Some snakes use specialized holes in their heads, called pit organs, to “see” the heat radiating from their prey.  Once thought to be an unexplainable sixth sense, a new study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco reveals that the same molecule that enables snakes to track mammals in the dark also makes wasabi feel fiery in your mouth.

TRPA1 is a common protein found in humans and snakes alike.  But because warm-blooded humans have no biological need to seek out other warm bodies for survival, we do not access it in the same way as cold-blooded snakes.  Study coauthor, David Julius, continues:

“We’ve been trying to address this question for many years.  The technology wasn’t really right for us to do that until recently.”

It is widely believed that zombies are cold-blooded, which is arguably the biggest difference between the undead and humans.  With an abundant source of existing TRPA1 in the body, a reanimated zombie would only need to tap into this willing protein to generate its own innate heat sensing ability.

If the undead are able to sense the heat of humans, it would give them a substantial advantage in night hunting when temperatures typically drop.  It also could make the cooler climates of the north more dangerous than previously thought.


  1. C’mon now guys…these are Zombies we’re talking about. Our working, fully functional LIVING brains, along with our superior technology nowadays, I feel as though we’d completely overrule zombies. With our firearms and melee weapons as of late, Zombies wouldn’t stand a chance. Not to mention our vehicles could be drastically altered to become death machines. Don’t get me wrong, I completely adore Zombies and wouldn’t ask for any other apocalypse, but with our advances in technology all around, we’d have them beat. Unless of course the whole scenario of super Zombies came into play and they were basically super humans, then maybe they’d pose a challenge. ZOMBIES RULE!!!

    • OH and on another note, genetically engineered zombies from the government, then the whole outmatched thing could be a possibility. especially if the government went into hiding underground and supported us in no way whatsoever. THEN we’d be somewhat screwed haha.

    • You should totally pick up World War Z (The book) and read the chapter of the soldier that talk about a defense that use tanks, bombers, rocket launchers and every advance weapon against a zombie horde, and lost miserably.

  2. Dustin Lambright

    Yep. We’re screwed.

  3. In such a case as heat-sensing abilities would be ‘awakened’ so to speak, it stands to reason that if no heat escapes, no heat can be sensed. In this way, it might just be safer to adapt to wearing winter clothes, or some sort of heat-reflective material, much like the stuff NASA covers satellites in, to confuse the senses.

    Also, assuming these heat-sensing zombies are blind for the most part, the brain would most likely ignore whatever visual warnings that would normally caution a human. So, theoretically, one could build a low-heat fire and expect to see a zombie attack the flames, because they’d sensed ‘moving heat’, but ignored the danger sign of fire’s light because of the aforementioned shut-off of visual readings.
    Perhaps this could spawn a trap theory. Would these zombies be ‘attracted to fire’?

  4. irelavent unless the human had night vision then the zombie would have night vision think of the human body as a tool the zombie only has those tools then the zombie has only the basic tools

    • Which is exactly his point. We have the TRPA1 molecule already. All it would have to do (whatever makes a zombie a zombie) is use that molecule for a different reason. Like and improvised weapon. The zombie itself wouldn’t make that change, but a virus or something that has it in its genetic code would.

  5. the cloudiness could be transparent to the IR frequency emitted by heat (some heatvision camera have mirrors in their lenses you see yourself in it but the camera sees the heat of the blood flowing under your skin , many other IR cameras have black covers. I imagine cloudy white would be less efficient, but might be enough for low quality heat vision with less noise from visible light)

  6. The eyes cloud up very soon after death though so if you use the same train of logic they should not be able to see at all. Vision also requires a certain amount of brain activity to convert the retinal signal into a coherent image.

  7. WOOOOO!!! arizona!!! in the summer if they try and use heat vision they will go blind from all the smoldering heat all around!

  8. Snakes heatvision happens to be able to see the heat of the tracks of another animal. Now i doubt that zombies would have such a substantial sense and even so if it was close enough it would probably be better off using sight. It probably is just used to identify prey which has already been seen if they evolve to use this advantage.

  9. Not necessarily Conner, as far as i can tell the only able men and women would be truely fucked is if they were faster and/or stronger than us on average. I am only a newcomer here but i haven’t seen anything supporting that just yet… Though it would definatly make things phenomenally more dangerous for the unprepared individual.

    • To your point – there is no research to suggest that zombies could possibly be faster or stronger than the humans they once were. In fact, it doesn’t seem physically possible for that to be the case.

    • they might be faster and stronger since they don’t have the need to recognize or measure which is the force that has to be used for certain tasks, while alive humans do.

      • Not clear on what you mean, Gustavo.

        We can agree that a zombie is occupying a human body, right? So they can’t be physically stronger or faster than the body will allow. There are physical limitations to a human’s ability. The human jaw could never bite through steel, for instance.

      • what about cases of people who are under PCP and break there own bones because our mind only allows us to do so much and then stops it… but under the influence these people will have super human strength but then when they are off their high they have torn muscles, broken bones, torn ligaments, etc. so if zombies don’t feel pain and what not then couldn’t there be a chance they are somewhat stronger cus they don’t have the limits intact for pain. if that makes sense

      • Exactly – they break their bones. They may not mind breaking their bones, but the fact is the bone can only take so much – it has limits. That’s the point.

      • I think its good that they don’t feel pain. That means they have no sense of self preservation. Pain is the reason we all still have our fingers and toes. Without pain they would all end up massively crippled, and in the end much less of a threat.

  10. In short: we really are fucked.

    • agreed

      • I don’t think we would be in that much trouble I don’t think zombies would have heat vision cause they may still have that protein but they would still need the pit organ that snakes have.
        Zombies wouldn’t have the survival instinct we have so if you don’t kill them with the first shot they wouldn’t hide or duck so you would get another chance and after a while the decaying would weaken them and make them brittle so they may not feel pain but they still wouldn’t be able to bend steel they may be able to break down doors though.
        In the end I think it would be like the be temporary because they probably wouldn’t have any reproduction process so we could just out wait them as they decay away

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