July 22, 2013

Frog fungus sheds light on disease spread and more wildlife disease news


Bird experts and scientists left puzzled as birds fall dead from north Queensland skies

EXPERTS are looking for clues as to why common black kites are falling dead from north Queensland skies.

Black kites, also known as shite-hawks and firebirds, are medium-sized birds of prey and are among the few raptor species which gather in flocks. Testing has so far excluded bird flu and Newcastle disease, both highly contagious viral infections linked to mass deaths of migratory wild birds, and transmissible to humans.

But the cause of the latest spate of deaths, possibly linked to a cross-border infection, is still a mystery.

Biosecurity Queensland has confirmed it is testing "several kites in relation to unexplained deaths in the tropical north Queensland region''. "The exact number of bird deaths is unknown and estimates are not available at this stage of the investigation,'' a spokesman told The Courier-Mail.

...Bird of prey expert James Biggs said it was highly unusual for raptors to die in large numbers or, literally, drop dead from the sky.

"If it is not disease, it could possibly be poisoning, but without being familiar with the ongoing tests it is hard to know,'' the Cairns Tropical Zoo bird supervisor said.

Courier Mail
19 Jul 2013
P Michael
Location: Queensland, Australia - Map It

Paralysis killing ravens and crows in B.C.

West Nile Virus, which also affects humans, suspected as being the cause.

A deadly paralysis is striking ravens and crows in the Peace River region. Leona Green, who runs the Hillspring Wildlife Rehabilitation facility in Dawson Creek, said Wednesday that she has had dozens of reports of ravens and crows being found sitting on the ground unable to use their feet. "At first it was ravens and now we're seeing crows," said Green.

University of B.C. professor Patrick Mooney, who specializes in biodiversity and urban birds, believes it's possible that the birds have died from contracting the West Nile Virus that is carried by mosquitoes."The tip-off is that it started in ravens and now it's being seen in crows," said Mooney.

Vancouver Sun
17 Jul 2013
G Bellett
Location: Peace River, Canada - Map It

Frog fungus sheds light on disease spread

Pathogens may become more virulent as they spread from one area to the next, say the authors of a new study of the frog-killing chytrid fungus. They say the findings could have implications for how we study the spread of human diseases.

Evolutionary ecologist Dr Ben Phillips, of James Cook University and Dr Robert Puschendorf of Plymouth University, report their findings today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

"The spread of disease is a very common phenomenon. What we've noticed here with the frogs is that the process of spread can actually change the virulence of the pathogen," says Phillips.

ABC Science
10 Jul 2013
A Salleh

Cited Journal Article
Phillips BL & Puschendorf R. Do pathogens become more virulent as they spread? Evidence from the amphibian declines in Central America. Proc. R. Soc. B. 2013 Sep 07; 280 (1766): 20131290. doi:10.1098/rspb.2013.1290 1471-2954

Mysterious Manatee and Dolphin Deaths in Florida Confound Scientists

In 2011, a blue-green algae superbloom
turned the waters of the northern lagoon
a sickly green color. (SJRWMD)

Once a lush and healthy estuary, the Indian River Lagoon is now an enigmatic death trap. Running along 40 percent of Florida’s Atlantic coast, the lagoon’s brackish waters harbor a mysterious killer that has claimed the lives of hundreds of manatees, pelicans, and dolphins. Nobody knows why.

In April, NOAA declared the spate of manatee deaths an Unusual Mortality Event, a designation granted when marine mammal deaths or strandings are significantly higher than normal, demand immediate attention, and are the result of a common but unknown cause. Soon, the bottlenose dolphin die-off may be given the same designation.

... Since last July, 51 dolphins, 111 manatees, and as many as 300 pelicans have perished in the lagoon. The deaths don’t follow an obvious pattern: Manatees are dying so quickly that some still have food in their mouths, while the dolphins and pelicans appear to be starving to death.

11 Jul 2013
N Drake
Location: Florida, USA 

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