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Planet Earth

Toxoplasma gondii from South America?

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanMay 2, 2007 1:23 PM


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Apparently Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite implicated in human behavior modification, might have its origins in South America. This puts a whole new spin on The Columbian Exchange. One of the underemphasized aspects of the meeting of "Old" and "New" World, to my mind, are the first order biological dynamics. That is, there is plenty of discussion of the transmission of potatoes to various Eurasian cultures and how it revolutionized agriculture there, but it seems likely (as documented by Charles C. Mann in his book 1491) that biological interaction between human populations was just as critical in shaping the outcomes of the contact, as New World humans entered into a massive die off due to their lack of resistance to the Eurasian pathogen load (in contrast, African populations were far more robust because they weren't as isolated, and they had their own local endemic diseases which most Europeans had little resistance too, such as malaria).

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