Swedish scientists have discovered that vast numbers of wild birds in the Baltic Sea area are dying of a strange paralytic disease caused by advanced thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency in eggs, young, and adults.
In a new research paper the team, from Stockholm University, Sweden, report that levels of Thiamine, vital for the proper functioning of the nerves, were found to be deficient in the eggs, livers and brains of several local bird species, contributing to significant declines in many bird populations over the last few decades.
Hearteningly, it seems that paralysed individuals can be successfully remedied by thiamine treatment
The scientists, led by Associate Professor Lennart Balk, also reported that the paralytic disease was observed in 78% of the investigated bird species (28 of 36). In some species, such as the herring gull, thiamine deficiency results in a reduction of the number of eggs, whereas in other species, such as the common eider, the females seem to be capable of producing eggs essentially devoid of thiamine. As a result, many herring gulls in the Baltic Sea area do not produce any eggs at all, and the excess mortality among common eider young is immense.
As yet, the authors are still in the dark about what causes the deficiency, but stress the urgent need for further investigations. At this stage, however, common persistent organic pollutants are largely ruled out, since the affected species occupy a wide range of ecological niches and positions in the food web.
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