Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Timber rattlesnakes indirectly benefit human health

06.08.2013
Not-so-horrid top predator helps check Lyme disease

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, klips@umd.edu, 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/1162

Karen Lips laboratory:
https://sites.google.com/site/umdlipslab/home
Information on timber rattlesnakes:
http://www.oriannesociety.org/timber-rattlesnake

Karen Lips | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.umd.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling of PET Bottles: New Ideas for Resource Cycles in Germany
25.06.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Betriebsfestigkeit und Systemzuverlässigkeit LBF

nachricht Dry landscapes can increase disease transmission
20.06.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Machine-learning predicted a superhard and high-energy-density tungsten nitride

18.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts

18.07.2018 | Life Sciences

Why might reading make myopic?

18.07.2018 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>