Jennifer Viegas writes for Discovery News:
A new condition is causing many penguin chicks to lose their feathers, with some victims dying as a result of the mysterious problem, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The condition, called “feather-loss disorder,” appears to have emerged recently and is now affecting penguin colonies on both sides of the South Atlantic.
“Feather-loss disorders are uncommon in most bird species, and we need to conduct further study to determine the cause of the disorder and if this is in fact spreading to other penguin species,” Dee Boersma was quoted as saying in a WCS press release. Boersma has conducted studies on Magellanic penguins for more than three decades.
“We need to learn how to stop the spread of feather-loss disorder,” she added, “as penguins already have problems with oil pollution and climate variation. It’s important to keep disease from being added to the list of threats they face.”
So far, Boersma and her colleagues offer the following as possible causes for feather-loss disorder: pathogens, thyroid disorders, nutrient imbalances or genetics…