A New Virus is Attacking North America’s Wild Turkey Populations
Hunters chasing down their Thanksgiving gobblers may not be able to detect virus from sight alone
As Thanksgiving nears and gravy-drenched pieces of hot turkey induce culinary daydreams, wildlife biologists are trying to connect the dots on a virus that has started to infect North America’s wild turkey population.
Lymphoproliferative Disease Virus, known as LPDV, has been present in domestic turkeys in Europe and Israel for decades, but in the last few years, biologists have started confirming cases in wild turkeys in the eastern United States. Some of the infected birds have lesions on their head and feet, although many of the sick fowl are not symptomatic, making their identification difficult.
...Efforts are currently underway to screen these birds and figure out the prevalence of the virus. Early indications are that LPDV is common in this test group of turkeys, but many unknowns remain. For example, Brown said pinpointing where these infected turkeys reside is difficult. The best he could estimate was “throughout the eastern US.”
Woylie decline linked to parasitic infection
BLOOD parasites called Trypanosoma have been implicated in the population decline of a critically endangered marsupial.
A collaboration between Murdoch University and the Department of Parks and Wildlife, has identifyed Trypanosoma as one of the possible causes behind the rapid decline of the woylie (Bettongia pencillata).
Trypanosoma, largely considered to be non-pathonagetic to wildlife, can become pathogenic in times of stress, gestation, poor nutrition and co-infections.
This study is the first to investigate and correlate the presence of Australian trypanosomes with tissue damage in marsupial hosts, detailing their capacity to invade cells in the vertebrate host.
Loss of wetland biodiversity increases disease risk in frogs
Amphibians in species-poor wetlands have a higher risk of becoming infected with a virulent parasite than those in wetlands with a rich diversity of species, according to a Purdue University finding that sheds light on how biodiversity moderates the transmission of infectious diseases.
In wetlands with a wide variety of both amphibian and parasite species, Pacific chorus frogs are far less likely to become infected with Ribeiroia ondatrae, a trematode that causes limb malformations in frogs and newts.
"The loss of species diversity has major implications for how harmful and deadly diseases are transmitted in nature," said Jason Hoverman, an assistant professor of vertebrate ecology. "While the risk of getting infected with this trematode is largely a factor of how many trematodes are present in the community, we found that disease transmission is also impacted by the number of host species and other parasite species in the system."
The study addresses a paradox of disease ecology: In highly diverse communities, potential hosts are less likely to become infected with harmful pathogens, even though these communities contain more parasites overall. In complex wetland systems, frogs may carry a greater number of parasites, but hosts and parasites work in tandem to prevent infections by the most virulent pathogens. Reducing parasite diversity as well as host diversity greatly increases a frog's risk of contracting a crippling parasite such as Ribeiroia ondatrae.
The implications of losing biodiversity go beyond wetlands, Hoverman said.
Golden eagles with mange
The Wildlife Investigations Lab has been involved in the investigation of three cases of severe mite infestation, or mange, affecting subadult golden eagles in central California. Two cases were reported to WIL by SPCA for Monterey County in December 2012 and August 2013, while a third case was reported by biologists with the East Bay Regional Park District, also in August 2013. The eagles had significant feather loss and crusting of the skin on their head, neck, legs, and lower abdomen.
Severe mite infestation is unusual in birds and especially uncommon in adult birds. The degree of feather loss and infestation exhibited by these golden eagles has not been previously documented.
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