Yellowstone wolves, self-healing Bustards and amazing Nepenthes

According to a study, more than 200 grey wolves in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, are carriers of the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Infected individuals lead their packs more often than others and are more likely to go hunting alone. Wolves become infected with this protozoan from cougars with whom they share territory. The parasite makes its hosts more courageous – a mechanism that increases the survival rate of the protozoan. Physical and behavioural changes have also been found in Toxoplasma gondii-infected humans – up to a third of the population may be chronically infected with it. As a result of infection, the body’s production of testosterone and dopamine increases, and the person takes more risks.

According to scientists at the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid, Great Bustards – the largest flying birds in the world today – probably use plants for healing. In their diet, two plant species known for their anti-parasitic effects occur more frequently than others. These are the field poppy and the purple viper’s-bugloss. Both plants are effective in eliminating and inhibiting the effects of protozoa and nematodes.

Originally from Southeast Asia, the species of Nepenthes (Nepenthes gracilis)  uses rain energy, that is, external energy, to hunt insects. It is the only such plant known to scientists in the world. The plant’s pitcher has a rigid, horizontal lid with an exposed underside that secretes nectar, attracting insects to sit on the lid. When a raindrop hits the top of the lid, it falls off, and the prey is struck with the plant’s digestive juices.

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