Monday, April 5, 2010

Potential Disease Threatens Sea Otters

Researchers from the NOAA's Olympic Coastal National Marine Sanctuary, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, and some of their partners have recently concluded that the some of Washington State sea otters have been exposed to a pathogens that have caused disease in other marine populations. Even though the sea otters are not having a negative reaction from the effects of the pathogens, they are still concerned with the fact that the otters can still face the threats of the disease because of how small their population is and how limited their distribution can be. The researchers consider the sea otters to be a "keystone species" and a change in their population could affect the entire ecosystem so the pathogens and its effects on the otters is a primary concern. Tissue and blood analysis was taken from a number of otters who had the electronic tracking tag as well as the dead otters. If the otter tested positive, that meant the otter was exposed to one of the pathogens, morbillivirus and Toxoplasma. Researchers believe that if there is a problem in the otter population that it can be a sign of a larger problem in the environment. This study will be used as insight into further studies and a way to keep an eye on sea otters in that area.

Reading the full article gives more information on the study and what researchers are doing to monitor the sea otters.

  • Sea Otters

  • Picture: A Washington State Sea Otter, credit of the NOAA


  1. Good find! We mentioned the important role otters play in a marine ecosystem in class and now here is a real world example.
    It would be interesting to learn of other otter populations are threatened as well.

  2. Very interesting. It is nice to see a world example of Sea Otters and that people still recognize them to be a keystone species, which is very important. It would be interesting to see if other species in the same location are affected by this pathogen or if other otters are too.

  3. Wow, I hope that we will be able to protect otters from these pathogens, especially considering how low their populations are. Losing otters would be devastating to a lot of other animal populations!