Animal Behavior, Methane Poisoning, Dead or Alive and on the move (+ interactive map)


When Planet X entered the inner Solar System in late 2002 - early 2003, it was not just the Earth that reacted, as it did with an increase in earthquakes, volcanism and extreme weather, the animal life on Earth also started showing signs of the approaching monster.

The most noticeable symptoms were:

  • Crazy Animal Behaviour:  Reports of bizarre behaviour including animal attacks from normally passive creatures and spiders spinning webs over whole fields.
  • Confused Animals:  Whales and dolphins stranding themselves on beaches in droves or getting lost upstream in coastal rivers.
  • Large fish and bird kills:  Flocks of birds falling dead from the sky and shoals of fish dying and floating to the surface of lakes, rivers and washing up along coastlines.


Crazy Animal Behaviour

Reports of crazy animal behaviour have included sheep that charged a farmer’s wife off a cliff, deer attacking a car and rabbits biting pedestrians.  Spiders have spun webs over whole fields and caterpillar larvae have covered whole trees in silk.

As usual, the Zetas explain the true causes: (Jan 11th 2003)

Animal behavior also has been noted as almost crazed, where animals normally passive and seeking to avoid confrontation will attack with provocation, or fly in the wrong direction during migration. This is due to signals the animals or insects get from the core of the Earth, signals not known to man, but nonetheless there.  [……]  Spiders weaving webs to an extreme so that acres are covered under webs, get noted, but the base behavior is normal for a spider.  EOZT


Confused Animals

Other erratic behaviour among animals included a seeming loss of direction with whales and dolphins swimming inland and stranding themselves on beaches.

Unreliable Compasses  (March 28th, 2009)

The compass is unreliable for the past few years, and lately has gotten very extreme in its variance. Many animals and insects have a biological compass, recording during migrations where that compass laid, and when taking a return trip relying on the recording to guide them back. If the Earth's N Pole swings away from the press of Planet X, which is increasingly pointing its N Pole at the Earth, then these animals are not given correct clues and aim for land or up a river. Sad to say, this will only get worse as the last weeks and the pole shift loom on the horizon.   EOZT

Are due to the Magnetic Clash   (July 1st, 2006)

The compass anomaly, swinging to the East, is indicative of the Earth adjusting to the approach of Planet X and the clash of their magnetic fields. The change is indicative of a clash in magnetic fields as Planet X comes ever closer to the Earth, their fields touching. It is the combined field that Earth must adjust to, and continue to adjust to, not the exact position of the N Pole of Planet X within these fields, and the Sun's magnetic field enters into the equation too. This dramatic change, noted by a conscientious tracker, checking dual compasses daily for years, indicates that the Earth is trying to align side-by-side with Planet X, bringing its magnetic N Pole to point toward the Sun, as Planet X is currently doing in the main. These adjustments are temporary, and change about, as magnets can make dramatic and swift changes in their alignment with each other. Put a number of small magnets on a glass, with iron ore dust, and move a large magnet about under them, and watch the jerking about they do. Are we saying the Earth's magnetic field is going to get more erratic in the future, dramatically so? There is no question that this will be one of the signs that will come, yet another not covered by the Global Warming excuse.   EOZT


Large fish and bird kills

Hundreds, if not thousands, of these events have taken place with the frequency increasing year on year.  Poignant examples include the 20 tonnes of dead herring which washed ashore in Norway and 1200 pelicans found on a beach in Peru.

Earth Farts  (January 9th, 2007)

We have explained, in great detail, that the stretch zone does not register great quakes when rock layers pull apart and sink, as this is a silent Earth change. Nancy has carefully documented breaking water and gas mains, derailing trains, dislocating bridge abutments, mining accidents, and outbreaks of factory explosions, showing that these have occurred in rashes on occasion, when the rock layers pulled apart. [……]  In September-October of 2005, a smell of rotten eggs was sensed from LA to Thunder Bay on Lake Superior to the New England states and throughout the South-Eastern US. We explained at that time that this was due to rock layers being pulled apart, releasing gas from moldering vegetation trapped during prior pole shifts, when rock layers were jerked about, trapping vegetation. We explained in March of 2002 that black water off the coast of Florida was caused by this phenomena. Do these fumes cause people to sicken, and birds to die? Mining operations of old had what they called the canary in a birdcage, to warn the miners of methane gas leaks. Birds are very sensitive to these fumes, and die, and this is indeed what happened in Austin, TX. Were it not for the explosions associated with gas leaks, it would be common knowledge that gas leaks sicken, as the body was not structured to breathe such air for long.   EOZT


