Scientists from the University of Portsmouth have discovered a new species of brain-altering parasite in Langstone Harbour.
A study led by marine biologist Dr Alex Ford found that amphipod shrimps were infected with worm-like parasites that changed the shrimps’ behaviour.
The new species, which has not yet been named, is a type of parasite that lives inside a succession of hosts before eventually being eaten by birds.
Dr Ford said: ‘We think we know all the species that live on our doorstep, so it’s really exciting when we find a new one.’
According to Dr Ford, this is only the second trematode species recorded that manipulates the behaviour of its host.
The parasite’s presence was shown to have a dramatic effect on the shrimp population.
‘When the parasite numbers go up, the host numbers go down, which fits in with the idea that the parasite wants its host to be eaten,’ added Dr Ford.