In 1998, a pioneering study led by UC Berkeley entomologist Robert Lane found that a protein in the Western fence lizard’s blood killed Borrelia bacteria, and as a result, Lyme-infected ticks that feed on the lizard’s blood are cleansed of the disease-causing pathogen.
|Image - John Lindsey|
|Image - John Lindsey|
"Western fence lizard’s blood killed Borrelia bacteria, and as a result, Lyme-infected ticks that feed on the lizard’s blood are cleansed of the disease-causing pathogen. Moreover, research has found that up to 90 percent of the juvenile ticks in this species feed on the Western fence lizard, which is prevalent throughout California and neighboring states."
"The lizard is thus often credited for the relatively low incidence of Lyme disease in the Western United States. The new UC Berkeley-led study put that assumption to the test experimentally."
|Photo - Gary Nafis|
"The researchers found that in plots where the lizards had been removed, ticks turned to the female woodrat as their next favorite host. On average, each female woodrat got an extra five ticks for company when the lizards disappeared. However, the researchers found that 95 percent of the ticks that no longer had lizard blood to feast on failed to latch on to another host.
“One of the goals of our study is to tease apart the role these lizards play in Lyme disease ecology,” says Swei, who is now a post-doctoral associate at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in New York. “It was assumed that these lizards played an important role in reducing Lyme disease risk. Our study shows that it’s more complicated than that.”
Notwithstanding the results in this new study, Lane pointed out that the Western fence lizard are key to keeping infection rates down among adult ticks. “This study focused only on the risk from juvenile ticks, specifically those in the nymphal stage,” he said. “The earlier finding that adult ticks have lower infection rates because they feed predominantly on the Western fence lizard at the nymphal stage still holds.”
“In attempting to decrease infectious disease risk, we need to remember the law of unexpected consequences,” said Sam Scheiner, program director in the National Science Foundation Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research through the joint NSF-NIH (National Institutes of Health) Ecology of Infectious Diseases Program. “This study demonstrates the complexity of infectious diseases.”
Lizards in your yard are a really good thing
|Image - Orange County Register|
There was a great article in the Orange County Register in 2010 about the benefits of having various Lizard species living as residents within your garden and landscape. Amazing photo above where a Western Fence Lizard is gulping down a Jerusalem Cricket, which frankly to me looking at one up close, is one of the most sinister looking bugs I've never wanted to touch. Wicked looking jaw and mouth parts and stickery claws which clasp onto anything tightly. Hence I've always refused to touch one. But look at that lizard. No apparent fear there. Here's parts of the article:
"Settle down everybody. A backyard lizard invasion has not begun. OK, maybe it has, but no reason to panic. Alligator lizards, Western Fence lizards and even the occasional side-blotched lizard are feasting on summer bugs and living large reptilian lives in our residential back yards. Yay for lizards!"
“Lizards are not poisonous, harmful or anything other than interesting,” said Steve Bennett, vector ecologist at Orange County Vector Control. “In fact, during the mating season it is fun to watch the males doing their push-ups to show off, or squabbling over girlfriends.”
Lizards are considered beneficial companions consuming more than their share of crickets, cockroaches, ants, beetles and sometimes flies if they can catch them. But most lizards are usually more prey than predator. “In the wild they don’t live more than a year or two,” Bennett said. “In captivity they can live much longer.”
Cats, birds, even black widows will make a meal out of a lizard, especially when the lizards are young and small. To the gardener the lizard is a constant companion, sitting on rocks, scurrying under shrubs, getting out of the way when the garden hose goes on. Or not. Lizards don’t seem to mind the occasional squirt from the hose, perhaps because like other reptiles, lizards can’t control their body temperature. A cool sprinkle in August probably feels good.But getting back to these ticks. The adult ticks dangle on the tips of grass and other low-lying vegetation like shrubs in a host-seeking posture called “questing.” In this position, they spread their two front clawed limbs wide open and wait patiently for hours, or even days, for unsuspecting critter to brush by so they can dig their metal-like mouth parts into their host and gorge themselves on it's blood. Contrary to what some people may believe, ticks don’t jump or fly. And when it comes to keeping an eye out for ticks, at least the adult ticks can easily be seen, unlike ticks in the nymph or juvenile life stage, when the tick is about the size of a poppy seed and difficult to spot. Juveniles usually do not climb grass or shrubs while host-seeking. Instead, they lurk closer to the ground on top of leaf litter on the forest floor, a perfect location to attach to lizards. In fact, research has shown about 90 percent of hosts for tick nymphs are reptiles rather than small mammals or birds. This is truly amazing, because I never knew this before and would never have suspected lizards all this time offered such an amazing checks & balances service in the natural world.
Some Other Interesting Facts About Lyme Disease & Ticks
Where foxes thrive, Lyme disease doesn’t
Taal Levi, a researcher at Cary Institute
The interesting thing here is Coyotes will kill foxes, not for food, but as a competing predator. Where that happens there is a rise in Lyme disease because the Fox (Red & Grey) are small mammal (mice, rats, etc) predators which are often carriers & spreaders of the disease. While I don't like those Coyote hunting contests, there is nevertheless an incredible out of control overpopulation of Coyotes. Removal of Wolves a century ago brought this on.
"Taal Levi, a researcher at Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, talks about Lyme disease and how ecology — specifically, the interplay between wildlife species — affects the spread of infectious disease. Mice are especially good carriers of Lyme disease because their immune systems don't fight off the pathogen and they don't groom ticks off their bodies. (unlike opossums that remove as much as 96 percent). Foxes are highly effective at killing mice - statistical data shows that as fox populations go down, the incidence of Lyme goes up."
|Image - Matthew Twombly (NPR)|
Throughout history people have killed whatever annoyed or inconvenienced them, even other humans. Hence the practices of killing what we don't like or cause us to lose profit has only escalated with the invention of synthetic science-based pesticides. The ignorance on how nature really works became further distorted when a scientific label was attached to many living things about 150 years ago when something called "Argument from Poor Design" was fabricated to prop up a new worldview and given as a gift to mankind by Charles Darwin. Darwin never used science for all his examples of poor design, but rather he employed metaphysical and faith-based religious concepts to justify the new worldview. I get the idea of being turned off to much of Christendom's track record, etc, I do I get it. But to trash nature to justify an argument for another worldview ??? 😕
“Folks who ain’t got ideas of their own should be mighty careful whose they borrow…”
Old Cowboy Saying
No truer words than that. Look throughout history at all the supposedly intellectual ideas and philosophies mandated as truth by this world's elites which later turned out to be purely based on gross human ignorance and incompetent understanding of how they think Nature really works and we've all been paying a high price ever since as a result.
More Reading References on the Subject