February 25, 2010


Dozens of birds turning up dead by Exit 11 in Clarksville

Scores of birds are dropping out of the sky in a Clarksville subdivision, and no one can figure out why.

"There are dead birds all over the road," said Pamela Holz, president of a neighborhood homeowners association near Exit 11 of Interstate 24. She said a neighbor counted 61 dead birds in the area at one point.

. . . In recent weeks, redwing blackbirds and grackles have been flocking to the area on their migration south to evade an especially harsh winter.

The Leaf-Chronicle - www.theleafchronicle.com
24 February 2010
B Eason
Photo credit: B Liggett Cogbill/The Leaf-Chronicle
Location: Clarksville, Tennessee, USA - Map It

Oil spill threatens 'ecological disaster' in Italy

An oil spill that fouled a small river in northern Italy reached the Po River on Wednesday, with officials warning of an ecological disaster as they scrambled to contain the sludge before it contaminated Italy's longest and most important river.

Milan regional officials said the cause was certainly sabotage at a former refinery turned oil depot, since the cisterns were opened and the oil allowed to flow unimpeded into the Lambro River near Monza.

. . . Environmentalists warned that several water and bird species were at risk from the spill, since the area is rich in bird and other wildlife.

The Washington Post - www.washingtonpost.com (Source: Associated Press)
24 February 2010
N Winfield
Photo credit: T Balestra/AP
Location: Monza, Italy - Map It

White-Nose Syndrome Confirmed in WV's Largest Bat Cave

Biologists from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report that white-nose syndrome has been confirmed in a bat in Hellhole, Pendleton County, West Virginia, by the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in Athens, Georgia.

If the effects of WNS on the bats in Hellhole are similar to those seen elsewhere, biologists expect that WNS will devastate the bat population in this cave, including endangered species.

Hellhole is the largest and most important bat cave in the state. An estimated 200,000 bats spend the winter hibernating in the cave. The cave is also important on a national level as it is designated critical habitat for two federally endangered species: the Indiana bat and the Virginia big-eared bat.

WHSV News 3 - www.whsv.com
23 February 2010
Photo credit: C Stihler/WV Division of Natural Resources

More White-Nose Syndrome News

Animal behaviour: An ill wind for finches

The house finch Carpodacus mexicanus, a native of North America, may have been snared by an evolutionary trap.

. . . The trap is the preference of healthy males to feed alongside finches of the same sex that are infected with the bacterium Mycoplasma gallisepticum, so making them more vulnerable to debilitating infection by this contagious agent.

But why does this preference exist, when the expectation would be that healthy individuals would avoid their diseased fellow finches, well, like the plague? The authors' observations show that the short-term gain for healthy males, such as the fine example pictured here, is that they have less of a battle over a meal, given that infected and so weakened males are less aggressive.

Nature - www.nature.com
17 February 2010
T Lincoln
Photo credit: DM Jones/MindenPictures/FLPA

Journal Article Cited

Campus Connection: UW study indicates pandemic bird flu possible

A new study authored by UW-Madison virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka warns there is the potential for avian H5N1 influenza and human seasonal flu viruses to interact and form a new flu strain which could be both highly contagious and deadly.

Since the H5N1 influenza outbreak in Asian poultry in 2003, forms of this virus have spread to wild birds and poultry on several continents. However, since the H5N1 virus lacks the ability to transmit efficiently among humans, there have been only 442 confirmed human cases -- although 59 percent (262) of those infected have died.

The new findings . . . raise concerns that H5N1 and pandemic H1N1 viruses could exchange genetic material in individuals exposed to both and generate a hybrid strain that is both highly virulent and infectious.

The Capital Times - host.madison.com/ct
22 February 2010
T Finkelmeyer
Photo courtesy of The Capital Times

Journal Article Cited

Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

Marine Wildlife Preserves

It Ain't All Bad News

Browse complete Digest publication library here.

Predictive Modeling of Coral Disease Distribution within a Reef System
PLoS ONE. 2010; 5(2): e9264.
GJ Williams et al.

Differential effects of experimental increases in sociality on ectoparasites of free-ranging raccoons
J Anim Ecol. 2010 Feb 10. [Epub ahead of print]
RJ Monello and ME Gompper

Detection of a novel reassortant epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV) in the USA containing RNA segments derived from both exotic (EHDV-6) and endemic (EHDV-2) serotypes
J Gen Virol. 2010 Feb;91(Pt 2):430-9. Epub 2009 Oct 14.
AB Allison et al.

The Duration of the Effects of Repeated Widespread Badger Culling on Cattle Tuberculosis Following the Cessation of Culling

PLoS ONE. 2010; 5(2): e9090.
HE Jenkins et al.