I thought this story was interesting because of all the talk on the forum about gut bacteria...
Why Did 60,000 Antelope Drop Dead Over Four Days?
When 60,000 critically endangered saiga antelope dropped dead in central Kazakhstan in June, it had to have been a major bummer for the veterinarians who had just arrived to study the herd. Those wildlife vets have since become detectives, trying to unravel an Agatha Christie-worthy puzzle. Now they think they have a culprit, but it’s a baffling one.
According to a new report by Live Science, harmless gut bacteria seem to have done the saiga in. As the dieoff ran its course over several apocalyptic days, field workers were on the ground taking environmental samples and conducting necropsies. An extensive analysis has since revealed that toxins produced by Pasteurella and possibly Clostridia bacteria caused extensive bleeding in the animals’ organs.
Pasteurella is a typical gut bacteria found in saigas and other ruminants, and it shouldn’t cause harm unless the animals have weakened immune systems. Some strains of Clostridia do cause disease, but genetic analyses have only turned up the harmless, garden variety bugs.
Clearly, something else seems to have happened for normally benign bacteria to wreak so much havoc. One possibility, according to wildlife vet and lead investigator Steffen Zuther, is that an exceptionally cold, hard winter, followed by a very wet spring caused the bacteria to become widespread in the environment. Perhaps herd immunity was also weakened this year, by an environmental cause not yet determined.