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Concept: French Polynesia


In December 2013, during a Zika virus (ZIKV) outbreak in French Polynesia, a patient in Tahiti sought treatment for hematospermia, and ZIKV was isolated from his semen. ZIKV transmission by sexual intercourse has been previously suspected. This observation supports the possibility that ZIKV could be transmitted sexually.

Concepts: HIV, AIDS, Sexual intercourse, Semen, Sexually transmitted disease, Human sexual behavior, Pacific Ocean, French Polynesia


Zika virus (ZIKV) infection during pregnancy has been linked to birth defects,(1) yet the magnitude of risk remains uncertain. Investigators studying the 2013-2014 Zika outbreak in French Polynesia estimated that the risk of microcephaly due to ZIKV infection in the first trimester of pregnancy was 0.95% (95% confidence interval, 0.34 to 1.91), on the basis of eight microcephaly cases identified retrospectively in a population of approximately 270,000 people with an estimated rate of ZIKV infection of 66%.(2) In the current outbreak, thousands of cases of infants with suspected microcephaly or other developmental anomalies of the central nervous system that may . . .

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Pregnancy, Childbirth, Brain, Statistics, Interval finite element, French Polynesia


Ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP), a disease caused by consuming fish that have accumulated ciguatoxins (CTXs) in their tissue, is regarded as the most prevalent form of intoxication in French Polynesia. Recently, the Australes, one of the least affected archipelago until the early 1980s, has shown a dramatic increase in its incidence rates in 2009 with unusual CFP cases. In the present work, potential health hazards associated with the proliferation of various marine phytoplankton species and the consumption of fish and marine invertebrates highly popular among local population were assessed in three Australes islands: Raivavae, Rurutu and Rapa. Extracts from the marine dinoflagellates Gambierdiscus, Ostreospis and mat-forming cyanobacteria as well as fish, giant clams and sea urchin samples were examined for the presence of CTXs and palytoxin (PLTX) by using the neuroblastoma cell-based assay (CBA-N2a). Cytotoxic responses observed with both standards (Pacific CTX-3C and PLTX) and targeted marine products indicate that CBA-N2a is a robust screening tool, with high sensitivity and good repeatability and reproducibility. In Rurutu and Raivavae islands, our main findings concern the presence of CTX-like compounds in giant clams and sea urchins, suggesting a second bio-accumulation route for CFP toxins in the ciguatera food chain. In Rapa, the potential CFP risk from Gambierdiscus bloom and fish was confirmed for the first time, with levels of CTXs found above the consumer advisory level of 0.01 ng Pacific CTX-1B g(-1) of flesh in three fish samples. However, despite the presence of trace level of PLTX in Ostreopsis natural assemblages of Rapa, no sign of PLTX accumulation is yet observed in tested fish samples. Because this multi-toxinic context is likely to emerge in most French Polynesian islands, CBA-N2a shows great potential for future applications in the algal- and toxin-based field monitoring programmes currently on hand locally.

Concepts: Pacific Ocean, Algal bloom, Dinoflagellate, Sea urchin, French Polynesia, Polynesia, Austral Islands, Ciguatera


During the largest Zika virus (ZIKV) outbreak ever reported that occurred from October 2013 to March 2014 in French Polynesia, we observed that several patients presenting the symptoms of acute phase Zika fever were tested negative in blood by ZIKV real-time PCR (RT-PCR).

Concepts: Polymerase chain reaction, Molecular biology, Real-time polymerase chain reaction, Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, French language, Laboratory techniques, French Polynesia, Zika fever


Different marine habitats are characterised by different soundscapes. How or which differences may be representative of the habitat characteristics and/or community structure remains however to be explored. A growing project in passive acoustics is to find a way to use soundscapes to have information on the habitat and on its changes. In this study we have successfully tested the potential of two acoustic indices, i.e. the average sound pressure level and the acoustic complexity index based on the frequency spectrum. Inside and outside marine protected areas of Moorea Island (French Polynesia), sound pressure level was positively correlated with the characteristics of the substratum and acoustic complexity was positively correlated with fish diversity. It clearly shows soundscape can be used to evaluate the acoustic features of marine protected areas, which presented a significantly higher ambient sound pressure level and were more acoustically complex than non-protected areas. This study further emphasizes the importance of acoustics as a tool in the monitoring of marine environments and in the elaboration and management of future conservation plans.

Concepts: Coral reef, Acoustics, Sound, Sound pressure, Noise pollution, Microphone, French Polynesia, Society Islands


Debate about initial human migration across the immense area of East Polynesia has focused upon seafaring technology, both of navigation and canoe capabilities, while temporal variation in sailing conditions, notably through climate change, has received less attention. One model of Polynesian voyaging observes that as tradewind easterlies are currently dominant in the central Pacific, prehistoric colonization canoes voyaging eastward to and through central East Polynesia (CEP: Society, Tuamotu, Marquesas, Gambier, Southern Cook, and Austral Islands) and to Easter Island probably had a windward capacity. Similar arguments have been applied to voyaging from CEP to New Zealand against prevailing westerlies. An alternative view is that migration required reliable off-wind sailing routes. We investigate the marine climate and potential voyaging routes during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA), A.D. 800-1300, when the initial colonization of CEP and New Zealand occurred. Paleoclimate data assimilation is used to reconstruct Pacific sea level pressure and wind field patterns at bidecadal resolution during the MCA. We argue here that changing wind field patterns associated with the MCA provided conditions in which voyaging to and from the most isolated East Polynesian islands, New Zealand, and Easter Island was readily possible by off-wind sailing. The intensification and poleward expansion of the Pacific subtropical anticyclone culminating in A.D. 1140-1260 opened an anomalous climate window for off-wind sailing routes to New Zealand from the Southern Austral Islands, the Southern Cook Islands, and Tonga/Fiji Islands.

