Lyme disease is caused by infections of the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi (stained blue in inset, among red blood cells) which is transferred to humans via blood-sucking bites from the tick, Ixodes scapularis. Lyme disease can cause flu-like symptoms in the short term and more serious illnesses in the long term, if not treated. Why is Lyme disease on the rise in eastern North America?
White-footed mice occupy a broad ecological niche—they occur in most communities regardless of habitat quality. Many other species, like the opossum, are absent from low-quality forest fragments. Based on this information and the data in Question 12, propose a hypothesis to explain the observed relationship between increased forest fragmentation and increased incidence of Lyme disease.
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