PerspectiveEcology

A landscape of disgust

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Science  16 Mar 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6381, pp. 1213-1214
DOI: 10.1126/science.aas8694

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Summary

A rancid meal, a moist handshake, a pile of feces: These phenomena elicit disgust and avoidance that protect humans from our most pervasive consumer—infectious agents. This avoidance is not specific to humans. Various animals alter their behavior to avoid infection (1). For instance, Poirotte et al. recently showed that mandrills avoid parasite-contaminated feces and refrain from grooming infected individuals (2). These primates' nuanced ability to detect and alter their behavior in response to differential exposure risk suggests close parallels to the “landscape of fear” elicited by predators (see the figure), with perceived peaks and valleys driven by parasite abundance and exposure risk.