, the slime mold will need to eat all of the flesh and will starve. The zombie could still try to find something to eat, possibly an animal, and by being able to eat, it can feed the slime mold. Vegetable food is also possible, but without a working digestive system, that type of food is very hard to consume for the slime mold, so they always prefer flesh. Also since even the best zombies have poor coordination, poor intelligence and are very improbable to get sufficiently fed by living humans, most will eventually starve.

Fat zombies tend to unlive more than thin zombies, exactly because the mold will get fed on dead fat.

Also, although they can eat and digest food in their stomach and intestines, they might also eat by just attaching the food somewhere in the skin and waiting the slime mold do its job.

Finally, zombies very much prefer to attack living victims in the neck or in the head in order to make the slime mold gets into the brain as quickly as possible and conquer it with the minimal possible decay. It even evolves and gets natural selection for that.

And animals?

If the slime mold conquers the body of a dog, guess what? It becomes a zombie dog! A cat body? A zombie cat!

And also zombie fish, zombie rabbits, zombie cows, zombie horses, zombie snakes, zombie frogs, zombie elephants, zombie turtles, zombie mice, zombie lions, zombie bears, zombie tigers, zombie giraffes, zombie sharks, zombie monkeys, zombie whales...

However, in order to make the zombie animals breath efficiently, they would shed most of their fur.

We could also have zombie birds, but due to their poor coordination and the shedding of their feathers, they would be unable to fly.

Zombie insects probably won't happen because they are too small and their exoskeleton don't play nicely with the breathing requirements of the zombies.

Zombie plants also won't happen because it is hard to be digested.

Damaged zombies: How they recover?

Bone-bordering cells that are frequently disturbed and injured will eventually decide that it is enough and will turn into a hard wood-like substance. Also, those wood-like cells glue themselves into the neighboring bones and other neighboring wood-like cells. This make broken bones eventually reconnect.

Damaged skin just needs to be reconquered. Damaged flesh will grow new hypha-like cells. Damaged muscle will regrow. Cut-down nerves will reconnect since nerve cells surveys the nearby tissue with the very purpose of forming, reforming and reconnecting.

If the slime mold don't find a brain, it will make an improvised one somewhere in the body where the nerves converge. The improvised brain is poor, but the slime mold have the needed structure encoded in its DNA. It is enough to form a brain-imitation with the complexity of a fish-like, mouse-like or bird-like brain, which is enough to give it an animal-like intelligence and behavior sufficient for walking, finding food and water, avoid enemies and dangers, search for victims to infect and have a minimal intelligence and memory in order to survive. But it won't be able to talk, drive vehicles, operate machines or use a computer.

So, if you cut out the head of a zombie, the zombie head continues to try to behave as a zombie, but it would be unable to do much and would run out of oxygen very soon. The body will fall down and the slime mold would start to construct a new brain somewhere in the torso. When the brain is powerful enough, so you might see headless zombies walking around.

But the zombie head would not die quickly or easily. Since the flesh is mummified, it well-preserved. When the slime mold runs out of oxygen, it goes into a dormant very-low-metabolism state instead of just dying. So, the zombie head would not decay or will do so very slowly and it still can be reanimated. Also, a zombie head, although not having enough oxygen for complex thought, still has enough for a minimal metabolism.

Also, it have the ability to form eyes. It may just mummify and zombify its host former eyes. But if the eyes are missing or in a very bad shape, the slime mold knows how to grow new eyes and know where they should be. A blind person that is zombified becomes a sighted zombie!

Self-frankensteining!

A headless zombie will grow eyes somewhere in the skin where it receives sunlight and is far from bone-joints. So headless zombies might have eyes in their arms, in their necks, in their backs, in their chests, in their bellies, in their butts, in their legs... And also, they can have a lot of eyes.

Further, zombies parts might rejoin. If a headless zombie finds out a head, it might get that head and hold it firmly over its own neck for some hours or even a few days until the slime molds in both parts join and create muscles, skin, nerves and connecting wooden-bones and make it firm enough to not break easily. It doesn't even needs to be its former head, it could be the head of some other person or even the head of some animal.

