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News reports about a research article that appeared Thursday May 25 in the prestigious international journal Nature have given international publicity to two Old Dominion University researchers.

Dozens of newspapers, news syndicates and Web sites published stories about Caribbean spiny lobsters that exercise their own form of quarantine when
infectious disease threatens their communities.

The lobsters were the subject of research by Mark Butler, ODU professor of biological sciences; Donald Behringer, ODU postdoctoral student and research associate; and Jeffrey Shields, associate professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Their findings are the first ever to show that animals in the wild shun their neighbors who have contracted an infectious disease.

The authors' article in Nature got prominent notice on Science magazine's ScienceNOW Daily News Web page, where two independent scientists commented
on the research. The ScienceNOW article said:

"Their findings may be the proverbial tip of the iceberg, ushering in broader investigations of pathogens and defenses against them across many taxa," says marine biologist William Herrnkind of Florida State University in Tallahassee. And Sonia Altizer, a disease ecologist at the University of Georgia, Athens, notes that the lobsters' ability to detect illness is helpful now, but the PaV1 virus could wreak havoc should the lobster's habitat be destroyed by human activity or climate change. "Healthy animals would vastly prefer going into an empty den," she says, "but what happens if there's no other den?"

Other news stories about the spiny lobster research findings appeared throughout the United States, in England and in China.

This article was posted on: May 25, 2006

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