What do Tasmanian devils, dogs, and shellfish have in common? All have been reported to have transmissible cancers. Transmissible cancers anywhere those where cancer cells act like #pathogens, spreading among #animals and causing disease. Tasmanian devil populations have been significantly impacted by this form of cancer (Devil Facial Tumour Disease). Less famously, several species of bivalves (molluscs with two-half shells like #clams + #mussels) have now been documented with a type of leukemia-like cancer (called disseminated neoplasia) that is transmissible. While these cancers are usually only spread among members of the same species, a recent study in elife used #genetics to show that the cancer cells in 2 species of mussels (one in South America, the other in Europe) were nearly identical. Because of this genetic similarity, these cancers are thought to have originated from the same source, a third species of mussel (Mytilus trossulus, in Canada) suggesting that this cancer was able to break the mold to infect other species. Not only that, but given the distance between the diseased molluscs, this cancer would have spread across the Atlantic Ocean and between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, likely through diseased mussels hitching a ride on ships and traveling along shipping lines. That this transmissible cancer jumped species and crossed the ocean was both unexpected and impressive, and further demonstrates the role of humans in the transmission of animals and their pathogens globally - a tale as old as time. 📸: Susan A. Baldwin Study: https://elifesciences.org/for-the-press/f2c444eb/infectious-cancer-in-mussels-spread-across-the-atlantic #wildlifehealth #science #scicomm
Trick-or-treat! 🎃🍬🍫 This chonky squirrel is a reminder that what we consume also ends up in our environment. And while the abundant food sources in cities can improve wildlife health (I.e., more calories, less energy spent acquiring food), they can also harm it when that food is poor quality. You can decrease the junk food lifestyle of your local wildlife by ensuring that waste is properly sealed and disposed of. This can help to ensure that backyard critters like this squirrel just enjoy the occasional sweet treat, but don't make this indulgence a habit.
Yesterday I spent the day visiting Dr. Karrie Rose at the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health located at the @tarongazoo. I of course took some time to visit the rock wallabies, which hold a significant chunk of my heart. Founded in 1985, the Registry serves as a diagnostic centre for free-ranging wildlife to identify disease and improve wildlife health. The Registry has worked on a number of fascinating cases. One of which, the Bellinger River Turtle Virus, I wrote about in a previous post. Current work is also focusing on understanding flying fox health on Christmas Island and Enterococcus infections in lizards. For more information on the Registry, visit: www.arwh.org
Enjoying an afternoon today chatting with Tessa McBurney and Dr. Scott McBurney of the CWHC Atlantic node. Are you interested in bats and bat health? Check out Tessa's passion project sharing bat information at Batty for Bats https://m.facebook.com/batty4batz/
Chronic Wasting Disease is a death sentence for deer. It is a degenerative disease caused by misfolded proteins called prions. Although #CWD has been in Alberta since the mid 2000s it's currently on our doorstep in British Columbia. Just recently there have been several confirmed cases of CWD just 50km south of the border in Montana. Given that deer are very mobile and that prions can persist in the environment for years, the best plan of attack is prevention. To keep CWD from taking a foothold, we need to test as many deer as possible to know if CWD is already present and - if so - where. Thankfully, hunters can play a role in tracking this disease by submitting the heads of any harvested deer to local testing stations. By detecting and acting early we may be able to keep this deadly disease at bay. To learn more about the role of hunters in detecting and mitigating the impacts of this pathogen, read a piece I wrote for the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative here: http://blog.healthywildlife.ca/bring-out-your-heads-hunters-are-the-first-line-of-defense-against-a-deadly-disease-affecting-deer/
How can rat genetics be used to inform management? Genetic information can tell us about an animal's identity and who they are related to. By identifying relatives, we can map the distances rat travel. In Vancouver, Canada most related rats are found within the same city block which suggests that rats don't move very far. However it also demonstrates that rats are very able to move within a block. Therefore measures used to manage rat populations will likely be ineffective at just the property level. These efforts should be scaled to encompass the entire genetic population. Learn more about this work in an article I wrote for The Conversation Canada: https://theconversation.com/rat-detective-uses-dna-to-uncover-how-rats-scurry-around-cities-121026