Is Sea Otter Brain Infection Responsible for Elevated White Shark Attacks?
Research has revealed that when rodents infected with Toxoplasma gondii (a parasitic protozoan that causes fatal brain infections in sea otters) smell cat urine, they’re aroused rather than frightened… so instead of running away, they get eaten. Could T. gondii be a contributing factor in the increase in sea otter deaths attributed to white shark attacks?
In more severe cases of toxoplasmosis, the inflammatory response to the parasite permanently damages the brain, which can cause seizures and loss of consciousness. Sea otters with either mild or severe brain damage may be more likely to get bitten by sharks because their fear of predators, or their ability to detect and elude them is compromised.