If you cut out an arm, the slime mold will try to create a small brain in that arm and you might see an eyed-arm crawling around by moving its fingers. It will also perceive itself as too small to be functional and with try to find a more functional zombie somewhere to join into it.

Also, in order to improve the joining process, it can grab some materials like wood planks, sticks, bamboo, iron bars, duct tape, bandage, water tubes or whatever that it can use to hold the two bodily pieces together more firmly. It may also fill voids and holes with beef, raw hamburgers, fish-fillets, rat-flesh or anything like that.

An incapacitated zombie with what would be a fatal wound for its host is capable of re-raising after some time. This is the time the slime mold takes to reconnect and repair its tissues and remummify the flesh if needed. However, it might need to consume some flesh in order to do that, so a very badly damaged zombie might be incapable of re-raising again. Also, a zombie can't be re-raised an indefinite number of times if it does not eat, find filling flesh or join with other zombie parts in the mean time.

Also, some zombies may turn out into very horrendous monsters by joining parts of different bodies:

  • A Goro-like four-armed zombie monster is possible!

  • Two-headed zombies? No problem!

  • What about three-headed or four-headed zombies?

  • What about a centaur zombie, half human-zombie and half horse-zombie?

  • A zombie human centipede?

  • What about a monster with 8 heads, 3 torsos, 27 eyes, 5 butts, 13 arms and 9 legs, with not all of that being human parts, and it fights with swords, axes, hammers and guns all at the same time?

  • What about a zombie that after having its brain taken over by the slime mold, have the slime mold grow and improve the brain until its become an ultraintelligent zombie?

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  • $\begingroup$ Holy crap this is a lot of stuff and I skipped through like 60% of it. $\endgroup$
    – Hi0401
    Mar 5, 2023 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Hi0401 I tried to give the best possible answer within what you asked while covering all the corners and every possible detail in order to bring the zombies the closest possible to the realm of scientifically plausible instead of just fantasy. Read it calmly, you have time. 🙂🧟🧟‍♂️🧟‍♀️ $\endgroup$ Mar 5, 2023 at 22:46
  • $\begingroup$ The internet tells me that anaerobic respiration is for fast bursts of energy, and I thought the slime molds could be anaerobic. For the water part I just assumed that the slime molds are xerophiles and can get water when the rain drenches the zombie's muscles. (PS brain cells die in 3 minutes without oxygen/blood so I don't think the slime molds would be able to replicate the structure of the brain.) $\endgroup$
    – Hi0401
    Mar 7, 2023 at 10:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Hi0401 Aerobic respiration is roughly 6 times more efficient than anaerobic respiration. But the slime mold would do both and select one over the other depending on the conditions. Also, it don't need to prevent the death of the brain, it just needs to prevent significant degradation of its structure, with may be attained by chemically bombarding the blood with some chemicals and drugs while the infected person is still living but already severely ill. $\endgroup$ Mar 7, 2023 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ @VictorStafusaBozoNaCadeia So if I bury someone's corpse and it becomes a zombie, it would lay there dormant until someone digs it up giving it access to oxygen, right? $\endgroup$
    – Hi0401
    Mar 8, 2023 at 11:53
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If the mould is distributed through the entire body, not localised in the head, and you want it to be knocked out by a blow, then the blow needs to ripple through the entire body like the time Wilder hit Fury in Rd 4 of their 3rd encounter.

Say your mould is sensitive to shockwaves and gets knocked out by these ripples.

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  • $\begingroup$ Knocked out how? As the question states they won't be able to recieve concussions without a nervous system... right? $\endgroup$
    – Hi0401
    Mar 3, 2023 at 12:18
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What if the mechanics were changed from the slime mold itself moving the bones to the slime mold coopting the nervous system? In that case a taser may disrupt their ability to integrate with the nervous system, temporarily bringing the person back (unless they've died) and then they re-zombify.

Not sure how blunt force trauma could do it other than what other answers have said (dislocating joints, slime mold membrane puncture, blast overpressure causing mold to detatch temporarily, lysol/chemical attacks)

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EDIT: I misread the question and this answer is unrelated to the main inquiry, read on if you want musing on interactions between zombies and modern weapons.


