August 1, 2011


Mass Turtle Deaths on Great Barrier Reef Have Scientists Worried

Scientists were struggling Monday to understand why the northern coast of Queensland has become littered with sick and dying turtles and dugongs.

More than 400 bodies have been discovered along the coastline near the Great Barrier Reef, and experts believe hundreds more animals could have perished in remote areas or simply sunk to the bottom of the sea.

Experts think the fatalities could be the result of extreme weather in northern Australia. Devastating floods in December and January, and a cyclone in February, caused a runoff of nutrients into the ocean, potentially killing the seagrass that both turtles and dugongs -- or "sea cows" -- feed on. The grass provides nutrients and improves the animals' ability to breath underwater.

"There is evidence that marine animals, including turtles, are suffering from poor nutrition because of a lack of seagrass," Vicky Darling, the Queensland Environment Minister, said.

My Fox Houston -
25 Jul 2011
Location: Queensland, Australia - Map It
Photo courtesy of My Fox Houston

France: Wild boars dead amid algae on Brittany coast

More than 30 dead wild boars have been found on the coast of north-western France this month amid suspicion of algae poisoning, officials say.

The carcasses, found in the water or on the shore, have led to fears about the risk from the algae to humans.

Three more boars were found on Wednesday near the mouth of the Gouessant estuary in Brittany, bringing the total to 31.... Gilles Buet, a Brittany water official, said the reason for the boars' deaths was still unknown.

"One of the theories we have is that the animals could have drunk water that could contain algae," Mr Buet told AFP news agency.

Local police official Philippe De Gestas said they were doing autopsies on some of the carcasses, as well as testing for hydrogen sulphide, a poisonous gas given off by the algae as they decompose.

"They were not [otherwise] sick and they did not drown," he said.

BBC News -
28 Jul 2011
Photo courtesy of BBC News
Location: Brittany, France - Map It

Chernobyl: A field trip to no man's land

. . . an international team of a dozen researchers who are here to study the ecosystem that was left behind after the 1986 accident.

..."But what we're finding is that there is a significant impact on both the population and the biodiversity - the number of species - in the zone. And it's directly proportional to the level of contamination."

But this is one side of a polarised scientific debate.

Dr Jim Smith, a radioecologist who has been studying Chernobyl for 20 years, says that the evidence from laboratory studies suggests there is no significant damage to wildlife.

"Lab studies are limited, though," he says. "They obviously cannot study animals in their natural environment and often are carried out over short periods of time."

BBC News -
26 Jul 2011
V Gill
Photo courtesy of BBC News
Location: Ukraine

More News

Dead gray whale undergoes detailed exam

A necropsy of a young gray whale that died Wednesday on Erlands Point is considered one of the most extensive examinations of a gray whale ever conducted in Washington state.

The 30-foot whale was identified as a male between 2 and 5 years old. No obvious signs of illness or life-threatening trauma were found, but health problems might be revealed through microscopic examination of tissues as well as tests for toxic chemicals.

The whale was clearly starving at the time of his death, but it is not clear what led to his emaciated condition, said Jessie Huggins of Cascadia Research, one of a dozen people involved in Thursday's examination.

... Of particular note was the exploration into the skull, marking the first time that Western Washington researchers have obtained fresh brain tissue from a gray whale.... Microscopic examination of the brain tissue could reveal whether gray whales are afflicted by one or more single-celled protozoa that can kill seals and sea otters. It is a question that has never been answered for gray whales

Kitsap Sun -
28 Jul 2011
C Dunagan
Photo courtesy of Kitsap Sun
Location: Erland Point, Washington, USA - Map It

Common Parasite Potentially Increases Risk of Brain Cancers

A common parasite may be worth investigating as a risk factor for brain cancers, according to a new geographic analysis by researchers from a French infectious disease institute and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Led by disease ecologist Frédéric Thomas of the French infectious disease research institute MIVEGEC and parasite ecologist Kevin Lafferty of USGS, the study analyzed 37 countries for several population factors, notably the incidence of adult brain cancers and the percent of people infected with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii — a single-celled organism found worldwide in at least one-third of the human population.

The analysis showed that countries where Toxoplasma gondii is common also had higher incidences of adult brain cancers than in those countries where the organism is not common.

Toxoplasma gondii is well-known to ecology and medicine: Toxoplasma gondii can be found in a variety of warm-blooded animals — ranging from whales to rodents to birds — and infectious stages of the Toxoplasma gondii parasite can only be transmitted via cat species, including bobcats, mountain lions and the domestic cat. USGS has a long history of research on toxoplasmosis as part of its mission to understand zoonotic diseases — diseases which intersect wildlife health and human health.

USGS Newsroom -
26 Jul 2011

Photo courtesy of The Guardian's The Week in Wildlife

West Nile Virus

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