Concepts: Climate, New Zealand, Pacific Ocean, Wind, French Polynesia, Polynesia, Cook Islands, James Cook


The colonization of the islands of East Polynesia was a remarkable episode in the history of human migration and seafaring. We report on an ocean-sailing canoe dating from close to that time. A large section of a complex composite canoe was discovered recently at Anaweka on the New Zealand coast. The canoe dates to approximately A.D. 1400 and was contemporary with continuing interisland voyaging. It was built in New Zealand as an early adaptation to a new environment, and a sea turtle carved on its hull makes symbolic connections with wider Polynesian culture and art. We describe the find and identify and radiocarbon date the construction materials. We present a reconstruction of the whole canoe and compare it to another early canoe previously discovered in the Society Islands.

Concepts: Time, New Zealand, Pacific Ocean, French Polynesia, Polynesia, Polynesian culture, Polynesian mythology, Polynesian Voyaging Society


Zika virus (ZIKV) disease outbreaks occurred in French Polynesia in 2013-2014 and in Brazil and Colombia in 2015-2016, respectively. Using our recently developed ZIKV disease model, we simulated the reported ZIKV infection cases from French Polynesia, Colombia and the State of Bahia of Brazil. Moreover, we estimated that the infection attack rates were 78.0% (95% confidence interval (CI): 63.5-86.3%) in French Polynesia which closely matches a previous serological study; 20.8% (95% CI: 1.1-50.0%) in Colombia which suggests that the attack rate was most likely less than 50%; and 32.4% (95% CI: 2.5-94.2%) in the State of Bahia in Brazil which suggests that the attack rate is unidentifiable with monthly data in Bahia. Furthermore, we found that the association of precipitation and ZIKV outbreak was more evident in Colombia than the other two places. These results are helpful for us to understand the possible evolution, to control the on-going outbreaks, to prevent the potential geographic spread, and to study the ecological and epidemiological characteristics of ZIKV.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Disease, Infectious disease, Statistics, Pacific Ocean, France, French Polynesia, Outbreak


The prehistoric colonization of islands in Remote Oceania that began ∼3400 B.P. represents what was arguably the most expansive and ambitious maritime dispersal of humans across any of the world’s seas or oceans. Though archaeological evidence has provided a relatively clear picture of when many of the major island groups were colonized, there is still considerable debate as to where these settlers originated from and their strategies/trajectories used to reach habitable land that other datasets (genetic, linguistic) are also still trying to resolve. To address these issues, we have harnessed the power of high-resolution climatic and oceanographic datasets in multiple seafaring simulation platforms to examine major pulses of colonization in the region. Our analysis, which takes into consideration currents, land distribution, wind periodicity, the influence of El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events, and “shortest-hop” trajectories, demonstrate that (i) seasonal and semiannual climatic changes were highly influential in structuring ancient Pacific voyaging; (ii) western Micronesia was likely settled from somewhere around the Maluku (Molucca) Islands; (iii) Samoa was the most probable staging area for the colonization of East Polynesia; and (iv) although there are major differences in success rates depending on time of year and the occurrence of ENSO events, settlement of Hawai'i and New Zealand is possible from the Marquesas or Society Islands, the same being the case for settlement of Easter Island from Mangareva or the Marquesas.

Concepts: Climate change, New Zealand, Pacific Ocean, Australia, Oceania, French Polynesia, Polynesia, Archaeology


Many sea urchin genera exhibit cryptic covering behaviors. One such behavior has been documented in the sea urchin Tripneustes gratilla, and previous studies have theorized that this behavior serves as protection from UV radiation. However, other hypotheses have been presented such as protection from predators or added weight to help T. gratilla resist strong currents. A field study was conducted in October-November 2015 in Moorea, French Polynesia to assess urchin covering behavior in natural habitats. The study found that urchins partially underneath rocks covered more, and with more algae, than urchins totally underneath rocks. To test if this behavior was driven by light intensity, a series of 30-minute experimental trials were run on 10 individuals in bright and dim conditions. Individuals were given red and clear plastic, and percent cover of each was recorded. These tests were repeated once fifty percent of spines had been removed from the urchin, in order to determine whether spine loss affects T. gratilla covering behavior. The study found that urchins had a distinct preference for cover that best protects them from UV radiation. Spine loss did not significantly affect urchin ability to cover, and urchins with removed spines still preferred opaque cover. Additionally, covering behavior was mapped onto a phylogeny of echinoderms to determine how it might have evolved. Understanding urchin covering behavior more fully is a step towards an understanding of the evolution of cryptic behavior across species.

Concepts: Ultraviolet, Species, Electromagnetic spectrum, Radiation, Sea urchin, Urchin, French Polynesia, Hedgehog