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24 April 2014 11:45 am ,
Vol. 344 ,
Major climate data sets have underestimated the rate of global warming in the last 15 years owing largely to poor data...
The tsetse fly is best known as the vector for the trypanosome parasites that cause sleeping sickness and a disease in...
The National Institutes of Health is revising its "two strikes" rule, which allowed researchers only one chance to...
By stabilizing the components of retromers, molecular complexes that act like recycling bins in cells, a recently...
Fossil fuels power modern society by generating heat, but much of that heat is wasted. Semiconductor devices called...
Researchers are gaining insights into what made Supertyphoon Haiyan so powerful and devastating through post-storm...
Millions around the world got a first-hand look at what it was like to be in Tacloban while it was pummeled by...
- 24 April 2014 11:45 am , Vol. 344 , #6182
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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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