A similar breeding loss was observed 2013 - 2014

Wolbachia has been infecting their food source for ~ 7 years

Colony of Adelie Penguin taken near the French Dumont d'Urville Station on Adelie Land, Antarctica
Credit: Matthieu Weber's travels (Own work (Å“uvre personnelle)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Climate Change Is a Weak Argument

But, it certainly makes ALL of us responsible, right?

If you are starting to suspect that climate change is being blamed for too many vertebrate die-offs, you are right.

Back in 2002, a large piece of the Larsen B — a huge piece of ice in the Antarctic Peninsula — broke off into the ocean. It measured 1,250 square miles and was about the size of Rhode Island.[1]

Yet, there were no mass penguin chick deaths observed or reported around 2002. And there definitely are Adelie penguin chicks reared on the Antarctic Peninsula — as well as Terre Adelie (Adelie Land) — the site of this latest mortality event.

In fact, this latest die-off is only "the second time in just four years that such devastation – not previously seen in more than 50 years of observation – has been wrought on the population."[2]

Worth repeating: not previously seen in more than 50 years of observation.

So, what has changed in the past five years?

For the past five to seven years, our food chain has been infected via Wolbachia-infected Aedes male mosquito releases. 

As stated in my previous article, Test North Atlantic Right Whales for WNV, SLEV, ZIKV and Wolbachia:

Both Wolbachia and host mitochondria are maternally transmitted and subsequently can be co-inherited by the offspring ... Previous studies have documented the role of Wolbachia in driving dramatic changes within host populations ... excessive infection intensity may result in pathology, resulting in negative effects upon host fitness [survival].

Wolbachia is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde depending on the species that acquires it. And what happens in the lab doesn't always become reality in the natural environment. For example, whether water was refreshed or not had a dramatic effect on larval mortality according to Ross, P et al. 2016.
And a growing number of studies report that Wolbachia directly interferes with viruses and other pathogens inside the arthropod host. This direct effect of Wolbachia can either impede or promote the pathogen's replication and survival (Zug and Hammerstein, 2015).
Examples of neutral or pro-pathogenic effect of Wolbachia include: Brugia pahangi (Dutton and Sinkins, 2005); Japanese encephalitis (JE) Virus (Tsai et al.,  2006); Drosophila C Virus (Osborne et al., 2009); and Plasmodium gallinaceum (Baton et al., 2013).
It was shown that the presence of a virus facilitates the invasion of Wolbachia. And Strauß and Telschow recognized "empirical data for wild populations are lacking".

Zika is more related to Culex-borne viruses. In fact, five independent research teams have confirmed that Culex are also vectors of ZIKV.

Zika shares the same phylogenetic clade alongside West Nile virus with over 97 percent nodal support (even though it is constantly compared to dengue and yellow fever).[4]

This is a crucial scientific fact because:

"West Nile virus outbreaks and mortality events have been documented in both wild and captive avian species, including penguins."[3]

Over 300 species of birds carry West Nile virus; some can amplify the virus a billion times more than a human

Almost 1/2 of bulbuls [Pycnonotidae] had ZIKV (Okia et al. 1971)

Phylogenetic Clade showing Zika alongside West Nile, SLEV, and JEV
Credit: Rose Webster (aka RoseWrites) All rights reserved [ask me about reuse]

Trillions of Wolbachia-Infected Aedes Have Been Released

In these areas, the worst manifestations of Zika have been reported

Wolbachia Infects Food Chain
Credit: Rose Webster (aka RoseWrites)

Tests were ONLY conducted on soil samples, plant leaves and roots, earthworms and millipedes (in Australia)

Hertig 1936 studied Wolbachia's ability to infect mice and chicken embryos and this (somehow) established vertebrate safety

Global Sites of Wolbachia-Infected Aedes Releases
Credit: Rose Webster (aka RoseWrites)

Zika and Wolbachia Infections Should Be Ruled Out

Yet it appears that (so far) that no one is willing to test for them

This massive penguin chick die-off supports my Wolbachia-infecting-our-food-chain theory. 

Climate change is contributory but it doesn't explain the rapid extinction and breeding failures of vertebrate species (e.g. Arctic terns, planktivorous fish, North Atlantic right whales, Adelie penguins, and even human males). 

