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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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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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