Marine pathogens spread much faster than their terrestrial counterparts

November 24, 2003

It has become increasingly clear that pathogen epidemics are as significant a component of marine systems as they are in terrestrial systems. At an NCEAS working group on Diseases in the Ocean, McCallum, Harvell and Dobson collated data on epidemic spread from both terrestrial and marine environments.

Their analysis, in a forthcoming issue of Ecology Letters, shows that marine epidemics spread about 100 times faster than comparable terrestrial epidemics. The factors behind this large difference in rates of spread are not clear at present, but may relate to the lack of barriers to pathogen dispersal in marine environments, or to better long term survival of mobile infectious stages.

This result warns that emerging diseases may pose particularly severe threats to marine ecosystems.
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Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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