SEATTLE — New research shows killer whales are inhaling bacteria, fungi and viruses once believed to be found only on land.
The Seattle Times reports scientists have been gathering orca breath samples from the waters of Washington and British Columbia for the past four years.
By comparing them to surface waters and orca death records, the scientists have stumbled upon this trend.
The discovery comes as researchers also learn that respiratory ailments may be a leading cause of orca deaths, and that leads biologists to a new question:
Given that Puget Sound’s orcas are stressed and potentially more susceptible to illness, how much risk could exposure to new sources of infection pose?
The research is so new, it’s hard to draw firm conclusions.
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