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Mind-controlling parasite turns wolves into pack leaders - Livescience.com

Mind-controlling parasite turns wolves into pack leaders - Livescience.com

Mind-controlling parasite turns wolves into pack leaders - Livescience.com
Nov 30, 2022 1 min, 17 secs

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A parasite that can alter animal behavior is changing the habits of infected wolves in Yellowstone, increasing aggression and goading them into taking greater risks.

Wolves infected with behavior-altering parasites are more likely to become pack leaders, or abandon their packs altogether, according to an analysis of more than 200 gray wolves in Yellowstone National Park.

"These two life history behaviors represent some of the most important decisions a wolf can make in its lifetime and may have dramatic impacts on gray wolf fitness, distribution" and the overall rate of births and deaths within a population, the scientists reported. .

Rodents infected with the parasite produce a surplus of testosterone and are less afraid of cats, Live Science previously reported.

Hyenas with toxoplasmosis are more likely to tussle with African lions, according to a 2021 study published in Nature Communications (opens in new tab); (opens in new tab) and chimpanzees carrying T.

gondii are unafraid of leopards, their natural predators, scientists reported in 2016 in the journal Current Biology (opens in new tab). .

They discovered that infected wolves were more likely than uninfected wolves to engage in risky behaviors, such as abandoning their families to start new packs, and were twice as likely to assert themselves as pack leaders, which often entailed picking perilous fights with other would-be top dogs.

Pregnant wolves suffering acute infection can miscarry a litter, and wolves that are unafraid of a fight are more likely to suffer fatal injuries.

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