Zetatalk Explanation  (January 8th, 2011)

Dead fish and birds falling from the sky are being reported worldwide, suddenly. This is not a local affair, obviously. Dead birds have been reported in Sweden and N America, and dead fish in N America, Brazil, and New Zealand. Methane is known to cause bird dead, and as methane rises when released during Earth shifting, will float upward through the flocks of birds above. But can this be the cause of dead fish? If birds are more sensitive than humans to methane release, fish are likewise sensitive to changes in the water, as anyone with an aquarium will attest. Those schools of fish caught in rising methane bubbles during sifting of rock layers beneath them will inevitably be affected. Fish cannot, for instance, hold their breath until the emergency passes! Nor do birds have such a mechanism.   EOZT



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Comment by Starr DiGiacomo on March 2, 2019 at 6:36am

Dozens of dead ducks were found at Elliston Park in Calgary

Biologists investigate after finding dozens of dead ducks near a rainwater runoff in a southeastern Calgary park.

Brett Boukall, a senior wildlife biologist at Alberta Environment and Parks, said the authorities around the 10 o'clock had been informed on Wednesday. He said samples would be sent to the lab, and he hopes they have more information in a week become.

Olav Rokne, a spokesperson for the agency, said that they currently do not exactly have the number of dead birds "It has been found that it is more than a dozen."

"Our biologists have gone to the construction site to collect samples of individual dead birds," he said, adding that they are working in partnership with the city

Calgarian Wayne Clarke shared photos of the dead birds with CBC News including a close-up of a bird that seemed to have a well-preserved head and wings while the corpse might have been caught.

Rokne said it appears that the dead birds are only near the rainwater drainage areas in southeastern Calgary Park.

He said in winter that it is common for waterfowl to gather in open water areas such as the Bow River or the storm water ponds and whitewater areas. Temperature lowers the areas of available open water decline, l overcrowding.

"For those birds that remain in these crowded, open waters, there can be hunger, extreme exposure and even diseases that can lead to deaths." It's too early to say for sure but this could be the cause of the incident at Elliston Park, "he said.

He said that there have been similar incidents in the past, especially when the temperature drops to -30. 1

Comment by Starr DiGiacomo on March 2, 2019 at 6:25am

Witness says toxic fumes not involved in death of dozens of birds

HUNTSVILLE, Ala - On Wednesday morning, a viewer alerted WHNT News 19 about a scene that looked like it was straight out of a movie. More than 60 dead European Starlings were scattered across a small portion of Moores Mill Road in Huntsville. It appeared that they all died at the same time.

An aviary expert at Auburn University said he suspected the birds could have been exposed to poisonous fumes. Many people took to social media expressing concerns about where the fumes could have come from.

WHNT News 19 found a driver who actually witnessed what happened to the birds. We learned that the birds actually died on Monday but more importantly, the witness says there is nothing for the public to worry about.

"Birds just scattered everywhere. It was like a bomb exploded," said Shiela Price, a woman from Meridianville who witnessed what happened Monday afternoon as she left the grocery store.

"We had left Kroger and was headed toward 72 on Moores Mill Road," she explained.

That's when Price says several flocks of birds caught her attention because they were flying in a strange pattern near the road. A few seconds later one large flock dove straight into a white Chevy pick up.

"One swarm of the birds just looked like it attacked that truck. They just swooped down real quick and hit the truck," she said.

She says she thought it was important to contact WHNT News 19 and tell her story.

"Because I was reading on your post and a lot of people were worried that are residents there, that some kind of gas or toxic fumes, or something you know, going to endanger them. And so I wanted to come forth and let everyone know what really happened," she explained.

