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EcoDisease Roundup

April 7, 2006

Epidemics don’t just happen randomly. They arise from complex ecological factors. Here Science Update explains the interplay between robins and West Nile Virus.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
How do robins affect bird flu? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In the northern latitudes, robins are a welcome sign of spring. New research shows that when the birds leave an area, the risk of avian flu goes up. That’s because the avian flu-carrying mosquito prefers robin blood to human. Scientists found that later in the summer, when robin breeding season had past and the birds moved on, the mosquitos moved on– to human prey.

In other news, an invasive plant called the spotted knapweed has become a pest in North America. To control it, scientists introduced a type of gall fly that attacks the plant. But now researchers have found that disease-carrying deer mice feast on the larvae of those flies. The gall flies haven’t been effective in stopping the knapweed and, worse, they’ve provided a nutritious new food source for deer mice, which are thriving as a result.I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.