Humans Shipped an Awful Cargo Across the Seas: Cancer

A cancer afflicting mussels originated off the Pacific coast of Canada, but then crossed into other species in Europe and South America.

Comments: 15

  1. Very interesting findings. There is another minor twist to this story. The cancer was introduced to mussels from elsewhere... And these mussels, themselves, are sometimes introduced to habitats from elsewhere. The main US east coast mussel is Mytilus edulis. These days the population is often intertwined with the non-native, invasive species Mytilus trossulus. The study here is examining Mytilus trossulus in it's native habitat, not as an invasive species. But this mussel is often discussed in the context of being an invader of other populations. And now it is being invaded by cancer from other regions. Science is so fascinating.

  2. Gosh, stop the presses!! Disease is contagious! How unusual!! Humans also shipped the Black Death from Central and East Asia to Europe. And smallpox from Europe to America. Apes shipped HIV to humans. Asian birds and pigs shipped influenza to humans. Tasmianian Devils have had cancer shipped to them. Measles gets shipped from one school kid to another. Tuberculosis has been shipped around the world. Want more to go on??

  3. @stevevelo It appears you are unaware, or uninterested, in the difference between diseases that are long known to be communicable and those that are not. Last time I looked at any scientific literature, cancers are not typically communicable (those of the Tasmanian devils being an exception, albeit not one that was "shipped to them" - whatever that is supposed to mean). I would expect your dismissive post would read a little differently if the article had been about human males passing prostate cancer to each other by shaking hands.

  4. Yes, but we don’t often think of cancer as being contagious. The article does not address the implications for cancers in humans...are some contagious as well?

  5. I think we can say with complete confidence that humans traveling with dogs overseas spread the canine cancers to remote islands, particularly since dogs weren't spontaneously evolving interdependently on small islands. It's like saying we think humans may have had something to do with bringing (pick your invasive species), rabbits, rats, cats, frogs to remote locations. It's nice when we can get a consensus on the obvious.

  6. This is why buying LOCAL, not imported, seafood is so important! Who (and where) you buy from matters.

  7. @Frank F I think the point was that diseases can migrate long distances and across species. Local doesn't matter.

  8. @Frank F Even better, ditch seafood altogether.

  9. @Frank F I think he meant that the boats that are bringing fish in from long distances are helping the transmission. Unfortunately, it's probably all boats and not just fishing boats and boats transporting fish that are to blame.

  10. I grew up in Oregon and moved to the interior of BC back in the '70s. This explains the die-off of mussels I saw when going back and visiting the Oregon Coast. It was quite dramatic to see the rocks and pilings that used to be crowded with mature mussels. They were all just about bare at that time, with a just smattering of small, immature mussels.

  11. What’s particularly interesting in these cancers is that they are contagious. So far, human cancers are not thought to be directly transmissible, though some transmitted diseases, like hepatitis B or C, can lead to cancer if untreated.

  12. "I would like to share a revelation I had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. It seems you aren’t really mammals. Every mammal on the planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment. But you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to move to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease. A cancer on this planet. You are a plague. And we are the cure." - Agent Smith / The Matrix

  13. @Charles In fact, many mammalian species are subject to repeated population explosions and crashes. This is just as natural as stable equilibrium. I suggest you get your ecological information from sources more reliable than popular movies.

  14. Some day in the future, folks like anthropologists, historians, and Paleontologist will be talking about our ridiculous modern day caveman approach to sustainability. That is if we don't stop killing off Keystone species before it's too late.

  15. “There’s no natural explanation for how that happened without human help,” This is probably the understatement of the century, or centuries! "Humans, going back to the "Columbian exchange,"also known as the Columbian interchange, named for Christopher Columbus, was the widespread transfer of plants, animals, culture, human populations, technology, diseases, and ideas between the Americas, West Africa, and the Old World in the 15th and 16th centuries." The sixth extinction is only a matter of... time, sorry to say.