Biodiversity and the impact of the crowd
July 21st, 2008

This may seem like a stretch, but the wisdom of the crowd certainly must operate from some principle of nature. Today I ran across a discovery that the dilution of bird populations has an effect on the transmission of the West Nile Virus. The virus is spread by mosquitoes, who infect birds. The more diverse the population of birds, it turns out, the less effective the transmission. The article reporting this in the Public Library of Science includes this:

We found there is lower incidence of human WNV in eastern US counties that have greater avian (viral host) diversity. This pattern exists when examining diversity-disease relationships both before WNV reached the US (in 1998) and once the epidemic was underway (in 2002). The robust disease-diversity relationships confirm that the dilution effect can be observed in another emerging infectious disease and illustrate an important ecosystem service provided by biodiversity, further supporting the growing view that protecting biodiversity should be considered in public health and safety plans.

Are mobs smarter when they are diluted and diverse? My guess is the mosquitoes think so.


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