Parasites in Society

What struck me the most was the opening speech that Ed Yong gave in his Ted Talk Zombie Roaches and Other Parasite Tales. Yong opens with examples of species of animals that exhibit herd mentality and establishes that these acts are for increased fitness. But then he prompts the idea that we make “a huge assumption about animal behavior, that the animals are in control of their own actions, that they are in charge of their bodies. And that is often not the case”(Yong).

The idea that an organism’s actions can be controlled by another entity has troubled me. The gordian worm forces crickets to commit suicide, the emerald cockroach wasp takes over a cockroaches will and forces it to walk, and a parasitic wasp forces its prey to protect its young. These parasites have niche prey that they mercilessly kill for better survivability and fitness. So what I wonder, and what Ed Yong brought up, is what kind of parasite do we, humans, fall prey to. Is there a parasite that takes human beings as prey? Is there a parasite that gives us the notion of free will?

Well, Ed Yong also gives a possible culprit to human parasitism: Toxo (Toxoplasma gondii). Apparently, this parasite infects many species of mammals and, there is evidence to show that toxo may have a parasitic effect on the behavior of humans. While the evidence supporting this claim is not strong, the thought of human parasites is scary to imagine.

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