I’ve been doing research on parasites for a new story I’m planning and some of it is pretty gruesome. In some cases, parasites change their host’s behaviour, either by affecting its hormones or its brain, to make them more attractive to their natural predator, in which they will burrow as well. Sometimes that predator is their final destination, sometimes they will also affect that prey’s behaviour to lead them to the final host, by affecting that prey’s behaviour.
In a study on European starlings, researchers found that pollutants caused the birds to change their songs. World Science reports that the scientists found the birds developed more complex songs that were very appealing to females. Birdsong is one way for females to decide which of the males are prime and worth reproducing with. Problem is, it turns out those charming birds had a weakened immune system.
Although the article does not mention the consequences of this, it stands to reason that a weaker bird would also produce weaker babies, or babies genetically changed.
What is interesting in this story is that pollutants are acting in a similar way as parasites, weakening the host to make it more attractive, but that it serves no purpose. Pollutants do not have a lifecycle, they are not using a host to jump from one species to the other in order to grow and develop. Pollutants, in insidious but somehow dramatic ways (such as raising suicide and child abuse levels), change behaviours and the body’s chemical composition for the worst.
Another strong argument for the green movement.