Galápagos finches that inspired Darwin under threat from parasitical flies
Species found during historic HMS Beagle voyage and central to naturalist's theory of evolution now endangered
The Galápagos finches are part of the history of science. Darwin collected them during the round-the-world voyage of HMS Beagle and their study helped the naturalist conceive the theory of evolution. Although all the birds belonged to a single group, the 14 species were spread across different islands in the archipelago. Darwin developed the idea that geographical isolation and exposure to varying environmental conditions explained why they had evolved differently from a common ancestor. In particular he emphasised the divergent form of their beaks, some suited to a seed-based diet, while others adapted to eating plants or insects.
But this natural habitat is endangered. The International Union for Conservation of Nature now lists two of the finch species as critically endangered. In several other cases the population is in decline. The most severe threat to their existence seems to be a common fly from Brazil and other South American countries, Philornis downsi, which was accidentally introduced to the islands in the 1960s.
The flies lay eggs in the finches' nests that hatch into larvae. In turn these find their way into the nasal cavity of the fledglings, leading to deformation of the beak. At night they feed on their blood, sapping their energy to such an extent that some of them die – as many as a third in the case of the mangrove finches, according to a recent article by Elizabeth Kolbert, published in the Yale Environment 360 online magazine.
Mysterious Disease Turning Sea Stars to Goo May Disrupt Tidal Ecosystems
A mysterious disease that has turned hundreds of starfish into limp lumps of goo along both the East and West coasts in recent months could potentially induce a cascade of other ecological effects in tidal systems, researchers say.
The disease — known as sea star wasting syndrome — begins as a small lesion, and eventually results in the loss of limbs and ultimate disintegration and death of the leggy animal. The cause of the disease remains unknown to researchers, who have not been able to determine if it is related to a bacterial infection, a virus or a combination of effects worsened by environmental stressors, such as increased water temperature.
The syndrome has afflicted sea star populations on the West Coast in the past, and in those instances, populations eventually bounced back, Smithsonian invertebrate zoologist Christopher Mah told LiveScience. But this current episode appears more severe than previous cases, killing up to 95 percent of some populations consisting of hundreds of individuals, ...
Drug-Resistant Germs Bred In Humans Show Up In Wild Animals
|Source:Environmental Health News|
Crows don't often hang out in hospitals, where the overuse of antibiotics has created drug-resistant germs. Yet crows in some areas of the U.S. carry drug-resistant bacteria in their bodies, according to a new study. Poop from about 2.5 percent of the crows studied had microbes that were resistant to a drug of last resort for infections in hospitals, Environmental Health News reports.
The crow survey adds to a growing body of evidence that so-called superbugs have reached wild animals. Environmental Health News links to studies that have found drug-resistant microbes in everything from houseflies to whales.
There's not yet research showing how exactly crows' and other animals' carrying superbugs will affect human health, veterinary research scientist Julie Ellis told Environmental Health News. But researchers think wild animals could help spread drug resistance worldwide. Crows could carry their bugs everywhere they fly. Environmental Health News has a nice graphic showing how drug-resistant germs spread between different places, including how crows could have picked up a hospital bug.
Dolphin-Killing Virus Spreads South, May Be Infecting Whales Too
A viral outbreak that’s killing bottlenose dolphins is moving down the U.S. East Coast as the animals migrate south for the winter. Between July 1 and November 3, at least 753 animals have died.
...The die-off has already been classified as an Unusual Mortality Event by the federal government – a designation that frees up resources and sends investigators and responders to the hardest-hit areas. It’s already exceeded the pace set by the last major morbillivirus outbreak on the East Coast, an event that lasted for 11 months, between June 1987 and May 1988, and ultimately claimed 742 dolphins.
... Indeed, there’s something in the mix this time around that could be even more worrying. Other species have been showing up dead with dolphin morbillivirus in their tissues. Since July, three out of four dead humpback whales (in Massachusetts, Virginia, and North Carolina), and a two out of three dead pygmy sperm whales (in Georgia and Massachusetts) have tested positive for the pathogen.
Dolphin morbillivirus isn’t often reported in these species. Whether the whales are dead because of a morbillivirus infection – or simply exposed to it – is still unknown.
OTHER WILDLIFE HEALTH RELATED NEWS
- Rare whale found on Venice Beach likely died elsewhere [Venice Beach, California, USA - Map It ]
- Virus suspected in humpback whale death on Hatteras Island [Hatteras Island, North Carolina, USA- Map It ]
- UPDATE: Swans struck by mystery illness [Radipole, England - Map It ]
- Outdoors blog: NDOW to investigate bighorn sheep disease
- Grizzly deaths drop 50 percent in Yellowstone area
- Vt. wildlife officials ask hunters to extract a bear tooth for study on the population [Vermont, USA]
- New UC Davis – CDFW Publication describes the pathologic findings from a notoedric mange outbreak in Western gray squirrels from the San Bernardino mountains [CDFW Wildlife Investigations Lab blog]
- How hibernacula may help scientists understand a deadly bat disease
- High Bat Mortality from Wind Turbines
- Doctors, veterinarians share ideas for treating medical problems in humans, animals
- New SARS-like virus discovered in Chinese horseshoe bats
- Red tide lingers, bringing allergies and fishy stench near Santa Cruz beaches [California, USA]
- How Mice Survive Infection by Virulent Toxoplasma Parasites
- Camel tests positive for Mers virus
- How Does a Tick Do Its Dirty Work? Research Video Offers a Clue
- Fluffy The Penguin Gets The World's First Penguin MRI
- Oldest Big Cat Fossils Discovered in Tibet [Shared by a fellow Digest reader! Thanks Jerry!]