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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: Even Whales Get Bitten by Mosquitoes
29 May 2013 12:30 pm
No one has ever reported a wild orca dying from a mosquito-borne disease. But it's a different story for killer whales in captivity. In 1990, Kanduke, a 25-year-old male orca died suddenly at SeaWorld Orlando, the victim of encephalitis virus carried by a mosquito. And in 2007, Taku, a 14-yar-old male orca, died at SeaWorld San Antonio; unknown to his trainers, he'd been infected with West Nile Virus, the disease's tell-tale lesions spotted during a necropsy of his brain tissue. Captive orcas are particularly susceptible to these mosquito-borne diseases, scientists reported last month in the Journal of Marine Animals and Their Ecology, because of the shallow pools they're kept in. Two researchers observed seven captive orcas at SeaWorld in Florida for thousands of hours from 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m., noting their behaviors. Most of the time, the whales stayed in a "logging" position, basically resting close to the surface. In the early evening hours, the scientists also observed mosquitoes landing on the animals' exposed dorsal fins for a meal. Captive orcas may also be more susceptible to these diseases, the scientists say, because they suffer from sunburn and broken, damaged teeth (as can be seen in the photo above of Keto), which weaken their immune systems. More captive orcas in the United States may be similarly infected, but the presence of such diseases is rarely noted in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's records of the animals' deaths, the scientists say. Instead, at least in Taku's case, the official cause of death was "pneumonia" without any reference to the bug bite.
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