In fact, "for the last two decades, the Antarctic peninsula – the tip of the continent nearest to South America - has not got any warmer, scientists have found".[8]

These hardy penguins are consuming inordinate amounts of Wolbachia via their food sources. 

How hardy are these penguins? 

  • Adelie penguins can dive to an incredible depth of 574 meters in order to hunt for food.[5]
  • Adelie penguins are migratory birds. They migrate 8,100 miles (13,000 km) annually. During the winter, these birds migrate north to an environment of packed ice where it's thought that they have better access to food.[5]
  • Adelie penguin breeding season begins in early spring and lasts through summer. They lay usually 2 eggs per nest and the eggs take between 24 and 39 days to hatch. The young birds fledge after 28 days (on average).[6]
  • They forage in the waters surrounding Antarctica. Their distribution is circumpolar.[6]

My point: a massive die-off of this scale points to an infectious viral/bacterial cause. 

The Distribution of the Adelie Penguin

These penguins are extremely well-adapted and hardy

The Distribution of the Adelie Penguin
Credit: By Tobartos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Murray Foubister took this photo December 23rd, 2015

Adelie Penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) with young chicks, Paulet Island

Adelie Penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) with young chicks on Paulet Island
Credit: Murray Foubister on flickr (CC-by-SA-2.0)

What Are Adelie Penguins Consuming?

More than what was previously believed

According to the 2013 study Adelie Penguin Population Diet Monitoring by Analysis of Food DNA in Scats by Simon N. Jarman, Julie C. McInnes, Cassandra Faux, Andrea M. Polanowski, James Marthick, Bruce E. Deagle, Colin Southwell, and Louise Emmerson:

"Prey diversity was found to be greater than previously thought. Krill, fish, copepods and amphipods were the most important food groups."[7]

All of those consume mosquito larvae. And both Wolbachia and Zika are maternally-inherited (found in mosquito adults, eggs, and larvae).

As stressed in my post Wolbachia-Infected Aedes: An Ill-Fated Experiment in French Polynesia:

"... one phage could potentially be used to modify a broad range of Wolbachia stains (Tanaka et al., 2009; Kent and Bordenstein, 2010;Wang et al., 2013)."

WWF - Canada Confirmed a 51 Percent Loss of Insectivores and a 43 Percent Loss of Shorebird Populations

Even as birds of prey increased

Arctic tern M. cyclops and Wolbachia-infected Aedes in food chain on map
Credit: Rose Webster (aka RoseWrites)

Who Is Responsible For Infecting Our Food Chain?

The deepest pockets and the most powerful on the planet

It might come as a shock to some of you, but it appears those funding Wolbachia-infected Aedes are also funding much of the U.S. scientific community (including universities and research departments): Bill & Melinda Gates; Wellcome Trust; Australian, Queensland, UK, and Brazilian governments; USAID, and the Tahija and Gillespie Family Foundations.

There is a huge divide in the scientific community and unfortunately those who get funded seem to be those that are steering the public away from Wolbachia and/or Zika as probable causes of vertebrate breeding failures and death.

My latest Change.org petition[10] proved this point to me. I wrote to the pathologists, NOAA, and even Dominic LeBlanc (in 2016). 

When I asked Dr. Daoust if ZIKV, WNV, SLEV, and Wolbachia infections were ruled out he replied that these whales were in various states of decomposition, downplayed the likelihood of a mosquito biting them, and therefore these were not even considered or tested for.

Sadly, the report Media Advisory - Technical briefing: Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative report - Incident Report: North Atlantic Right Whale Mortality Event in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 2017 clearly states:

On page 15: "The possibility of an infectious disease being involved in the death of five of the six whales, either directly by causing death or indirectly by weakening them and making them more susceptible to other pathological processes such as trauma, cannot be ruled out but is unlikely."[9]

On page 16, "... involvement of an infectious disease in this mortality event is unlikely ..."[9] even though on page 27 it states:
"There are no indications that vessel traffic in 2017 was significantly different than 2016 or previous years nor that pattern of use deviated from previously observed."[9]

How long can we use this line?

Are any scientists willing to step up to the plate?

Latest BS Phrase
Credit: Rose Webster (aka RoseWrites)