Cool story on NPR the other day about toxoplasma gondii.
According to the tale, the simple toxoplasma gondii protozoa can only reproduce within the bodies of cats. The problem is that the oocysts are shed from the cat in feces where they infect other animals (mice, people, rats, whatever) where the protozoa cannot reproduce.
So, toxo has a bit of a challenge. How to get from the mouse back into a new cat?
Research suggests that the toxo infection causes the mice to be less fearful of cats - and in fact to be attracted to the smell of cat urine. Something about causing changes in the brain (listen to the NPR story for more details, folks). This makes the mouse more likely to be caught, giving toxo a better chance to get into the cat's system.
Genius, I tell you, genius!
I love evolution. The truly freakish ways in which organisms solve their problems of needing an unoccupied nitch and filling that nitch are wonderful to learn about.
How can you not love evolution?