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A bed of common mussels. Mytilus edulis in Little Fistral, Cornwall, UK.

Huge numbers of blue mussels (pictured) in France have died from a transmissible cancer that originated in a related species. Credit: Alamy

Infection

A cancer spreads worldwide, thanks to global shipping

A tumour affecting mussels in Chile and France is traced to a single Northern Hemisphere mussel of a separate species.

A contagious cancer affecting shellfish has crossed oceans — and species barriers — to threaten mussels in Europe and South America.

Transmissible tumours are rogue cell lineages that spread between individuals. Such tumours have been found in Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) and bivalves, including the bay mussel (Mytilus trossulus), which lives in the Northern Hemisphere.

Since 2014, a related species, the blue mussel (Mytilus edulis), has experienced mass die-offs in France. These events show signs of being caused by a transmissible tumour. A team led by Michael Metzger at the Pacific Northwest Research Institute in Seattle, Washington, sequenced DNA found in blue mussels from France and the Netherlands, and identified tumour cells with genetic markers characteristic of bay mussels.

The researchers also found that Chilean mussels (Mytilus chilensis), a species from Argentina and Chile, had tumours that were almost genetically identical to those afflicting the European blue mussels. The tumours originated in a single bay mussel and then spread to the South American and European mussel species — probably via international shipping vessels, the researchers suggest.

More Research Highlights...

Satellite image of broken iceberg B-44.

Dark water borders chunks of iceberg broken off a West Antarctica glacier. The melting of the region’s ice sheet could allow the bedrock to rise, sloughing water into the ocean. Credit: NASA

Climate change

Antarctic rocks on the rebound could raise sea level much more than expected

When the ice covering the west of the continent disappears, the bedrock could rise up and shove extra water into the ocean.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, Costa Rica

Mist wafts through the trees at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve in Costa Rica. Cloud forests around the world are threatened by development, wood collection and climate change. Credit: Stefano Paterna/Alamy

Conservation biology

Forests that float in the clouds are drifting away

Tropical cloud forests are safe havens for a vast range of creatures and plants, but they are under siege around the globe.
Illustration of a brown dwarf

A rapidly spinning brown dwarf (pictured, artist’s impression) tends to have narrow atmospheric bands; the faster the spin, the thinner the bands. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Astronomy and astrophysics

Dim stars that have failed at fusion are masters of spin

Three brown dwarfs whirl on their axes at a dizzying rate that might be close to the celestial speed limit for these bodies.
Aerial photograph of beef cattle standing at the Texana Feeders feedlot in Floresville, Texas

Large-scale facilities such as this feedlot in Floresville, Texas, help to meet the global appetite for beef and other red meat, which remains strong despite the growing consumption of chicken and fish. Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty

Agriculture

Meat lovers worldwide pay climate little heed

People are eating more poultry and fish — but they’re not giving up their hamburgers.
Midshipmen at dining table eat in formation, CIRCA 1900

Midshipmen in the United States in around 1900. A study found that body-mass index, a gauge of obesity, has increased with the generations during the twentieth century. Credit: Buyenlarge/Getty

Metabolism

A century of US data documents obesity’s racially skewed rise

An analysis also finds that obesity is common at a much younger age among people born in the early 1980s than those born in the late 1950s.
Auroras on Jupiter

Jupiter’s aurora glows blue in this composite image. A newly detected radio signal might be the signature of a similar aurora on a planet in another solar system. Credit: NASA/ESA/J. Nichols, Univ. Leicester

Astronomy and astrophysics

Wiggly signal hints of an aurora on a planet far from the Solar System

A vast radio observatory on Earth detects signals similar to those generated by the aurora on Jupiter.
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