Britain's Great Tits Now Threatened by Foreign Strain of Avian Pox

The virus is causing the tits to develop life-threatening tumors, researchers explain

By on November 22nd, 2012 08:59 GMT

The scientific journal PLOS ONE recently witnessed the publication of a new study stating that Britain might see a drop in its great tits population as a result of their being hit by a foreign strain of avian pox.

Specialists believe that this strain of avian pox was brought to England by mosquitoes coming from the continent, and emphasize the fact that other bird species such as house sparrows, wood pigeons and lesser tits are bound to also be affected.

Needless to say, this situation fosters noteworthy issues in terms of biodiversity conservation.

Daily Mail quotes Dr. Shelly Lachish, from the Oxford University’s Edward Grey Institute, who commented on these findings as follows:

“Although recovery from infection can occur, our results show that this new strain of avian pox virus significantly reduces the survival of great tits and has particularly large effects on the survival of juvenile birds.”

Interestingly enough, this foreign strain of avian pox is argued to be incapable of decimating Britain's tits population all by itself.

However, the virus does leave the species more vulnerable to other environmental shift, which might occur in their natural habitats, not to mention the fact that it lowers yearly growth rates.

“Based on the numbers of affected great tits that we have observed at Wytham Woods, our models do not predict that this new disease will cause an overall population decline of the species. However, pox-affected populations have lower yearly growth rates,” specialist Shelly Lachish explains.

This particular strain of avian pox translates into the birds' developing infections that present themselves in the form of wart-like tumors that grow on their bodies.

Because of these tumors, the birds have a rather difficult time feeding and staying clear of predators.

“Emerging infectious diseases of wildlife can have severe effects on host populations and constitute a pressing problem for biodiversity conservation,” the study reads.

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