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New clue sheds light on harmful beak-altering disorder

Cara J

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For over a decade, chickadees, nuthatches and other birds in parts of North America and Europe have been spotted with deformed beaks — overgrown to a point where the birds have trouble picking up food and preening their feathers. The cause of these deformities has largely been a mystery — until now. According to a new study published in the journal mBio, a virus could be to blame for the disease referred to as avian keratin disorder. Dumbacher handles specimens from the ornithology collection at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, Calif. ©California Academy of Sciences Coauthor of the study Jack Dumbacher, a curator of birds and mammals at the California Academy of Sciences, first found out about the disorder after reading a paper in The Auk by Colleen Handel and Caroline Van Hemert in which the researchers struggled to determine what was causing the phenomenon in Alaska. “They were hoping to say more about the disease potential and causes,” Dumbacher said, adding that they looked at mites, viruses and bacteria. “They looked at all types of things, but none of them seemed to be related to the disease.” So, Dumbacher and his team including lead author and [...]


Read more: http://wildlife.org/new-clue-sheds-light-on-harmful-beak-altering-disorder/

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