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Yellowstone’s Wolves and the “Mind-Control” Parasite
March 30 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm$5 – $10
Date: Thursday, March 30th
Time: 7:00-8:30 p.m.
Location: Montana Natural History Center
Perhaps you’ve heard of the parasite Toxoplasma gondii (or “toxo” for short), sometimes called the “mind-control parasite.” It can infect any warm-blooded species, but it requires a feline host in order to reproduce. It’s estimated that one third of all people are carriers, and some studies indicate that toxo infection increases an individual’s risk-taking behavior.
A new article in the journal Communications Biology suggests that toxo also affects the behavior of wolves in Yellowstone National Park. The study’s authors used 25 years of wolf and cougar data to demonstrate that toxo infection directly affects risk-taking in wolves. In fact, a wolf infected with toxo is 46 times more likely to become a pack leader! Learn more about this fascinating study from one of its lead authors, University of Montana PhD student Connor Meyer.
About the presenter: Connor grew up in western Washington, and as an undergraduate he gained experience working with cougars in the Cascade mountains. After earning a degree in wildlife conservation, he worked for the Yellowstone Wolf and Cougar Projects, aimed at understanding wolf and cougar interspecies, disease, and predator-prey dynamics. In 2021, he joined Mark Hebblewhite’s lab at the University of Montana as a PhD student. When not working, he attempts to stave off injury while running, hiking, biking, and skiing.
Cost: $5 MNHC members, $10 non-members.