Zombie Parasites!

Jul 10 2013 @ 10:13am

Paige Brown digs up examples of real-life zombies in nature:

The changes that “zombie” parasites induce in their hosts range from small shifts in the percentage of time the host spends performing certain activities to the display of spectacularly abnormal behaviors, like in the zombie ant. Changes in the host caused by infection by the “zombie” are beneficial to the parasite because they lead to better transmission, or reproduction, success of the parasite. … Another parasitic protozoan, Toxoplasma gondii, infects rodents, cats and even humans. The parasite can only reproduce in the intestines of felines, so cats are the preferred host. This zombie parasite manipulates the behavior of rats, making them rather reckless and attracted to the smell of cat urine (gross!), thus increasing the rodents’ chances of being preyed upon by cats. Some studies have even suggested that T. gondii may slightly change behavior of infected humans, potentially playing a role in schizophrenic disorders.

Previous Dish on zombie fungus here.