Mind-controlling parasite turns wolves into pack leaders

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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. The findings add to a growing body of evidence that Toxoplasma gondii, a single-celled parasite, pulls on the puppet strings of its hosts, goading them into pursuing risky behaviors.

“We identified a substantial increase in the odds of dispersal and of becoming a pack leader, both risky behaviors,” in wolves that showed signs of T. gondii infection in their blood, the authors wrote in the study, published online Nov. 24 in the journal Communications Biology (opens in new tab)

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