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 Innovative grilling technique improves air quality
01.07.2020 | Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics IBP

nachricht Traffic density, wind and air stratification influence the load of the air pollutant nitrogen dioxide
26.06.2020 | Leibniz-Institut für Troposphärenforschung 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: Gentle wall contact – the right scenario for a fusion power plant

Quasi-continuous power exhaust developed as a wall-friendly method on ASDEX Upgrade

A promising operating mode for the plasma of a future power plant has been developed at the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device at Max Planck Institute for Plasma...

Im Focus: ILA Goes Digital – Automation & Production Technology for Adaptable Aircraft Production

Live event – July 1, 2020 - 11:00 to 11:45 (CET)
"Automation in Aerospace Industry @ Fraunhofer IFAM"

The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM l Stade is presenting its forward-looking R&D portfolio for the first time at...

Im Focus: AI monitoring of laser welding processes - X-ray vision and eavesdropping ensure quality

With an X-ray experiment at the European Synchrotron ESRF in Grenoble (France), Empa researchers were able to demonstrate how well their real-time acoustic monitoring of laser weld seams works. With almost 90 percent reliability, they detected the formation of unwanted pores that impair the quality of weld seams. Thanks to a special evaluation method based on artificial intelligence (AI), the detection process is completed in just 70 milliseconds.

Laser welding is a process suitable for joining metals and thermoplastics. It has become particularly well established in highly automated production, for...

Im Focus: A structural light switch for magnetism

A research team from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure of Dynamics (MPSD) and the University of Oxford has managed to drive a prototypical antiferromagnet into a new magnetic state using terahertz frequency light. Their groundbreaking method produced an effect orders of magnitude larger than previously achieved, and on ultrafast time scales. The team’s work has just been published in Nature Physics.

Magnetic materials have been a mainstay in computing technology due to their ability to permanently store information in their magnetic state. Current...

Im Focus: Virtually Captured

Biomechanical analyses and computer simulations reveal the Venus flytrap snapping mechanisms

The Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) takes only 100 milliseconds to trap its prey. Once their leaves, which have been transformed into snap traps, have...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium AWK'21 will take place on June 10 and 11, 2021

07.04.2020 | Event News

International Coral Reef Symposium in Bremen Postponed by a Year

06.04.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

International conference QuApps shows status quo of quantum technology

02.07.2020 | Event News

A new view of microscopic interactions

02.07.2020 | Life Sciences

B-cell protectors

02.07.2020 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>