But what really happened? Why would so many birds dive bomb a car? WHNT News 19 asked Auburn's curator of birds, Dr. Geoff Hill.

"It was probably a life and death chase where they were eminently going to be caught and eaten," he said.

He says when birds are in danger they fly in tight formations to try and protect themselves.

"They fly really low and really fast, and that's when they can make mistakes and hit windows, or a truck because it's really life and death," he said.

Dr. Hill says new research suggests when birds fly in formation the ones in front navigate for the entire flock, which could explain why they all 60 of them hit the truck.

He says it is extremely rare for an entire flock of birds to run into something. He also doesn't believe any toxic fumes or poisonous chemicals were involved in the birds' strange behavior.

Comment by Starr DiGiacomo on February 25, 2019 at 3:39am

Mystery as humpback whale found dead in middle of Amazon jungle

The ten tonne marine mammal has stunned experts - and it's not know how it died

23:32, 24 FEB 2019

A humpback whale has been found dead in the Amazon jungle miles from its natural habitat - leaving experts in Brazil baffled.

The 36 feet long, ten tonne marine mammal was discovered in the middle of the undergrowth on the island of Marajo off the Araruna Beach, at the mouth of the Amazon River.

Scientists believe the creature died at sea and may have landed in the wooded area after rough seas and high tides threw it inland, far from the ocean.

Dirlene Silva, from the department of health, sanitation and environment (Semma) said to Brazilian media Journal O Liberal: “We only found the whale because of the presence of scavenging birds of prey.

“The vultures were spotted circling above the carcass which was found hidden in the bush some distance from the sea.”

A team from Semma went to the region to inspect the remains, believed to be a 12 month old calf, and to gather information which could help to explain how the aquatic creature crash landed in the jungle.

Video taken on Friday shows the mammal splayed out in swampy mangrove surrounded by trees, with no visible signs of injury.

Biologists from the Bicho D’agua Institute have been called in to collect forensic samples to determine the cause of death.

They believe the massive animal, which measures six feet wide, was already dead when it was carried by huge waves to its unnatural resting place.

Renata Emin, the project’s president and marine specialist said: “We’re still not sure how it landed here, but we’re guessing that the creature was floating close to the shore and the tide, which has been pretty considerable over the past few days, picked it up and threw it inland, into the mangrove.

“Along with this astonishing feat, we are baffled as to what a humpback whale is doing on the north coast of Brazil during February because this is a very unusual occurrence.”

According to the expert, humpback whales are normally seen in Bahia on the north east coast between August to November. It is a well-known breeding and delivery area. Then they migrate to Antarctica to feed.

The biologist said: “Humpback whales don’t usually travel to the north. We have a record of one appearing in the area three years ago, but it’s rare.

“We believe this is a calf which may have been travelling with its mother and probably got lost or separated during the migratory cycle between the two continents.”

Researchers said as there are no clear reasons why it died, only an autopsy will determine the cause of death.

Emin added: “Depending on the state of decomposition, some information may already have been lost.

“We are collecting as much information as we can get and identifying marks and wounds on its body to see if it was caught in a net or hit by a boat.”

The scientists also plan to open up the carcass, collect samples of parasites and evidence from the muscles which will be sent to labs for disease analysis.

It’s believed the stranded animal may have been grounded for several days before it was found.

Gaining access to the remains proved difficult. It took two attempts to reach the site. The first was hampered by the swampy water in the mangrove.

The examination is expected to take up to ten days to complete.

For now there are no plans to remove the hulk due to the size, weight and location.

Instead researchers intend to bury much of carcass and the skeleton will be sent to the Goeldi Natural History Museum in Belem for future studies.

Comment by Starr DiGiacomo on February 25, 2019 at 3:25am

Hundreds of dead fish found in Sono River in Balasore

Feb 24, 2019

Balasore: Hundreds of dead fish have been found floating in Sono River in Balasore district on Sunday morning, triggering panic among the residents.

The incident came to light after some fish traders of the slums in Remuna block of the district came across the dead fishes in the morning during netting.

As the news broke, locals of Patripala and Ganipur area started thronging to the river. While the exact cause of death of fishes on such a large scale was not ascertained, water pollution was suspected to the reason.