Modern firepower

Since you speak about "headshots" I assume you have at least recent historical period in mind. The thing that is easy to underestimate about modern weapons is that they are very lethal ("modern" here means using high explosives, roughly 1900 and onward). A standard issue M67 grenade is expected to seriously mess up anything in a several meter radius. Unless the slime mold is functionally magic, it is unclear what it is going to do with the little barely connected pieces of shredded charred human flesh and bones. Obviously, the lethality of larger high-explosive payloads (artillery shells, RPGS, ...) is substantially larger. Thermobaric weapons as well as large shells are also going to create a noticeable blast radius where the heat alone is enough to efficiently destroy slime-mold biomass directly.

And we haven't even discussed the use of armor, vehicles, flamethrowers, ...

Note that winning over zombies in the long term is actually quite easy: you just need to inflict more than one (completely) dead zombie for each dead/infected human. And the zombies can't be very lethal themselves - a couple layers of thick cloth is sufficient to completely prevent damage by bites/claws. So even an "artisanal" approach where you use an AK-47 (or rope if you are feeling adventurous) to immobilize the zombie and then put it on a manually maintained pyre is likely enough to keep things under control. If you have access to heavy weapons, then casualty ratios of 1000:1 or more in favor of humans are completely plausible.

Sorry, zombies are just hard to be actually workable without serious handwaving.

(my source for the main ideas is https://acoup.blog/2021/08/06/referenda-ad-senatum-august-6-2021-feelings-at-the-fall-of-the-republic-ancient-and-medieval-living-standards-and-zombies/)

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This... doesn't answer my question. It's cool though I guess. $\endgroup$
    – Hi0401
    Mar 3, 2023 at 9:29
  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking something like the last of us where the airborne spores converts a large percentage of humanity into zombies, since slime molds reproduce with spores too. The remaining survivors just happen to be citizens who can't manage to get their hands on super effective weapons $\endgroup$
    – Hi0401
    Mar 3, 2023 at 9:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Hi0401 If the spores can convert healthy people into zombies at distance, than that's IMHO a different scenario (and the main problem is then IMHO avoiding spores, not killing zombies). If bite is required to spread zombies, then my claim is that any reasonably organized group of people with access to at least cloth and shovels is likely to prevail. There is no hard problem. Also note that the Last of us scenario is cool, but ridiculous (Notably: if large portion of people turn into zombies, what are the zombies out of contact with any people doing? How do they obtain nutrition?) $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2023 at 9:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Hi0401 Oh sorry, I see - I completely misread the question and I thought you focus on a different problem. Sorry for the confusion. $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2023 at 10:02
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe the zombies just lie down and take naps with no prey around. Bears can survive up to 7 months in hibernation. $\endgroup$
    – Hi0401
    Mar 3, 2023 at 12:15
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Lysol filled tranq darts.

On the other hand (I love the black night reference +1 for L. Dutch) Physical incapacitation is just that. Picture the poor chap before being zombified, had a bad PCP habit or something... In the old days of COPS, there was an episode of those "Uncensored" reels you could rent on VHS. I remember one where a perp on PCP tried to evade cops by leaping off a second story balcony at full run. Shattered both legs but kept trying to get up and run. That is about as close to reality as you can get with a "not consciously driven human body" it still has mechanical limits.

Just like slime molds also have inconceivably small amount of motive force to impart on the body, mechanical limits here would dictate that to move a human corpse would like, have to be a HUGE blob of extremely dense mold with the body suspended in it. And let’s face it, if we saw that we would not run, we would pull out our cell phones and live stream it. Toss a little bleach on it to end the show.

I have always laughed at the whole concept of zombies anyway, each iteration of the mechanism by which they spread and animate is based on the theory that a human body has the muscular strength to move itself. Muscular strength is based on cellular respiration. Holes in body = air/fluid loss = no muscle movement due to no oxygen or nutrients. Not drinking water = no fluid replenishment = dehydration. No fluids also mean no digestion (So does no internal organs that have spilled everywhere) so if they are eating brains or toenails, does not really matter.

