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Picture of the Day

What's killing sea otters? Scientists pinpoint parasite strain

Many wild southern sea otters in California are infected with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, yet the infection is fatal for only a fraction of sea otters, which has long puzzled the scientific community. A National Science Foundation-funded study identifies the parasite's specific strains that are killing southern sea otters, tracing them back to a bobcat and feral domestic cats from nearby watersheds. The study marks the first time a genetic link has been clearly established between the Toxoplasma strains in felid hosts and parasites causing fatal disease in marine wildlife. The study's results highlight how infectious agents like Toxoplasma can spread from cat feces on land to the sea, leading to detrimental impacts on marine wildlife.

Visit Website | Image credit: Trina Wood/UC Davis