Originally published on BarryNerhus.com
Back in 2002, researchers discovered a deadly virus among European harbor seals located in the North Atlantic Ocean. This eventually spread to sea lions, seals, and otters living in the North Pacific Ocean. Scientists eventually found that this was phocine distemper virus, which specifically targets marine mammals’ nervous and respiratory systems. Tens of thousands of harbor seals were killed, but what was even more baffling was how this disease traveled across literal oceans.
As Associate Director of the One Health Institute at UC Davis’ School of Veterinary Medicine, Tracey Goldstein and her colleagues studied 15 years of collected data that measured Arctic sea ice and tagged animals, courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They found that melting ice as a result of a steadily warming climate created a pathway for this virus to travel along, hence the spread to Pacific marine mammals.
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