Skip to comments.Survival Smarts: Healthy Lobsters Shun the Sick
Posted on 05/25/2006 3:57:00 AM PDT by Flavius
Caribbean spiny lobsters are normally gregarious creatures, enjoying the company of living together in underwater caves. ADVERTISEMENT
But friendships are quickly severed if a lobster starts to smell like it's infected with a lethal disease.
Even before an infected lobster starts showing symptoms, its mates pick up on the infection and avoid the sick one like, well, the plague, forcing it into a solitary existence.
While the cold shoulder might sound harsh, it's an extremely effective means of maintaining low incidence of the disease in the wild, researchers write in a new study published in the May 25 issue of the journal Nature.
The lethal virus, called PaV1, was first noticed by Donald Behringer, a graduate student at Old Dominion University. He was drawing blood from lobsters. Some, he noticed, had milk-colored blood instead of the normal, healthy clear stuff. PaV1 infects juvenile spiny lobsters and is transmitted mainly by physical contact. Seawater can spread the disease among the smallest creatures.
During subsequent field studies, the researchers found that 93 percent of infected lobsters lived on their own.
Unsure whether what they were seeing was an intentional split, the researchers brought lobsters into their laboratory and gave them the option of entering dens containing either healthy or diseased lobsters. While the sick lobsters did not discriminate, healthy lobsters shunned the sick.
"This is the first record of healthy animals avoiding diseased members of their own species in the wild," said study co-author Jeff Shields of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
Cruel but effective
The behavior helps curb spread of the disease in the wild, the study found. In the lab, when healthy lobsters are placed with infected ones, they too become infected and 60 percent die within 80 days.
In populations off the coast of Florida, however, the rate of infection is just 7 percent.
The ability of healthy lobsters to determine that their neighbors are infected, but not yet infectious, provides an important evolutionary advantage, Shield said. Lobsters that possess this trait, and are successful at avoiding the sick, are more likely to survive, breed, and pass on the trait to their offspring.
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instead we should take all exotic airborne toxins and fly them 550 miles per hour across the globe
and feel dandy about it
I also practice safe consumption by first dipping any offensive tail or claw flesh in drawn butter.
Well, I've helped the cause by eating as many of these little healthy gold-and-purple babies as I possibly can, so that I too can sense a diseased one before it hits the grill - ha ha.
Ooh, the smell of these lobsters, hacked in two and thrown on an outdoor grill with just a few spices and mops and mops of butter is heavenly beyond description! Resistance is futile.
Sounds like even Lobsters are smarter than homosexuals.
I'm all for banishing Washington and libs far, far away.
Any lobsters on Mt. Everest?
sad part is we'd not leave one behind
The lobsters are just being shellfish.
Lobster bibs are for sissies.
A real man would wear a white sport coat with a pink crustacean.
never wore one myself.
use my sleeve to wipe my mouth too.
I show my age by knowing how bad that was.