General, Research, Technology

Why did Arctic otters sneeze so much?

Although we know that warming the Arctic is bad forthe animals that live there, this region heats up three times faster than the rest of the planet and is still poorly understood. A new study at the University of California, Davis, sheds light on how melting ice harms Arctic mammals: thanks to melting glaciers, animals help microbes spread to exotic new places. In other words, the less ice, the more places for swimming and the exchange of microbes. The results of the study are causing serious concern - the virus that affects Arctic mammals can develop into a real epidemic.

An otter sits in the snow and does not want to hurt

The study began with a little unexpectedevents. Back in 2004, scientists discovered swine fever virus (PDV), a highly contagious disease associated with measles and canine distemper, among a population of northern Pacific sea otters. Up to this point, PDV was thought to be limited to the Atlantic. Researchers were interested in whether contact between animals, which was previously impossible, could carry the virus into the Pacific Ocean.

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To answer this question, the teamresearchers studied sample data for several species of sea otters, sea lions and seals in both regions between 2001 and 2016. They analyzed sample data that noted whether animals were exposed to or infected with PDV. Scientists have identified the widespread occurrence and infection of PDV among animals in the North Pacific Ocean, which peaked in 2003 and again in 2009. These peaks coincided with the years when sea ice was particularly low in the Arctic Ocean. Typically, ice creates a barrier between the northern regions of the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean, separating the two reservoirs. But during these two years there were formed quite large holes for swimming animals and, possibly, its pathogenic microorganisms.

Arctic mammals are in danger, scientists found

How do dangerous microbes spread?

Most researchers believe that PDVis transmitted from animal to animal in much the same way as measles jumps from person to person - in the form of droplets sprayed from the mouth and nose. Much of the transmission of infection occurs when animals go on stones or land. It is then, for example, when sneezing, the virus can be transmitted. PDV is extremely dangerous for sea seals. Read more about viruses and epidemics on our channel in Yandex.Zen. He kills up to half of the animals he infected. Little is known so far about how species of the North Pacific Ocean live during an outbreak. Scientists still have much to learn about why the infection appears to peak in certain years. Researchers suspect this may be due to sea ice and possibly herd immunity, which wears out when members of the herd die of old age and are replaced by those who have not yet been exposed to the virus.