Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mind Control: Cat and Mouse example

Wisdom Quarterly ANALYSIS

This event, captured by student photographer Casey Gutteridge, gives a new meaning to cat and mouse games. Or does it? The behavior captured at the Santago Rare Leopard Project in Hertfordshire, England is even more bizarre than it appears. It is mind control by parasites. Gutteridge, who was photographing the leopard for a course project when the mouse appeared, said:

"I have no idea where the mouse came from. He just appeared in the enclosure after the keeper had dropped in the meat for the leopard. He didn't take any notice of the leopard, just went straight over to the meat and started feeding himself. But the leopard was pretty surprised. She bent down and sniffed the mouse and flinched a bit like she was scared. In the meantime the mouse just carried on eating like nothing had happened...but even a gentle shove does not deter the little creature from getting his fill... It was amazing. Even the keeper who had thrown the meat into the enclosure was shocked. He said he'd never seen anything like it before."

Project owner Jackie James added: "It was so funny to see. Sheena batted the mouse a couple of times to try to get it away from her food. But the determined little thing took no notice and just carried on."

Sheena was brought in to the Santago Rare Leopard Project from a UK zoo when she was just four months old. She is one of 14 big cats in the private collection started by Jackie's late husband Peter in 1989. The African Leopard can be found in the continent's forests, grasslands, savannas, and rainforests.

The mouse continued to eat the leopard's lunch and show the leopard who was the boss. But what is driving this behavior? It is neither bravery nor foolishness. It's actually much stranger than that: There exists a cat parasite whose life-cycle includes the brains of mice. The only way for it to complete its life-cycle in a cat's intestines is to alter fear in mice so that they will venture out and be eaten. Stranger still is that this brain parasite can affect humans.

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