While the locals have alerted the concerned officials and the district administration about the incident, officials are yet to reach the spot, sources said.

Comment by Starr DiGiacomo on February 12, 2019 at 9:14pm

Dozens of polar bears invade remote Russian town, create 'emergency situation'

Russia might be famous for its bears, but this is ridiculous.

An invasion of about 50 polar bears has caused an "emergency situation" in the small Russian settlement of Belushya Guba, according to the TASS news agency. The town is located on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, about 1,200 miles northeast of Moscow.

"The people are scared," said Alexander Minayev, the deputy head of Novaya Zemlya.

"They are frightened to leave homes and their daily routines are broken," Minayev said in a statement. "Parents are afraid to let the children go to school or kindergarten."

The bears arrived in December and have acted aggressively since then, attacking people and entering residences and businesses.

"I have been in Novaya Zemlya since 1983, but there has never been so many polar bears in the vicinity," said Zhigansha Musin, the head of Novana Zemlya.

There could be a connection to global warming: Melting Arctic sea ice has forced polar bears to spend more time on land, where they compete for food. Scientists have long warned that the shrinking sea ice in the Arctic poses a direct threat to the bears – and increases the likelihood of encounters with humans, according to CBS News.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature says there are approximately 26,000 polar bears on earth. The species is categorized as "vulnerable." In the United States, it's considered a threatened species.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates the population could decrease by 30 to 50 percent if the loss of sea ice continues.

"Two-thirds of the world's polar bears could die out by 2050," the World Wildlife Fund has said.

This particular invasion in Russia might last awhile. The Russian government has refused to issue licenses to shoot the most aggressive polar bears, TASS reports. But the government has sent a team of experts to the archipelago to assess and prevent attacks on humans.

link to Home Page

icon Polar Bears

Polar Bears May Move North
Discovery Earth Alert, December 14, 2000

Thousands of polar bears that make their home near Hudson Bay in Canada may be forced to move north to survive melting ice caused by global warming. Environmental science professor William Gough of Toronto University's Scarborough College has spent the past six years evaluating the temperature and ice coverage of Hudson Bay, using records that date back to 1900. Polar bears normally spend November to June on the region's thick ice floes, feeding on newborn seal pups. The seal pup diet enables the bears to store enough energy to make it through the summer months on land. Gough said, "The length of time polar bears are able to spend on the ice is crucial because   the weight they gain during this period determines their survival rates and the number of cubs they'll raise." The rising temperatures have already triggered abnormal behavior in the bears. Witnesses have reported seeing caribou being stalked and adult seals being killed on land. The bears have also begun to increasingly view humans as a source of food. Professor Gough said, "There has been a dramatic increase in bear and human   confrontations over the past few years. Just recently, a woman north of Churchill was devoured and we're seeing more and more bears in garbage dumps close to towns." Gough chose Hudson Bay for his studies because it houses the most southerly polar bear population in the world.

Comment by Starr DiGiacomo on February 12, 2019 at 8:10pm

Dutch scientists probing mystery of mass bird deaths
12 Feb 2019 01:42PM Updated: 12 Feb 2019 01:50PM

DEN HELDER, Netherlands: It was late on a stormy Saturday night when marine biologist Mardik Leopold's phone rang at his home on the remote northern Dutch island of Texel.

On the line was a coast-watch volunteer calling to tell him of reports of hundreds of dead guillemots washing up along the country's shores

"The next morning, my phone rang red-hot from callers all over reporting dead birds," Leopold, based at Wageningen University's marine research department in the northern port city of Den Helder, told AFP.

"Alarm bells started ringing."

Since early January, more than 20,000 guillemots have washed up dead on Dutch beaches - from the northern Wadden Islands to southwestern Zeeland.

"All the birds show signs of severe starvation and we don't know why," said Leopold.

One is that rough weather caused the birds to become too tired to chase fish underwater, eventually causing them to starve.

But, said Leopold, "this winter was not particularly rough or severe and also, surely the birds would also have washed up elsewhere?"

As for the container theory, Leopold said an initial autopsy on a small number of birds showed "no plastic" in their stomachs.

