November 21, 2011

Today's Wildlife Disease News Stories


Dead baby orca will provide scientific information

A baby killer whale, which died within days of birth, promises to provide a wealth of scientific information to marine mammal biologists throughout the Northwest. The young female, with her umbilical cord still attached, was found dead Monday on the Washington coast near Seaview. The body was taken to the Seaside Aquarium in Oregon and then on to Portland State University for a thorough examination.

It is sad to realize that the little orca died so soon after birth, said Deborah Duffield, a biologist at PSU who participated in the necropsy. But what can be learned from its fresh tissues will be "invaluable."

"It's a fabulous little animal," Duffield said. "There is no way to put a price tag on it. We get so few of these killer whales. And the response of researchers is telling. We had people flying in from Canada and other places."

The cause of death will not be determined until tissue samples are examined, said Dyanna Lamborn of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife who participated in the necropsy. The examination revealed that the animal suffered from a hiatal hernia, in which the stomach protrudes upward into the chest.

Kitsap Sun -
16 Nov 2011
Location: Seaview, Oregon, USA - Map It 


Vultures Dying at Alarming Rate

Veterinary drug residue in cattle and livestock carcasses is killing South Asian vultures.

Vultures in South Asia were on the brink of extinction until Lindsay Oaks and Richard Watson, from The Peregrine Fund in the US, undertook observational and forensic studies to find out why the number of birds was falling so rapidly. They discovered the vultures were being poisoned by residues of an anti-inflammatory drug (diclofenac) used in cattle and other livestock, whose carcasses they feed on. The work is presented in a chapter of the new book, Wildlife Ecotoxicology -- Forensic Approaches, published by Springer.

According to the authors: "The story is far from over and the stakes are high. The failure to effectively control carcass contamination by diclofenac will likely lead to extinction of these magnificent birds which, through their scavenger role, have controlled the spread of infectious disease for millennia, as well as provided other important ecological services."

Oaks and Watson describe their scientific investigations, including their many challenges and setbacks, following the unprecedented decline in the population of two of the world's most abundant raptors -- the Oriental White-backed vulture and the Long-billed vulture -- in India in the 1990s, and neighboring Pakistan by the early 2000s. They describe how they were able to prove that the commonly used anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac, fed to ailing cattle and other livestock, was being ingested by the wild birds feeding on the carcasses and causing visceral gout, a manifestation of renal failure.

Science Daily -
17 Nov 2011


Study explains mechanism behind mass casualty of corals when Earth's climate warms

Against the backdrop of the observation that the warming of the Earth's climate spells a mass casualty for corals across the world, a team of Australian scientists - from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University - has found that the warming of sea water sets off a complicated cascade of molecular signals which leads up to the self-inflicted death of corals and their symbiotic algae.

The scientists -who essentially worked with Acropora corals from the Heron Island reef, found that the cascade is triggered when the ocean temperatures become as much as 3 degrees lower than the temperatures generally linked to coral bleaching --- a situation in which largely leads to a heat-stress in the corals and their symbiotic algae.

Once the cascade is triggered, the process finally ends in programmed cell-death, or 'apoptosis', whereby the weak or infected body cells in living organisms - corals and humans included - are destroyed deliberately.

Top News -
19 Nov 2011

Cited Journal Article
Ainsworth, T.D., et al. Defining the tipping point. A complex cellular life/death balance in corals in response to stress. Scientific Reports (Nature) 2011, 10.1038/srep00160.


Photo courtesy of The Guardian's Week in Wildlife