Credit: NOAA library
Alaskadispatch.com has a disturbing report here about a horrible undiagnosed illness plaguing ringed seals in Alaska. A virus is suspected, but after sending samples to laboratories around the country, no virus or other disease causing organism has been identified yet.
Experts are very concerned about this unknown pathogen. The photos of what is does to seals are frightening and one expert worries about the disease being transmitted to other species:
Enoch Shiedt, natural resource coordinator for the Maniilaq Association in Kotzebue, said he’s received a few reports of sluggish seals hauled out on beaches this summer. But he hasn’t been able to confirm the sightings. One sighting occurred on the Kotzebue waterfront several weeks ago, but by the time he arrived, the seal had been rolled back into the water and was gone. He’s concerned the illness will spread up the food chain, affecting other animals and hunters near Kotzebue Sound.
“I’m scared they might pass it on one way or another and the whole ocean could be affected,” Shiedt said.
I wonder if the unprecedented dumping of radioactive waste from the Fukushima disaster has provoked the evolution of a super pathogen, or if the melting Arctic ice cap has unearthed a virulent ancient pathogen that we have no immunity for anymore.
Whatever the cause, the ecology of the Arctic appears to be rapidly unraveling. Just this past August a previously unknown fungus washed up on the shores of Kivalina, Alaska. It was so divergent from any marine life form known to NOAA scientists that they initially thought the huge, gooey, bright orange fungal spores were crustacean eggs.
There is still no explanation for how this unique fungus evolved, but there are research papers done at Chernobyl that describe radiation induced evolution of fungi there with results like that found in the novel orange fungal bloom in Kivalina:
Characteristics of Extremophylic Fungi from Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant
Chernobyl’s radioactive impact on flora.
Some fungi eat radiation to fuel their growth, a new study suggests
Besides the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster contamination of the ocean, in October it was announced that this year an unprecedented loss of ozone had been witnessed over the Arctic. One of the benefits of ozone is protection from UV radiation.
So we have several synergistic factors operating in the Arctic that could work together to create a new super pathogen, or to unleash an ancient one that has slumbered in a state of dormancy under the melting ice cap.