Thursday, February 19, 2009

Death by Contamination

A University of California, Davis study of dead sea otters collected from 1998 to 2004 found that toxoplasmosis was the cause of death for 13% of the animals. Proximity to freshwater outflows into the ocean were a major risk factor. Ingestion of oocysts from cat faeces is considered to be the most likely ultimate source. According to an article in the New Scientist, the parasites have also been found in dolphins and whales. Researchers Black and Massie believe that anchovies, which travel from estuaries into the open ocean, may be helping to spread the disease. Michael Grigg of the US National Institute of Health mentioned that a new type of T. gondii, type X, has been found which is responsible for the large deaths of sea otters, and may be "poised to sweep the world".

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