Scientists focus on harbor seals as "samplers of the environment'
... Scientists are increasingly finding ocean mammals are valuable sources of information about diseases and toxins found in coastal waters. The most recent research has focused on harbor seals, who live from birth to death just off shore. "I view them as samplers for the environment," said Stephanie Hughes, a recent graduate of the Moss Landing Marine Labs and marine scientist who researches diseases in seals.
The seals, whose territory ranges from Alaska to Mexico, live close to humans and eat many of the same fish that people do, including sardines and salmon. They scoop up sediment full of human contaminants when they swoop to the sea floor for bottom-feeding fish. "Seals do similar things that we do, in the same places. So if seals can get something, then people ask, 'Well, what if I swim in the bay?'" said Denise Greig, a marine scientist who studies chemical contamination in seals at Sausalito's Marine Mammal Center.
In a recent study of water from San Francisco to Monterey Bay, Greig and her colleagues found Monterey Bay seal blubber had high levels of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals, while San Francisco Bay seals were full of flame retardant chemicals and other industrial toxins.
To better track the local trends, the Marine Mammal Center plans to make "disease maps" for the California coast. Scientists are using the past 10 years' worth of data about diseases in stranded seals, sea lions and whales captured by mammal labs from San Diego to Sausalito.
West Nile Virus Is Behind Bald Eagle Deaths in Utah
The mysterious deaths of at least 27 bald eagles in Utah were caused by the West Nile virus, state officials said on Tuesday.
Officials with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources were concerned by the birds’ deaths in recent weeks. Many eagles were found dead in the wild, and six died while being treated in rehabilitation centers, officials said.
The department tested the birds and ruled out several other possible causes of death, including toxic chemicals, poisons, bacterial infections and viruses. Officials believe that the birds contracted the virus by eating infected waterfowl, called eared grebes, that died in the Great Salt Lake.
The virus is rare during the winter because it usually spreads through mosquitoes, which are more active during the warmer months, officials said.
Scientists Uncover Hidden River of Rubbish Threatening to Devastate Wildlife
Thousands of pieces of plastic have been discovered, submerged along the river bed of the upper Thames Estuary by scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London and the Natural History Museum.
The sheer amount of plastic recovered shows there is an unseen stream of rubbish flowing through London which could be a serious threat to aquatic wildlife. The findings, published online in Marine Pollution Bulletin, highlight the cause for concern, not only for ecosystems around the river but for the North Sea, in to which the Thames flows.
... The potential impacts this could have for wildlife are far reaching: not only are the species that live in and around the river affected, but also those in seas that rivers feed into."... This litter moves up and down the river bed depending on tides. The movement causes the pieces of plastic to break down into smaller fragments. These are small enough to be eaten by even the smallest animals, which are in turn eaten by larger fish and birds. Once digested, plastic can release toxic chemicals which are then passed through the food chain. These toxic chemicals, in high doses, could harm the health of wildlife."
OTHER WILDLIFE HEALTH NEWS STORIES
- Virus Kills over 1,000 Bottlenose Dolphins along U.S. East Coast [Scientific American]
- Field Notes: Chronic Wasting Disease found in Pa. again [Pennsylvania, USA]
- Dog virus killing tigers, red pandas and lions [India]
- Disease threatens Rapid City's bighorn herd; vaccine in the works
- Pacific coast starfish dying in record numbers [Australia]
- UVI researchers find viruses may be cause of coral disease
- NOAA Takes Over Sea Animal Rescues
- Houston Toad Blood Draw [You Tube Video 1 min 08 secs][Courtesy of HerpDigest]
- UC Davis, CDFW and USFWS team up to assess western pond turtle health in California [CDFW Wildlife Investigations Lab Blog]
- The 4th Workshop for Canada’s Wildlife Health Professionals – Quebec City, April 8-9, 2014 [healthywildlife.ca Blog]
- Two more dogs attacked by rabid raccoons [Florida, USA]
- US grants Rs. 110 million for Avian Influenza Surveillance program in Sri Lanka [Sri Lanka]
- EcoHealth Alliance joins Bat Conservation International to conserve bats, safeguard human health
- Ecology and Environment : Data from University of Southern Florida Advance Knowledge in Marine Ecology