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Tsunami-driven rafting: Transoceanic species dispersal and implications for marine biogeography

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Science  29 Sep 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6358, pp. 1402-1406
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao1498

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  • RE: Tsunami and microbial pathogens
    • Giovanni Di Guardo, Professor of "General Pathology and Veterinary Pathophysiology", University of Teramo, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Località Piano d'Accio, 64100 - Teramo, Italy
    • Other Contributors:
      • Sandro Mazzariol, Assistant Professor, University of Padua, Department of Comparative Biomedicine and Food Science, Agripolis, 35020 - Legnaro (Padova), Italy

    The nice article by Dr James T. Carlton and co-Authors deals with an unprecedented, tsunami-driven, transoceanic spread of marine organisms, following the dramatic 2011 earthquake in East Japan (1). Among the large number of (mainly) invertebrate species affected by the aforementioned phenomenon, we believe that special emphasis should be also placed upon microbial pathogens, some of which are known to impact the health and conservation of free-ranging cetaceans (2). A paradigmatic example in this direction is represented by Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan and zoonotic agent of major concern (3), which may also infect striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba), with subsequent development of severe brain lesions leading to stranding and death (4). Although a “general consensus” seems to exist on a “land-to-sea flow” as the most plausible mechanism through which T. gondii oocysts, similarly to other oro-fecally transmitted microorganisms, may gain access to the marine environment (2), this becomes questionable when dealing with striped dolphins and other T. gondii-susceptible species of aquatic mammals living in the open sea (5). In other words, how striped dolphins and other pelagic cetaceans may acquire T. gondii infection is still far from being understood. Consequently, among the different hypotheses drawn to explain this phenomenon, the existence of an “alternate” (mainly, if not exclusively) intra-marine biological protozoan’s cycle has been also hypothesized (5). Since...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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