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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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ScienceShot: Studying Fur Seals Can Give Them a Heart Attack
22 November 2013 2:30 pm
Wildlife veterinarians working on Chile’s remote Guafo Island discovered fatal heart damage, known as cardiomyopathy, in five South American fur seal pups that they had captured and placed in bags for up to 30 minutes, a standard practice to examine small seals. As part of an ongoing biological survey of the island, the researchers had caught and released fur seals for 4 years with no captivity-related deaths, but the sudden cluster triggered an investigation. Necropsies revealed that the pups had chronic hookworm infections, which aggravated their immune systems and sent their adrenal glands into hyperdrive. Adrenal glands produce stress hormones that accelerate the heart, so the team believes that captivity and trauma from bagging pushed the seal pups over the edge. The exams, reported in Marine Mammal Science, revealed the unmistakable lesions of cardiomyopathy in the pups' heart muscles. Fur seals become only the second marine mammals, after dolphins, shown to develop heart disease after handling or captivity. The biologists suggest that fieldworkers should look for signs of chronic infections in seals—such as malaise or unusually rapid breathing—before handling the animals and risking further harm.