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SCIENCE: Cats Have a “Mind Control Parasite” in Hawaii

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Toxoplasma gondii, a “mind-controlling” parasite that causes the disease toxoplasmosis, has been found in public lands in Oahu, Hawaii for the first time, researchers have discovered.

This parasite was previously unknown across Hawaii’s island landscapes, so how did it get to Oahu? It hitchhiked there in free-ranging cats, which are a non-native species and are known hosts of the parasite. Thanks, cats.

Though, to be fair, cats aren’t really to blame; people are the ones who first brought cats to the island and then allowed them to roam free. Felines that were abandoned then bred in the wild and formed feral colonies. These cat communities now threaten to expose local wildlife to a harmful and potentially deadly parasite, scientists wrote in a new study.

One of the ways that Toxoplasma gondii affects mice and rats is by tweaking their brain chemistry to change their behavior. Rodents typically avoid cats, but under T. gondii’s “mind control” they seek out felines. And that’s exactly what T. gondii wants, because the infected rats need to be ingested by cats in order for T. gondii to complete its life cycle.

Full Story From Live Science 

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