October 24, 2013

Infectious Disease and Species Extinctions and other wildlife disease news stories


Moose Die-Off Alarms Scientists

Across North America — in places as far-flung as Montana and British Columbia, New Hampshire and Minnesota — moose populations are in steep decline. And no one is sure why.

What exactly has changed remains a mystery. Several factors are clearly at work. But a common thread in most hypotheses is climate change.

Winters have grown substantially shorter across much of the moose’s range. In New Hampshire, a longer fall with less snow has greatly increased the number of winter ticks, a devastating parasite. “You can get 100,000 ticks on a moose,” said Kristine Rines, a biologist with the state’s Fish and Game Department.

In Minnesota, the leading culprits are brain worms and liver flukes. Both spend part of their life cycles in snails, which thrive in moist environments.

Another theory is heat stress. Moose are made for cold weather, and when the temperature rises above 23 degrees Fahrenheit in winter, as has happened more often in recent years, they expend extra energy to stay cool. That can lead to exhaustion and death.

In the Cariboo Mountains of British Columbia, a recent study pinned the decline of moose on the widespread killing of forest by an epidemic of pine bark beetles, which seem to thrive in warmer weather. The loss of trees left the moose exposed to human and animal predators.

New York Times
17 Oct 2013
J Robbins

AVMA, European veterinary group, issue joint statement

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) this week issued a joint statement, entitled “The Essential Role of Veterinarians in Protecting Animal, Human, Public, and Environmental Health—A Global Public Good.” The statement emphasizes the important role veterinarians play in the protection human and public health by controlling animal disease.

The organizations note that while the public appreciates the role of veterinarians in caring for the health and well-being of companion and farm animals, their additional roles in protecting and advancing human, public, and environmental health are less recognized.

Drovers Cattle Network
15 Oct 2013
J Maday

Dr. Matthew Heard, Winthrop University - Infectious Disease and Species Extinctions

Matthew Heard is an assistant professor of biology at Winthrop University where his research is focused on understanding the drivers of extinction for plants and animals across the world. In recent projects, he has examined how species invasions impact native plants, the role infectious disease plays in driving extinctions, and the ecological and evolutionary consequences of global climate change.

WAMC Northeast Public Radio
14 Oct 2013
B Cornelius

Cited Journal Article [pdf]
MJ Heard et al. The Threat of Disease Increases as Species Move Toward Extinction. Conservation Biology.2013; [Epub ahead of print 2013 Sep 04] doi: 10.1111/cobi.12143

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