A new pathogen has been discovered by scientists investigating major die-offs of pigeons native to North America, according to studies led by the University of California, Davis, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Scientists were able to implicate this new parasite, along with the ancient parasite Trichomonas gallinae, in the recent deaths of thousands of Pacific Coast band-tailed pigeons. The die-offs occurred during multiple epidemics in California’s Central Coast and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges. Scientists named the new pathogen Trichomonas stableri.
Avian trichomonosis is an emerging and potentially fatal disease that creates severe lesions that can block the esophagus, ultimately preventing the bird from eating or drinking, or the trachea, leading to suffocation. The disease may date back to when dinosaurs roamed the earth, as lesions indicative of trichomonosis were found recently in T-Rex skeletons. The disease may also have contributed to the decline of the passenger pigeon, whose extinction occurred exactly 100 years ago.
Epidemics of the disease can result in the death of thousands of birds in a short amount of time. An outbreak in Carmel Valley killed an estimated 43,000 birds in 2007.
“The same parasite species that killed band-tailed pigeons during the outbreaks were also killing the birds when there weren’t outbreaks,” said lead author Yvette Girard, a postdoctoral scholar with the Wildlife Health Center in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine at the time of the studies. “This indicates there may be other factors at play in the die-offs.”
“We are now investigating what triggers these die-offs, which may be caused by the congregation of infected and vulnerable birds during certain environmental conditions, or even spillover from another nearby species,” said principal investigator Christine Johnson, a professor with the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center.
Between winter 2011 and spring 2012, there were eight mortality events — defined as more than five dead birds found in the same geographic area during the same time frame. The study said trichomonosis was confirmed in 96 percent of dead, sick or dying birds examined at seven of the mortality events. This disease was also found in:
“What makes this disease more troublesome for band-tailed pigeons is their low reproductive rate — about one chick per year — and also that these events are occurring in the wintertime,” said co-author Krysta Rogers, an environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “That means almost all the birds we’re losing during events are adult birds. They’re being killed before they have the ability to reproduce in the spring.”
Mortality events in band-tailed pigeons have been reported in California at least since 1945, but have increased during the last decade, with outbreaks reported in six of the last 10 years.
“Going into the study, we expected to find a single, highly virulent species of Trichomonas in birds sampled at outbreaks,” Girard said. “Having two species killing birds at these large-scale mortality events is surprising.”
Necropsies of the birds were conducted at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory at UC Davis and the Wildlife Investigations Laboratory at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Both studies were funded by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The study naming the new species of parasite is published in the journal International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife. The study that explains how trichomonosis is affecting the band-tailed pigeon is published in the journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution.
UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics and 17,400 staff. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and about two dozen specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 99 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.
Yvette Girard | Eurek Alert!
01.09.2015 | University of California - Santa Barbara
Northern bald ibises fit for their journey to Tuscany
21.08.2015 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
China's Loess Plateau was formed by wind alternately depositing dust or removing dust over the last 2.6 million years, according to a new report from University of Arizona geoscientists. The study is the first to explain how the steep-fronted plateau formed.
China's Loess Plateau was formed by wind alternately depositing dust or removing dust over the last 2.6 million years, according to a new report from...
The leaves of the lotus flower, and other natural surfaces that repel water and dirt, have been the model for many types of engineered liquid-repelling surfaces. As slippery as these surfaces are, however, tiny water droplets still stick to them. Now, Penn State researchers have developed nano/micro-textured, highly slippery surfaces able to outperform these naturally inspired coatings, particularly when the water is a vapor or tiny droplets.
Enhancing the mobility of liquid droplets on rough surfaces could improve condensation heat transfer for power-plant heat exchangers, create more efficient...
Longer, more severe, and hotter droughts and a myriad of other threats, including diseases and more extensive and severe wildfires, are threatening to transform some of the world's temperate forests, a new study published in Science has found. Without informed management, some forests could convert to shrublands or grasslands within the coming decades.
"While we have been trying to manage for resilience of 20th century conditions, we realize now that we must prepare for transformations and attempt to ease...
A University of Oklahoma astrophysicist and his Chinese collaborator have found two supermassive black holes in Markarian 231, the nearest quasar to Earth, using observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
The discovery of two supermassive black holes--one larger one and a second, smaller one--are evidence of a binary black hole and suggests that supermassive...
A team of European researchers have developed a model to simulate the impact of tsunamis generated by earthquakes and applied it to the Eastern Mediterranean. The results show how tsunami waves could hit and inundate coastal areas in southern Italy and Greece. The study is published today (27 August) in Ocean Science, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).
Though not as frequent as in the Pacific and Indian oceans, tsunamis also occur in the Mediterranean, mainly due to earthquakes generated when the African...
20.08.2015 | Event News
20.08.2015 | Event News
19.08.2015 | Event News
02.09.2015 | Physics and Astronomy
02.09.2015 | Life Sciences
02.09.2015 | Awards Funding