Gov’t: Sea urchins with insides empty, bare skeletons, and black lesions in Hawaii — Birds dying of unusual cancers, rarely seen in wildlife (PHOTOS)
Published: January 22nd, 2015 at 4:26 pm ET
USGS National Wildlife Health Center Honolulu Field Station, 2014 (emphasis added):
Focus: Sea Urchin Disease — The Nature Conservancy (TNC) first observed sick-looking urchins at an old sunken barge [in] Oahu. They were also observed more recently on patch reefs in Kaneohe Bay (KB), Oahu… The first report of sick-looking urchins was made back in late February of 2014. Then in early May, sick-looking urchins were observed at KB… HFS [Honolulu Field Station], DLNR [Department of Land and Natural Resources], and TNC set out to investigate and conducted surveys at both sites, collecting healthy and sick urchins.
Necropsies were then conducted at the HFS lab to determine cause of death… Affected urchins have dull flattened spines (droopy urchins), or gradual to complete loss of spines (outside skeleton bare). Some are found empty with some tissue and spine remaining on their surface. At this point, the public is encouraged to report any sick or dead urchins to the Eyes Of the Reef network in order to determine how widespread this event is. Laboratory efforts are underway to try and identify what is causing this disease.
Necropsy Files: Tumors in Birds — In August 2013, an adult nene from Hawaii died of lymphoma, a cancer of blood cells. In September, 2013, a critically endangered Rota crow died from liver cancer. These two cases were unusual in that cancer is rare in wildlife in general. Most wild animals do not live long enough to get cancer and usually die from things like starvation, trauma, or infectious diseases.
Rescue — HFS worked with partners to understand mysterious mortalities of critically endangered captive Rota crows. Birds developed odd nervous system signs and would die with no evident necropsy findings explaining cause of death. [The] birds were missing a vital nutrient…
Dept. of Land & Natural Resources: February 2014, biologists from TNC reported a large number of sick-looking collector sea urchins… in Maunalua Bay on Oahu. [USGS] was notified and began an initial assessment… The preliminary diagnosis for the sea urchins is that it is a type of disease. The sick urchins have patchy loss of their spines and lesions (or wounds)… A “Call to Action” was sent out to the Eyes of the Reef (EOR) Network, asking the public to report any observations of sick-looking collector urchins… In early May 2014, sick-looking urchins were also observed in Kaneohe bay, on the Windward side of Oahu. About 10% of urchins on one patch reef showed signs of the disease… Monitoring on a monthly basis continues by a team composed of DLNR, USGS, and TNC staff… Important Findings — 6/2/2014 – DAR, USGS, and TNC respond to Eyes of the Reef reports of sick-looking urchins on Maui… it’s recommended that the community continues to report sick urchins… Next Steps — USGS continues to conduct lab studies to determine the exact cause of the disease and if the same disease is affecting urchins on Oahu and Maui.
See also: TV: Hawaii coral “the worst scientists have ever seen” — Professor: “It’s like a ghost town… We would not typically see entire colonies bleached, ever” — Gov’t map of ‘maximum bleaching alert area’ in Pacific mirrors Fukushima plume model since 2011 (VIDEO)