Similarly, if the birds were affected by a chemical, other animals would also have shown symptoms, the marine biologist said.

Nor are the birds covered in oil or any other visible substance, which rules out an oil spill.


This is not the first time guillemots have died off in their thousands, said Leopold. There were similar events in the 1980s and 1990s.

While Leopold and other scientists are puzzling out the mysterious deaths, some 120 kilometres (80 miles) to the east, animal rescuers have been hard at work saving many weak guillemots still alive when they washed up.

"They arrive here very sick. They are in poor condition," said Hetty Sinnema, manager at the Fugelhelling bird sanctuary in the small northern Frisian village of Ureterp.

By last Friday, the shelter had received 35 birds, but only around 14 have survived, despite emergency care and tube feeding with a special mix of fish, glucose and electrolytes.

Sinnema said she believed the bird deaths could be attributed to a combination of factors including rough seas and a shortage of fish.

"But we have to wait for the scientists to give us a clear answer," she said.

Leopold said scientists hoped to publish a report within a month after the autopsy.

and another:


Warrnambool City Council and DELWP warn people to keep out of water at Lake Pertobe

Signs have been placed around the water at the adventure playground’s lake, with Warrnambool City Council and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning advising humans and animals to keep out, as it may cause ‘serious harm’. 

Wildlife carer Alexis Creed-Sycopoulis said she had advised the council of the dead ducks two weeks ago after noticing them on the Australia Day long weekend.

She believes the birds have avian botulism, which is caused by the bacteria clostridium botulinum, a naturally occurring organism living in lakes and ponds.

The city council did not respond to questions from The Standard about the signs, why they had been erected, if there was any health warnings to the public or if avian botulism was present.

Outbreaks occur when there is a combination of low water levels, warm temperatures and lack of oxygen in the water

Ms Creed-Sycopoulis said she had four sick ducks euthanised, which didn’t include the ill ducks she could not reach.

“Their symptoms are typical of avian botulism which result in paralysis - they can’t hold their necks up and as a result will drown,” she said.

She said feeding bread to birds contributed to higher nutrient levels in the water, which in turn led to an increase in the soil bacteria that caused avian botulism.  

“People need to be aware that feeding bread to the ducks is not only bad for the ducks but contributes to the conditions that pollute the water, making birds sick,” she said.

“I’m hoping council will be erecting signs at Lake Pertobe and the botanical gardens warning people about the dangers of feeding bread to ducks and wildlife.”

Agriculture Victoria advises pet owners to prevent their animals from eating fish, birds or maggots potentially affected by avian botulism. 

It said the quick removal of dead birds was important in dealing with an outbreak. 

Comment by Starr DiGiacomo on February 12, 2019 at 7:45am

Thousands of fish die in 3rd mass death in Australian river

Monday, 28 January 2019

Thousands more fish have died in a key river system in drought-hit eastern Australia just weeks after up to a million were killed, authorities and locals said Monday, sparking fears an ecological disaster is unfolding.

Fisheries officials said they were on their way to Menindee, a small outback town in far-west New South Wales state, after the third mass fish kill in the area in less than two months.

The town is near the Darling River, part of the Murray-Darling River system that stretches thousands of kilometres across several states and supplies the country's food bowl.

“There's lot of small (dead) fish... a lot of the larger fish have already perished in the last two kills,” Menindee tourism operator Rob Gregory told AFP, adding that he counted 380 dead fish in just a six-metre (20-foot) stretch of river.

Gregory said Menindee was renowned as having one of the best fisheries in the far-west region.

“This is a true environmental disaster that is equivalent to a lot of other things that are occurring like the bleaching of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef,” he added.

While the federal government blames the deaths on a severe drought, experts and locals say they stem from the systemic depletion and pollution of the river.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries said the latest kills were likely linked to rains and a sharp drop in temperature after an extended period of hot weather that contributed to plummeting oxygen levels in the water.

The state government has installed aerators in some waterways to keep the levels of oxygen up for fish, but Regional Water Minister Niall Blair said it was fresh water that was ultimately needed for them to survive.