So anything that "zombified" a human would be bound to maintaining the health of a human or betting on hosts availability. As its own survival would be contingent on one or the other. Think virus and bacteria, even humans; they spread until they have nowhere else to go at any cost, without regard for what happens when the host environment expires? All three are operating under the assumption that their spread will when the numbers game. But unless humans live long enough to colonize the stars, all of them are wrong. The more virulent it is the shorter it will live ultimately. super contagious + super lethal = self-curing through host elimination.

And let’s just assume that something like a parasite like that did exist? It implies a very complex symbiosis. Outside a few romanticized religious fables, complex life like that does not poof into existence, that is WAY past a mutation, and would require millennia of evolution in a host that could not detect or apply any defense measures, from medicine to quarantine.

In the zombie movie 28 days later, one guy had it right, he had one chained up and said... "In a way. He's telling me he'll never bake bread, plant crops, raise livestock. He's telling me he's futureless. And eventually, he'll tell me how long the infected take to starve to death." -- Major West

If someone wants to invent a true zombie, it would be short lived, start in reality. Maybe a mutated strain of rabies, syphilis? YOU have a virus and a bacterium to play with there, maybe a wild genetic leap that made rabies infect and make syphilis a transmission vector? Then make it highly transmissible (Because world ending from bites is simply laughable), and a very low incubation period. Cross species ensures better distribution, making both excellent candidates, alone or together.

Both of those can lead to hyper aggression, mania, general psychotic behavior, etc... Spreading would be a side effect, not conscious goal of the contagion. And both the hosts and the contagion would be susceptible to all the normal control measures (Kill the host, sterilize the environment, etc)

One wave of original genetic aberration leads to a huge outbreak and just like covid, then results in a large number of variants, one leads to TEOTWAWKI.

Starts with sick people, then sick violent people, fear sets in, both fear of being discovered and infection leads to further unchecked spread. Society collapses, martial law/military rule, badlands outside that where people take their chances with a contagion vs the scarier option of walled in cities full of different psychopaths... You know, basically every zombie movie, just a different back story and opening sequence.

Lol, zombies, I better get credit for this book/game/movie :-)

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  • $\begingroup$ This does not answer my question $\endgroup$
    – Hi0401
    Mar 4, 2023 at 3:31
  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking that the slime molds would grow all over the skeletal system and move the joints up and down for movement, is that possible? Cuz if its not we have a problem on our hands and might need to sort it out in another question $\endgroup$
    – Hi0401
    Mar 4, 2023 at 5:18
  • $\begingroup$ Absolutely not in reality, that was the point of the post, reality cannot be considered when making zombies. As note, for a slime mold to move a corpse human sized, it would have to be suspended in a blob with at least enough mass to provide buoyancy, and that in and of itself would change the physics by how they move. Consider the volume of muscle mass that is required for the human to move their body. IF you scale that down 1000 times, the force produced by he organism would have to be 1000 times greater, and it is not even remotely close. $\endgroup$
    – Sabre
    Mar 6, 2023 at 0:30
  • $\begingroup$ So again physical incapacitation is just that, the mechanics of how they move is fantasy to start with, so from the lysol tranq dart to headshots it is author's prerogative. You have to accept a zombie is a mythical thing, and the laws by which you can and cannot take them out have to just correspond with the story line, not any sense of reality or scientific basis. The alternative is start with science, but accept the consequences of "The more believable the zombie, the more vulnerable to real world constraints it has." $\endgroup$
    – Sabre
    Mar 6, 2023 at 0:35
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    $\begingroup$ IF you still want to try something on those lines, see my original answer on how to do something similar with at the very least some semblance or realism in a hyper aggressive strain of an actual human compatible contagion known to cause psychotic and violent behavior. Maybe play on a more viable story line like "the last of us" tried to do, but rather than mutating and mind control, have the fungi produce hallucinogenic and stimulant compounds (As plants and fungi can!) You still get raving mad hoards, and self animated, without implying conscious control by simple organisms! ;) $\endgroup$
    – Sabre
    Mar 13, 2023 at 17:51

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