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Toxic Animal Roundup

June 3, 2011

Cats are transmitting a dangerous brain disease to wildlife.

Transcript

Feral cats and disease. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Wild ranging cats in Central Illinois are infecting wildlife with a serious neurological disease, according to a report in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases. Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that reproduces only in cats, but can cause disease in other animals that come into contact with it through cat feces. The study found that a third of the cats sampled carried the disease, and between 6 and 30% of wild animals were infected. Toxoplasma gondii from cats has been found in other regions and even in otters and other marine animals.

In other wildlife news, Harvard scientists have found a detailed history of mercury pollution preserved in the feathers of endangered seabirds. Their collection of the birds goes back 120 years. Levels of mercury in the feathers increase as the feathers become more recent, revealing how much of the toxic element humans have been releasing over time. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.