No doubt you've thought about who and what you would take with you to survive a post-apocalyptic world teeming with zombies, but have you given a thought to animals? Chances are some animals will possess qualities and abilities that could be very useful to a well-rounded zombie apocalypse team.
The soldier - Praying Mantis
Image courtesy of Brandon Doan
The world is in shambles, society has devolved into savage wilderness, and all laws have broken down... well, all except one. It's a tough world out there, and might makes right, so you'd better be able to defend yourself, and attack ferociously if necessary. Now, I know you're thinking mantids aren't all that scary, and a grizzly bear or Bengal tiger would be a better choice, but the Praying Mantis Kung Fu practitioners didn't choose their role model lightly.
Praying mantises are predatory animals that, at their largest, have been known to attack larger animals like scorpions, lizards, fish, snakes, and even rodents. They can stay hidden for long periods of time, staying perfectly still until a prey comes close enough, when they lash out at incredible speeds. When it catches its prey, it will hold it down with one arm between head and thorax, and one on the abdomen. If the prey doesn't resist, the mantis will just go ahead and eat it alive.
Now, is that predatory enough for your team? Every successful team has one slightly vicious, combat-savvy brawler, and Praying Mantis is yours. Bonus: sounds like an awesome code name.
The medic - Axolotl
Image courtesy of Luis Estrela
If you do end up fighting, chances are you might get injured. You might lose a limb, even. That would stop most people, but not the axolotl, no sir. If you've ever burnt or cut yourself and witnessed it heal, you will know that humans can also regenerate tissue, but our capabilities are nothing compared to that of the axolotl. Axolotls can regenerate entire limbs, starting immediately after amputation, muscle, neurons, skin and all.
Pretty useful in a zombie apocalypse, don't you think? Get in a fight and lose a limb? No problem! Get hungry in the night and nibble on a juicy axolotl leg? No problem! Though that might cause the dissolution of your team...
A few other animals also have the ability to regenerate tissue, including starfish, geckos, and some mice, but none are nearly as efficient as salamanders, including axolotls. Plus, they're by far the cutest of the bunch, and you'll need some of that too in this post-apocalyptic world!
The cook - Crocodile
Image courtesy of Ravi Jandhyala
Unless you make a habit of eating your teammates - which we do not recommend - chances are you will go hungry a few times as resources become scarcer and scarcer. This is where not having a Bengal tiger as a soldier comes in... imagine having to find five to six thousand calories' worth of food every day?
Crocodiles are cold-blooded ectotherms, so they gather heat from their environment - basking in the sun when cold and seeking shade when hot. They therefore don't need to eat regularly to maintain their body temperature, and can store almost all of the energy from the food they eat to use later, meaning larger crocodiles can go up to an entire year without eating! In extreme situations, which one would argue a zombie apocalypse is, they can even live off their own tissue for long periods of time.
In a world where food is the most precious commodity, having a teammate who will forego his meal is invaluable. Crocodiles also happen to be particularly intelligent reptiles and great hunters, so really there is no disadvantage in hiring this guy! Except maybe his temper... just don't make him angry.
The scout - Octopus
Image courtesy of Silke Baron
You're probably not going to be the only ragtag team of survivors out there, so you need to tread carefully to avoid confrontation. Sending a scouting party ahead to see if the abandoned supermarket really is abandoned is probably a smart move, but you also want your scout to return, so they need to be great at going unnoticed.
The octopus's main defense mechanism is to either not be noticed at all, or at least not be noticed as an octopus, and it's scarily good at it. Its skin cells can change colour, opacity and reflectivity, and muscles under the skin can be used to change its texture, so that it can blend into its environment and look like a rock or seaweed. Some species, like the mimic octopus, go even further and can look like more dangerous predators like lionfish, sea snakes and eels. If all else fails, octopi can move extremely fast using jet propulsion, ejecting a cloud of ink to throw off pursuers.
Perfect camouflage, fast escape, what more could you want from a scout? What's that? Octopi are molluscs and cannot survive out of the water for extended periods of time? Petty details. You're a resourceful survivalist and I'm sure you can work around that. Hire the octopus.
The breeder - Puff adder
Image courtesy of hj_west
So by now, most of the world is dead or undead, and someone is going to need to repopulate it. Humans take 9 months to develop before birth, reach sexual maturity after 12 to 15 years, and reach final growth between 18 and 21 years of age... way too long in a world where you are confronted with death daily! Snakes usually abandon their young immediately after birth, leaving them to fend for themselves - though some rattlesnakes go above and beyond in the mothering department and hang around for a few days.
All snakes, save for very few exceptions, are born from eggs, though some species lay their eggs (oviparity), while others carry them until the hatchlings are ready to emerge (ovoviparity) - mostly in colder climates where the ground is not warm enough for egg-laying. As you'll likely be on the move, ovoviparous snakes are probably the way to go, and I recommend hiring a puff adder, with average litters of 50-60, and possessing the record for largest snake litter ever: 156 young!
Though she might be slow while carrying her young, the puff adder will repopulate the Earth in no time... I hope you're not afraid of snakes, because you'll be seeing a lot of them around. Maybe the future of the human race is a snake-human hybrid?
With this dream team, you can survive anything the zombie apocalypse throws at you! Provided you can make it work without your teammates tearing each other to pieces of course. One last animal you might want to include: humans! It can get awfully lonely out there, so having some company you can actually talk to would be nice.
Check out 'Into the Wild' for more articles like this. Frontier runs wildlife and marine conservation, development, teaching and adventure travel projects in over 50 countries worldwide - so join us and explore the world!
By Marion Thibaudeau