A parasite that manipulates the minds of wolves…and maybe even humans

What drives a wolf to live alone, Or motivate him to try to control the herd? This question has excited the imagination of scientists for a long time. A new study indicates that gray wolves infected with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite are better candidates for pack leadership than uninfected wolves.

A parasite that targets warm-blooded animals
This study prompts us To look at the influences on animal behavior, says Kira Cassidy, author of the study and a wildlife scientist with the Yellowstone Wolf Project, which studies predators in Yellowstone National Park. “We know that behavior is influenced by many factors, including past experiences, genetics, current conditions and social context,” Kira says. “Now fungi are on the list of behavioral influencers.” Toxoplasma gondii is a single-celled fungal organism that infects at least a third of humanity at any given time. Infection with this organism is not usually severe, but it can be fatal at an early age or when immunity is weak. This organism can only reproduce in the intestines of wild and domestic cats, but it is widespread in the wild among warm-blooded animals. It is known for its ability to manipulate the host’s behavior, and one of the most famous examples of this is the unguarded behavior of mice near domestic cats.

  • A parasite that manipulates the minds of wolves...and maybe even humans
    Toxoplasma gondii is found worldwide, infecting most warm-blooded animals. Photo: Science History Images, Alamy Stock Photo

expected results
The new study has been published
In the journal Communications Biology, it relied on behavioral data and blood samples collected over 26 years by Cassidy and colleagues from Yellowstone wolves. Since the reintegration of wolves into the park environment in 1995. The study team analyzed the spatial distribution and blood samples of American lions and big cats that are hosts to this organism. The results showed that wolves that live in areas overlapping with the American lion’s environment are more susceptible to Toxoplasma gondii compared to wolves that live far from these big cats. The study also showed that wolves with Toxicosis were 11 times more likely to break away from the pack and 46 times more likely to be in charge of the pack, compared to wolves without it. Gregory Milne, an epidemiologist at the Royal Veterinary College in London, says that these results are not surprising, as they “match what we know about this fungal organism in other animals, and confirm that fungi cause major changes in behavior.”

A commensal parasite
The animal becomes infected with Toxoplasma gondii
When he eats another infected organism, or when he is exposed to eggs in cat feces. When this parasitic organism is present in the body of an object (other than the cat), it lives in different parts of the body, including the brain (and it may remain there for years), because it needs to be present in the intestines of a cat to reproduce. So he found clever ways to get there: coexistence. For example, mice infected with Toxoplasma gondii exhibit incautious behavior around domestic cats, which can lead to them falling into the cat’s paws and becoming cat food. Thus, this parasitic organism was transferred to the intestine of the predatory cat. It is surprising that infected mice lose their fear of the smell of cat urine, and are even attracted to this smell!

What is the relationship of Toxoplasma gondii to reckless driving?
The study also found that chimpanzees toxoplasmosis are attracted to leopard urine, and infected hyena young are attracted to lions; Thus, she often loses her life due to this behavior. A growing body of studies suggests that people infected with the organism take greater risks than those without it, such as reckless driving. But the effects are not always negative. A study of students with toxoplasmosis suggests that they are more likely to study business or start a company. These findings show that fungi, in this case Toxoplasma gondii, influence the behavior and lives of animals. In fact, many of our mysterious behaviors may be caused by a fungal infection.

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