Skip to comments.Tourists may be making Antarctica’s penguins sick
Posted on 12/13/2018 1:32:20 PM PST by ETL
You can give your cat the flu. You can also pass pneumonia to a chimpanzee or tuberculosis to a bird. This kind of human-to-animal disease transmission, known as reverse zoonosis, has been seen on every continent except one: Antarctica. Now, human-linked pathogens in bird poop reveal, for the first time, that even animals on this isolated, ice-bound landmass can pick up a bug from tourists or visiting scientists. This newly identified infection route could have devastating consequences for Antarctic bird colonies, including population collapse and even extinction.
[Were] obsessed about the potential for novel diseases to jump from wildlife to humans and cause an epidemic, says ornithologist and ecologist Kyle Elliott at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who was not involved in the new study. In reality, the transmission of novel diseases from humans to wildlife has been far more disastrous.
The list of diseases that animals pass on to humans is long: anthrax, Ebola, tuberculosis, and Zika, to name just a few. By contrast, diseases known to move exclusively from humans to animals is much shorter, including human strains of influenza and mumps. Some pathogenslike Salmonella and Campylobacterbounce from animal to human and back again. But some strains are specific to people, and simple blood tests can determine whether a pathogen started out in an animal or a human host.
Microbiologist Marta Cerdà-Cuéllar at the Research Center for Animal Health in Barcelona, Spain, was skeptical of a mainstream scientific ideathat reverse zoonosis doesnt exist in Antarctica. So she and colleagues collected fecal samples from 666 adult birds from 24 different species throughout the Southern Ocean, including rockhopper penguins, Atlantic yellow-nosed albatrosses, giant petrels, and skuas. Fearing that already deposited waste might be contaminated, the scientists scooped their poop from the birds themselves, a tricky business that meant catching them and cleaning them out with sterile swabs.
Penguins are very strong and skuas are extremely clever, says Jacob González-Solís, an environmental and evolutionary biologist from the University of Barcelona who was on the team. If you fail to catch a skua during your first approach, he says, it will never let you get close again.
They collected their samples from 2008 to 2011 at four locations: Livingston Island, off the Antarctic Peninsula; and the Southern Ocean outposts of Marion Island, Gough Island, and the Falkland Islands, which are on many of the seabirds migration routes. Birds and humans in the more isolated islands are coming into increasing contact, thanks to research centers there and growing numbers of tourists.
From the fecal samples, the scientists isolated and identified bacterial species and compared them to strains in humans and domestic animals. DNA from Campylobacter jejuni, which causes food poisoning, was a close match for such strains, suggesting humans may be passing their bacteria on to local seabirds, the researchers report online in Science of the Total Environment. The presence of certain strains of Salmonella and an antimicrobial-resistant type of another gastrointestinal bug, C. lari, which was found in all four locations, supports that conclusion, Cerdà-Cuéllar says.
Elliott says its hard to predict which species will be impacted by the spread of these microbes. We often think of polar environments as being too cold and that disease transmission is not a huge threat, but the authors have clear evidence that bacteria can spread widely in polar environments. González-Solís predicts that, even though Salmonella and Campylobacter dont kill most infected wildlife, the pathogens could have devastating consequences to Antarctic bird colonies, because this is the first time most birds there have been exposed to these strains.
So, say the papers authors, governments and scientific organizations need to do more to limit human impacts in Antarctica. For example, they should enforce existing rules about carrying home human wastewhich can spread bacteriasays marine and polar ecologist Thomas Brey of the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany, who is the German representative to the Scientific Committee of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.
Elliott is pessimistic. One reason that Antarctica remains largely protected is because of lobbying from tourist and scientific groups, he says. While we should do as much as possible to reduce transmission, its hard to believe that we will stop tourism and science at these sites, and so it is hard to believe that humans wont continue to transmit pathogens.
It turns out that these elusive seabirds had lived on the islands undetected for at least 2,800 years, according to new, unpublished research presented Dec. 11 at the American Geophysical Union meeting in Washington, D.C.
It all started when a group of researchers spent 10 months doing what they thought was a pan-Antarctic survey of Adélie penguins by looking through every single cloud-free satellite image that they had of the southern continent.
"We thought that we knew where all the [Adélie] penguin colonies were," said Heather Lynch, an ecologist at the Stony Brook University, during the news conference.
That is, until a colleague at NASA developed an algorithm that made the detections automated. ..."
When Lynch and her team went back to look more closely at the images, sure enough, they saw the extent to which the Danger Islands were filled with penguin poop.
"We, I think, had missed it in part because we hadn't expected to find them there," Lynch said. They had previously surveyed one of the islands of the group, but not all of them.
The Danger Islands are not easy to get to, as they are "so-called because they're almost always covered by a thick layer of sea ice all around that precludes regular censuses in this area," Lynch said.
Even so, spurred by the poop stains, Lynch's colleagues journeyed to the islands for a full survey, where they counted physically on the ground and with drones just how populated by this seabird they were. "In this area that's so small that it doesn't even appear on most maps of the Antarctic," live more Adélie penguins than the rest of Antarctica combined, Lynch said.
(Excerpt) Read more at foxnews.com ...
Scientists announced an incredible discovery by looking at poop stains in satellite images 1.5 million Adélie penguins were living and
thriving on a little patch in Antarctica surrounded by treacherous sea ice called the Danger Islands
Surprised theyre not blaming global warming...
Science is all about keeping an open mind, listening to others and not saying things are “settled.”
With that said, speaking of tourists, I’ll tell ya one thing:
I sailed across the backside of a cruise-ship, once,
(off Canaveral / Banana River.)
(With Kenny Bunk.)
They’re blaming humans. That’s what matters.
Liberals make ME sick, so this doesn't seem too far-fetched.
My comments on the other Penguin thread:
These penguins have apparently been doing just fine for about 2,500 years without any assistance from humans. Now that they have been discovered and the scientists have declared that they intend to protect them, we have reason to be concerned. Bad news for the penguins.
"...These penguins have apparently been doing just fine for about 2,500 years without any assistance from humans. Now that they have been discovered and the scientists have declared that they intend to protect them, we have reason to be concerned. Bad news for the penguins..."
Yes, I thought of your comment as I was preparing this thread. But then forgot to ping you. Sorry. You were of course spot on.
Or it could have no effect at all.
They don't know so they default to the worst case scenario in order to impress the media.
Exactly. But because they’re scientists, they want to cry wolf and try to ruin it for all the tourists, even though there are very strict limits on how many tourists can land onshore and you are not supposed to get within a certain distance of the penguins.
It is all those biologists who keep darting animals and subject them to “probing” like aliens do to us instead of just leaving them alone.
Quick! Panic! Doomed!
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