“No scientists, no locals, no-one has been able to point to anything else that could prevent something like this other than fresh water coming into the system,” Blair told reporters in Sydney Monday.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten called on the government to act, saying Monday the Murray-Darling was “facing the makings of an ecological disaster”.

and another:

Mystery surrounds more than 1000 dead fish that washed ashore south of Perth

Authorities in Western Australia are working to find out why more than 1,000 dead fish washed ashore on a beach south of Perth on Wednesday morning.

Key points:

  • Only one species of fish, the Scaly Mackerel, was affected in the event
  • The fish will now be tested to determine the cause of death
  • Witnesses saw other fish and dolphins swimming around the dead fish

Pictures show the Rockingham foreshore littered with the fish on a 500-metre stretch of beach, around the Palm Beach and Rockingham Yacht Club jetties.

Brad Tilley from WA’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) said only one species of fish, the scaly mackerel, was killed in the mysterious event.

“The numbers of fish were estimated to be more than a thousand,” he said.

“A report from the public on site was that dead fish could be observed in the shallows up to a kilometre towards the Kwinana bulk cargo terminal.”

Mr Tilley said tests would now be undertaken to determine the cause of the deaths.

“The fish samples have been delivered to DPIRD Aquatic Diagnostics, and the water samples to the Department of Water and Environment Regulation’s phytoplankton ecology unit.”

Other fish and dolphins unaffected

Witnesses said other fish were swimming freely around the dead mackerel.

“What was quite strange to me was it was this one particular type of fish that was washed up,” said Johann Maree, who was at the beach this morning.

“The dolphins actually came past and turned around and swam back up the shoreline, everything else seemed fine.”

Mr Maree said a local tour boat arrived while he was down there and staff on board advised him the fish kill was not a normal occurrence.

“It looked like clear water, there were actually lots of schools of small fish as well, but the water was dead still,” Mr Maree said.

“Not even a funny smell, everything seemed fairly normal except for the dead fish.”

DPIRD said fisheries officers would continue to monitor the area, and any additional species, in case of further fish deaths.

Comment by Starr DiGiacomo on February 10, 2019 at 5:44am

Deadly disease that turns deer into ZOMBIES has spread to 26 states, new report warns - amid fears it could one day be transmitted to humans

  • Zombie deer disease (chronic wasting disease) is infection in deer, moose, elk 
  • It causes dramatic weight loss, loss of coordination, and increased aggression 
  • As of January, CDC says it's been reported in 24 US states, two Canada provinces

A deadly infection that’s come to be known as ‘zombie deer disease’ is spreading across North America, a new report warns.

Formally called chronic wasting disease, the illness attacks the brain, spinal cord, and other tissues in deer, elk, and moose.

It eventually leads to death – but, not before causing the animal to dramatically lose weight and coordination, and become aggressive.

According to the CDC, the disease was reported in at least 24 states in the US and two Canadian provinces as of January 2019, up two states since last year.

Though warnings over ‘zombie deer disease’ over the past few years have caused many to draw parallels to the mad cow epidemic, there’s so far no evidence that people can be harmed by infected meat.

The disease was first spotted in the wild roughly 40 years ago, but has been seen in captive deer as far back as the late 1960s.

It blossomed primarily in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming, and has been spreading outward since, according to the CDC.

‘Since 2000, the area known to be affected by CWD in free-ranging animals has increased to at least 24 states, including states in the Midwest, Southwest, and limited areas on the East Coast,’ the CDC says.

‘It is possible that CWD may also occur in other states without strong animal surveillance systems, but that cases haven’t been detected yet.

‘Once CWD is established in an area, the risk can remain for a long time in the environment. The affected areas are likely to continue to expand.’

Chronic wasting disease can be found in both free-ranging and farmed animals, and is known to have horrifying effects on those it infects – but, it can be years before an animal begins to show signs.

The disease earned its nickname from the bizarre symptoms it causes, including a vacant stare and exposed ribs as it causes the animal to physically waste away.

While it’s not yet known to be transmissible to humans, a recent study found for the first time that macaques could get the disease after consuming infected meat, sparking fears that a variant targeting humans could soon emerge.

A separate study found that laboratory mice with some human genes could become infected, according to the CDC.

