Effect of Climatic Warming on the Pacific Walrus, and Potential Modification of Its Helminth Fauna

Rausch, Robert L.; George, John C.; Brower, Harry K.
October 2007
Journal of Parasitology;Oct2007, Vol. 93 Issue 5, p1247
Academic Journal
The decreasing extent of sea-ice in the arctic basin as a consequence of climatic warming is modifying the behavior and diets of pagophilic pinnipeds, including the Pacific walrus, Odobenus rosmarus divergens Illiger, the species emphasized here. Mammals such as the walrus and bearded seal, Erignathus barbatus (Erxleben), cannot remain associated with the sea-ice, and continue to feed on their usual diet of benthic invertebrates inhabiting coastal waters to a depth of approximately 100 m, when the northwestward retreating ice reaches deep waters beyond the margins of the continental shelf. With reduction of their customary substrate (ice), the walrus has become more pelagic and preys more often on ringed seals, Phoca hispida Schreber. Dietary changes, with modifications of helminth faunas, may be induced by various factors. Increased consumption of mammals or their remains by walruses may lead to a higher prevalence of trichinellosis in them and to more frequent occurrence in indigenous peoples inhabiting the arctic coasts. To assess predicted effects on the composition of helminth fauna of the walrus, we recommend systematic surveys of their helminths as part of research on effects of climatic warming.


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