A deadly virus that attacks seals may spread faster due to the loss of Arctic sea ice due to warming temperatures.
The Phocine Staupevirus (PDV), which was responsible for the deaths of thousands of European seals in 2002, was found two years later in North Sea vipers in Alaska, prompting scientists to ask how the virus reached them.
According to a 15-year study published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports and led by researchers from the University of California-Davis, the "radical transformation" of sea ice could be a new route for contact between seals in the Arctic and in the sub-arctic regions, which was not possible before.
"The loss of sea ice causes marine animals to search for wildlife and they are looking for new habitats and the removal of this physical barrier so that they can move in new ways," said Corresponding Author Tracey Goldstein, Deputy Director of One Health Institutes at the Veterinary Faculty of the UC Davis statement.
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"When animals move and come into contact with other species, they have the opportunity to introduce and transmit new infectious diseases with potentially devastating effects," she added.
The scientists studied marine mammals for exposure to the virus from 2001 to 2016 – with mammals in the sample, including ice seals, northern fur seals, stellar sea lions and northern otters. They studied the Arctic open sea ice and the open water routes from the North Atlantic to the North Pacific Oceans.
Researchers found widespread infection and exposure to the virus in 2003 and reached another peak in 2009. These highlights coincided with a reduction in the extent of Arctic sea ice. DISCOVERED BY SCIENTISTS
"As the sea ice continues its melting trend, the chances of this virus and other pathogens crossing between marine mammals in the North Atlantic and the North Pacific may increase. b, "said lead author Elizabeth VanWormer, a postdoctoral fellow at UC Davis and currently assistant professor at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
and the potential for outbreaks of sensitive species in this rapidly changing environment.
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