So far, though, it’s limited only to the hoofed mammals and its occurrence remains ‘relatively low’ nationwide.

But, it’s slowly and steadily spreading.

‘In several locations where the disease is established, infection rates may exceed 10 percent (1 in 10), and localized infection rates of more than 25 percent (1 in 4) have been reported,’ the CDC report says.

‘The infection rates among some captive deer can be much higher, with a rate of 79% (nearly 4 in 5) reported from at least one captive herd.

Comment by Starr DiGiacomo on February 1, 2019 at 2:13am

‘This is shocking.’ An undersea plague is obliterating a key ocean species

An “underwater zombie apocalypse.” That’s how wildlife veterinarian Joe Gaydos of the University of California (UC), Davis, describes “sea star wasting disease,” a blight that has decimated more than 20 species of sea stars from Mexico to Alaska since 2013. Now, a new study by Gaydos and colleagues has more bad news: The disease has hit the sunflower star (Pycnopodia helianthoides)—a key predator within kelp forests—hardest of all. This once-common species has vanished from the majority of its range, sending shock waves through the ecosystems it once called home. The team also found a worrying association between warmer ocean temperatures and the severity of the outbreak, suggesting climate change could exacerbate future marine epidemics.

“This is shocking,” says marine ecologist Mark Carr of UC Santa Cruz, who was not involved in the study. “This is not just a population reduction, this is virtually the loss of a key species over thousands of miles. We’ve never seen anything like this before.”

Sea star wasting disease progresses from “that looks weird,” to “horror movie,” over a few days. White lesions appear, then expand into fissures of melting tissue. Limbs fall off and crawl away. And finally, the sea star disintegrates into a pale mound of decaying flesh.

Scientists still haven’t identified the pathogen responsible for the disease. Research suggests the culprit is a virus, but which one remains unknown. Similar die-offs have struck the West Coast in previous decades, but none has been so deadly over such a large area. Of the 20 species affected by the outbreak, lab tests showed the sunflower star to be among the most susceptible.

The meter-wide, 24-armed sunflower star stalks the kelp forest swallowing prey like kelp-munching sea urchins whole. As one of the top predators of invertebrates these supersize stars help maintain balance in the kelp forest ecosystem. Left unchecked, sea urchins can mow down kelp forests, leaving behind a denuded and depauperate undersea landscape. The sunflower star used to be a common sight underwater, but since its disappearance and the subsequent boom of urchins, northern California has lost more than 90% of its kelp forests, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The loss of those kelp forests has left the other species that depend on them hungry, homeless, or dead. In December 2018, California moved to extend a ban on recreational fishing for red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) after surveys showed the mollusks, which feed on kelp, were starving to death in huge numbers. Impacts to fish species are more challenging to quantify, but Carr says kelp forests are of vital importance not just as food, but as habitat, especially for young fish hoping to evade predators.

A dying sunflower star infected with “sea star wasting disease” in the Salish Sea off the coast of Washington state.

Jenn Collins

To gauge the impact of sea star wasting disease on the sunflower star, Gaydos’s colleague Drew Harvell, a Cornell University marine ecologist based in Friday Harbor, Washington, and other team members analyzed counts of the sunflower stars from nearly 11,000 shallow water scuba dives and close to 9000 bottom trawling surveys in deeper water. Hundreds of citizen scientists trained to identify and record the presence of the sunflower star conducted the shallow water surveys, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) conducted the bottom trawls, which consist of systematically dragging a net along the sea floor to sample marine biodiversity.

These data sets spanned nearly a decade prior to the collapse of sea stars and covered more than 3000 kilometers of coastline. Shallow and deep-water surveys showed stable populations followed by steep declines of the sunflower star ranging from a 60% population ... after the onset of the wasting disease in 2013, the researchers report today in Science Advances.

“Many people expected the sunflower stars to be taking refuge in the deep water where we couldn’t count them,” says Steve Lonhart, a kelp forest ecologist with the NOAA based in Monterey, California, who was not involved in the study. “We hoped they were hiding down there—this research shows that hope was naïve.”

