The scientific name of the timber rattlesnake, Crotalus horridus, is a sign of the fear and loathing this native North American viper has inspired. But research by a team of University of Maryland biologists shows the timber rattlesnake indirectly benefits humankind by keeping Lyme disease in check.
Feeding on mice and other small mammals, an adult male timber rattlesnake consumes 2,500 to 4,500 of the black-legged ticks that carry Lyme disease each year.
Credit: Photo: Edward Kabay
The team's findings, to be presented today in a talk at the annual conference of the Ecological Society of America, highlight the potential benefits of conserving all species – even those some people dislike.
Human cases of Lyme disease, a bacterial illness that can cause serious neurological problems if left untreated, are on the rise. The disease is spread by black-legged ticks, which feed on infected mice and other small mammals. Foxes and other mammal predators help control the disease by keeping small mammal populations in check. The decline of these mammal predators may be a factor in Lyme disease's prevalence among humans.
Timber rattlers are also top predators in Eastern forests, and their numbers are also falling, so former University of Maryland graduate student Edward Kabay wanted to know whether the rattlers also play a role in controlling Lyme disease.
Kabay used published studies of timber rattlers' diets at four Eastern forest sites to estimate the number of small mammals the snakes consume, and matched that with information on the average number of ticks each small mammal carried. The results showed that each timber rattler removed 2,500-4,500 ticks from each site annually.
Because not every human bitten by an infected tick develops Lyme disease, the team did not estimate how many people are spared the disease because of the ecosystem service that timber rattlesnakes provide. But Kabay, who is now a science teacher at East Chapel Hill High School, and his research colleagues will talk about the human health implications of their work at 4:20 pm today (Aug. 6) in Room 1011 of the Minneapolis Convention Center.
Timber rattlesnakes are listed as endangered in six states and threatened in five more under the Endangered Species Act.
"Habitat loss, road kills, and people killing them out of fear are the big issues," said University of Maryland Associate Biology Prof. Karen Lips. "They are non-aggressive and rarely bite unless provoked or stepped upon."
Lips, who directs UMD's graduate program in sustainable development and conservation biology, will answer reporters' questions in the ESA press room after the session ends.
Media contact: Karen Lips, email@example.com, 240-393-5397
"Timber Rattlesnakes may reduce incidence of Lyme disease in the Northeastern United States," Edward Kabay, Nicolas M. Caruso and Karen Lips http://eco.confex.com/eco/2013/webprogram/Paper44305.html
Photo caption: An adult male timber rattlesnake can remove 2,500 to 4,500 of the ticks that carry Lyme disease each year. Photo credit: Ed Kabay
A downloadable high resolution version of this image is available at http://cmns.umd.edu/news-events/features/1162Karen Lips laboratory:
Karen Lips | EurekAlert!
Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
30.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
30.03.2017 | Studies and Analyses
30.03.2017 | Life Sciences