Tags: Climate Change | Global Warming | virus | seals | melting ice | arctic circle | distemper

Melting Ice Spreads Virus Killing Thousands of Seals, Otters

grey seal pups on the Isle of May
(Jane Barlow/AP)

By    |   Thursday, 07 November 2019 04:31 PM

Melting Arctic ice is helping a version of the measles virus that has killed thousands of otters and seals spread from the Atlantic to the Pacific, according to a new study published by the journal Scientific Reports.

Phocine distemper virus or PDV is a virus that acts basically like a version of the measles for seals. It seemed contained to the Atlantic Ocean until an outbreak occurred in the Alaskan Pacific in 2004. Researchers now attribute that change to melting ice in the Arctic Circle, which opened pathways between the oceans that animals infected with the virus used to transport the virus from the North Atlantic to the North Pacific.

"We went back and looked at what ice was doing, and the biggest opening in sea ice to date had occurred in 2002," Tracey Goldstein, the study's senior author, told Business Insider on Thursday. "It was a perfect-storm combination: In August and September of 2002 there was a bad outbreak in north Atlantic harbor seals. And September was also when ice extent was lowest, which led to the spread."

Harbor seals are the most vulnerable to the disease. Tens of thousands died during outbreaks in 1988 and 2002. PDV killed roughly 1,000 harbor and gray seals in New England last year. Steller sea lions, northern sea otters, and northern fur seals have all been infected with the disease following its spread to the Pacific.

"I didn't expect to find this many PDV-positive animals in so many species," Goldstein added. "I think were really now just learning the species range that PDV distemper can infect."

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Melting Arctic ice is helping a version of the measles virus that has killed thousands of otters and seals spread from the Atlantic to the Pacific, according to a new study published by the journal Scientific Reports.
virus, seals, melting ice, arctic circle, distemper
265
2019-31-07
Thursday, 07 November 2019 04:31 PM
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