White-nose syndrome confirmed in bats in Arkansas
White-nose syndrome, a fatal disease to several bat species, has been confirmed in Arkansas, the state Game and Fish Commission said Wednesday. The disease was documented in two northern long-eared bats found at a cave on a natural area managed by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission in Marion County, according to a news release.
... Five bats were found to have the disease during a survey of the Marion County cave on Jan. 11. The fungus was confirmed by tests on two of the bats by the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center, according to an AGFC news release. The bats had damage to wing, ear and tail membranes consistent with white-nose syndrome.
What's killing all the starfish on the West Coast?
Starfish have been mysteriously dying by the millions in recent months along the West Coast, worrying biologists who say the sea creatures are key to the marine ecosystem.
Scientists first started noticing the mass deaths in June 2013. Different types of starfish, also known as sea stars, were affected, from wild ones along the coast to those in captivity, according to Jonathan Sleeman, director of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center.
... The most commonly observed symptoms are white lesions on the arms of the sea star. The lesions spread rapidly, resulting in the loss of the arm. Within days, the infection consumes the creature's entire body, and it dies.
Entire populations have been wiped out in Puget Sound off the coast of Washington state, in the Salish Sea off Canada's British Columbia as well as along the coast of California. The mortality rate is estimated at 95 percent.
... “What we currently think is likely happening is that there is a pathogen, like a parasite or a virus or a bacteria, that is infecting the sea stars and that compromises in some way their immune system,” Pete Raimondi, chair of the department of ecology and evolutionary biology, at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told AFP.
Washington, and California, USA, and British Columbia, Cananda
Assorted South West parasites favour cleaner habitat
BIOLOGISTS investigating parasites on freshwater fish in the South West believe they have discovered at least 42 native parasite species that were previously undescribed...Murdoch University Associate Professor Alan Lymbery, who presented the research at the WA Freshwater Fish Symposium, says two known introduced parasite species were found.
In addition to the introduced species, 42 morphologically different native parasites appeared to be different species.... Dr Lymbery says 30–40 per cent of the parasites were only found in a single species of fish, which had serious implications for the parasite’s conservation risk if the fish was endangered.
“[Parasites] are probably at more risk than the fish host species because although some of the parasites we found have a direct life cycle, which means that the fish is their only host, a large number of them also had an indirect life cycle, which means they rely on other hosts as well,” he says.
... Dr Lymbery says the finding most fish biologists found interesting was that parasitism generally increased with improving water quality. He says parasites, particularly those with complex life cycles, are quite sensitive indicators of environmental quality....“Contrary to what most people think, which is that the worse the conditions are, the more disease or parasitism you have, you actually don’t find that,” Dr Lymbery says.
“What we found was that the better the quality of the habitat, the more fish were parasitised and the greater number of species of parasites you found.”
Some Good News Amid Bad News, for Hawai`i’s Endangered Honeycreepers
Warming temperatures due to climate change are exposing endangered Hawaiian forest birds to greater risk of avian malaria. But new research led by the U.S. Geological Survey holds out some hope that the birds may be able to adapt.
For decades, scientists have documented declines and extinctions among species of Hawaiian honeycreepers due to the spread of avian malaria and other diseases. At one time, the Hawaiian Islands had no mosquitoes—and no mosquito-borne diseases. But, by the late 1800s, mosquitoes were firmly established in the islands. Another invasive species—feral pigs—helped the mosquito population boom by creating larval habitat as they rooted through forests. The honeycreepers had no natural defense against a disease they had never before experienced.
"Honeycreepers are exquisitely sensitive to avian malaria," said Dr. Carter Atkinson, a USGS microbiologist based at the USGS Pacific Islands Ecosystems Research Center in Hawai’i. Atkinson is the lead author of two new research papers examining how climate change is increasing the honeycreepers’ risk of infection.
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