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Title: Toxoplasma gondii infections are associated with costly boldness toward felids in a wild host

Toxoplasma gondiiis hypothesized to manipulate the behavior of warm-blooded hosts to promote trophic transmission into the parasite’s definitive feline hosts. A key prediction of this hypothesis is thatT. gondiiinfections of non-feline hosts are associated with costly behavior towardT. gondii’s definitive hosts; however, this effect has not been documented in any of the parasite’s diverse wild hosts during naturally occurring interactions with felines. Here, three decades of field observations reveal thatT. gondii-infected hyena cubs approach lions more closely than uninfected peers and have higher rates of lion mortality. We discuss these results in light of 1) the possibility that hyena boldness represents an extended phenotype of the parasite, and 2) alternative scenarios in whichT. gondiihas not undergone selection to manipulate behavior in host hyenas. Both cases remain plausible and have important ramifications forT. gondii’s impacts on host behavior and fitness in the wild.

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Nature Communications
Nature Publishing Group
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National Science Foundation
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