Gorotsuki Tenshi (aekiy) wrote,
Gorotsuki Tenshi
aekiy

Lyme ecology

Over time, I've gained an increasing fascination with systems, how things work in aggregate, and how different systems interact with each other.  It's a substantial part of my interest in the social sciences, especially my interest in sociology and not just anthropology.  Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex was a major catalyst of this interest for me, and starting to gain a formal secondary education only enhanced it.  The more I learn, the more this interest grows, as I see more connections and perceive the need for interdisciplinary research to solve existing problems and work to build amazing futures.  So here are some thoughts I found really interesting.

A few centuries ago, Europeans began to colonize the New World (which, as it turns out, was just as old as the rest).  They brought with them numerous plants, animals, and illnesses, as well as the Atlantic slave trade, much of which were new to the continent, or at least the parts of it they colonized.  Their social and physical interactions with Native Americans (or American Indians or– someone give me a good name here) lead to major decreases in the native populations.  This helped increase Passenger Pigeon populations, for a time, as the Native Americans had moderately hunted them.

Passenger Pigeons always operated en mass.  Their primary survival skill was that they were many, and they worked in very large groups, with flock sizes sometimes upwards of two billion at the height of their existence.  The European colonists, needing a cheap food source for their slaves — after all, expensive food could defeat the purpose of having slaves — and seeing an abundant resource, began hunting Passenger Pigions, eventually to extinction.  The conservationist movement gained sway after that point, but not earlier, and such a massive extinction had its ecological impacts.

One of those impacts was a simple matter of reduced competition: Native Americans and Passenger Pigeons alike had competed with rodents such as Deer Mice for similar food resources, including largely the nuts of forest trees.  (Another factor in Passenger Pigeon extinction was deforestation, which more importantly than reducing their food supply, left them without the incredibly large nesting areas their immense flocks required.)  The reduced competition from Native Americans and Passenger Pigeons left abundant food resources for the rise of the Deer Mice, an animal which then became an ample food source for the Deer Tick.  The Deer Tick, as many of us are well familiar, is the primary vector for the transmission of Borellia burgdorferi bacteria, the spirochete cause of Lyme disease.

There are discussions of evidence about Erythema chronicum migrans (the signature rash) existing in Europe in the nineteenth century, as well as German experiments with using ticks and other insects as part of a germ warfare program, both of which could actually suggest Nazi involvement with the proliferation of Lyme disease in the United States, even if Lyme borelliosis itself was unknown at the time.  Still, it's interesting to think that if we'd used selective tree cutting, had less and better interactions with Native Americans, did not use slaves — or at least not so many, and hunted in moderation, Lyme disease might not be the hidden pandemic of the day, and myself and many others could be leading much happier and more productive lives.

Tags: ecology, environmental things, health, history, lyme disease, sociology
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  • (no subject)

    Our precious kitty Clarissa is having some serious health problems, but we don't have enough money right now to get the blood tests she needs.…

  • On fantasy characters:

    If you had to distill fantasy character archetypes into just a few key terms (warrior/soldier, mystic/shaman, wizard/scholar, what have you), what…

  • First Day of NaNoWriMo

    Crawled out of bed an hour ago. Just finished eating breakfast and watching an episode of R.O.D -THE TV-. So much sneezing. No progress so far.