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Toxn
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Toxoplasma is terrifying.  If you're not terrified of it, stay away from me.  You probably have it and it just rewired your anxiety response, and I don't want your goddamned brain-controlling parasites in my brain.

 

 

There are all sorts of parasites that screw with their hosts behaviors.  There are parasitic worms that infect crickets and make them drown themselves:



There are parasitic fungi that make ants try to climb to the highest possible point so that when the fungal spores erupt from the infected ant to continue the beautiful circle of life they'll have the best possible distribution.  Et plurima cetera.  If this interests you, I recommend Carl Zimmer's Big Book of Bedtime Stories.

 

Toxoplasma is interesting because it does this shit to mammals.  At first it was thought to affect just rats, but then it was found to affect human behavior as well in subtle, pernicious ways.  This was not thought to be adaptive; rats and humans just having similar enough neurochemistry that when toxoplasma tries to get up to its tricks in humans it incidentally re-wires a few things.

 

But now we know that it makes chimps attracted to leopard urine.

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There are some issues with that recent chimp-leopard piss paper. The main issue that I see is the methodology of using captive chimps and not having data on pre-infected chimp reactions to the urine. 

 

Interesting.  Although why chimp responses to leopard piss would be drastically altered by captivity would deserve looking into as well, I should think.

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I just got caught up on this:

http://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2016/03/28/the-smallest-viable-genome-is-very-weird

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/351/6280/aad6253

I remember seeing the original synthetic work by Venter group and being critical - it was analogous to replacing the engine of a car with an exact copy made by hand. This is much more impressive - analogous to replacing the engine with one in which every non-essential part has been removed.

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