The onset of sea star wasting disease also coincided with the warmest 3-year period on record for California’s coastal waters—2014, 2015, and 2016—according to NOAA climate researcher Nate Mantua in Santa Cruz, who was not involved in the study. To see whether there was a connection between water temperature and the disease, the study authors compared sea surface temperatures from the times and locations of each survey with the decline in sunflower stars. Their analysis found that the times and locations of the biggest death tolls coincided with the presence of abnormally warm water.

Mantua is the co-author of a 2018 paper in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society showing that climate change played a large role in the warming of California’s c.... Climate projections indicate those temperatures will become commonplace by the 2050s, he says.

“Many of these outbreaks are heat sensitive. In the lab, sea stars got sick sooner and died faster in warmer water,” Harvell says. “A warming ocean could increase the impact of infectious diseases like this one.”

The declining kelp forests of northern California are unlikely to recover unless sea urchins succumb to a pestilence of their own or their natural predators are restored. Harvell thinks the imperiled sunflower star should get strong consideration for being added to the U.S. Endangered Species List, and that a formal recovery plan may be necessary.

“I’m more worried now than I was before I read this paper,” Lonhart says. “We could be watching the extinction of what was a common species just 5 years ago.”

Comment by Starr DiGiacomo on January 29, 2019 at 1:44am

Thousands more fish found dead at Menindee as locals fear there will be 'none left'

Carp have been filmed floating and gasping on the banks of the Darling River at Menindee after the town in far west NSW was struck by another mass fish kill.

Key points:

  • This is the third fish kill in the far western NSW town of Menindee in less than two months
  • Rainfall and a major cool change may have worsened the algal bloom in parts of the Darling River
  • Fisheries officers are on their way to the site to commence investigations

The NSW Government is investigating after thousands of fish were found dead Monday morning — less than a month after about a million fish were killed in the same area.

Fisheries officers from NSW's Department of Primary Industries (DPI) are on their way to the river to confirm the number of fish killed.

Large numbers of bony bream and a smaller number of other species have perished, according to the DPI.

Video shows the grim scene that greeted locals Monday morning of exhausted fish gasping on the water's surface.

Fish lie on the river bank

Water Minister Niall Blair said there had also been reports some Macquarie perch were involved, but no confirmation Murray cod had perished.

The weather conditions had been similar to early January, when the first mass fish kill occurred, Mr Blair added.

"Unfortunately, we’re expecting the conditions to potentially continue to deteriorate," he said.

Clean-up crews were due to begin work Monday afternoon, he said.

Menindee gathered worldwide attention after the last fish kill.

It followed a smaller kill at the end of 2018.

Those two kills were the result of a blue-green algae bloom which stripped the water of oxygen, suffocating the fish.

Algae blooms can worsen during severe temperature change and rain.

On Sunday, the temperature in Menindee dropped 20 degrees Celsius and 2.1 millimetres of rain fell.

The Central Darling Shire Council has deployed a clean up operator who is also tasked with reporting on the fish.

'There will be none left'

Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the latest kill proved there was "the makings of an ecological" disaster in Australia's most important river system.

"This is a disaster, the disaster keeps on unfolding," he said.

NSW Government officials say the state's drought was to blame for the fish kill earlier this month, but locals in Menindee claim the area's waterways have been mismanaged for years.

They said these fish kills proved their worst fears about the emptying of the Menindee Lakes in 2014 and 2017.

More dead fish at Menindee

Menindee Tourism Association president Rob Greggory said the event was "tragic".

"What we are seeing is probably the last lot of fish that are here now," he said.

"There will be none left."

Mr Greggory said it was disappointing the Prime Minister or Federal Environment Minister had not visited the area.

"It would be nice for them to see it with their own eyes, instead of looking through the lens of a camera," he said.

Fish dead on the river bank

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian faced criticism for a whirlwind visit to the lower Darling on Friday that did not include Menindee.

When questioned as to why she did not stop in, she said it came down to prioritising.

"Menindee has a population of 300 and they are on level one," she said.

"Others are on level five and six.

"I have been on the ground and spoken to people and been within a few kilometres of these specific issues."

Ms Berejiklian said water security in the state's far west had been a priority for her Government.

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