In Brief

Whales Get Bitten by Mosquitoes, Too

orcas, orca facts, orca whales, killer whales, orca killer whales, orcinus orca, killer whale facts, killer whale pictures
The orca whale's large size and strength make it among the fastest marine mammals, able to reach speeds in excess of 30 knots (about 34 mph, or 56 kph). (Image credit: Orca image via Shutterstock)

No one's immune to mosquito bites — not even killer whales. Reports of captive killer whales dying of deadly mosquito-borne viruses are proof that these irksome insects have a taste for cetacean seafood. In 1990, the 25-year-old male orca Kanduke died at SeaWorld Orlando after contracting an encephalitis virus from a mosquito. In 2007, a 14-year-old male whale called Taku died of West Nile Virus at SeaWorld San Antonio. So far, there have been no reports of wild killer whales catching lethal viruses.

Scientists now think the captive whales are at risk partly because of the shallow pools they inhabit, where there body parts are exposed to the air and pesky insects, the researchers report in the current issue of the Journal of Marine Animals and Their Ecology, ScienceNOW writes. When it comes to mosquito bites, surface area is not working in the whales' favor. You'd need a lot of bug repellant to protect a creature that size.

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Tanya Lewis
Staff Writer
Tanya was a staff writer for Live Science from 2013 to 2015, covering a wide array of topics, ranging from neuroscience to robotics to strange/cute animals. She received a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering from Brown University. She has previously written for Science News, Wired, The Santa Cruz Sentinel, the radio show Big Picture Science and other places. Tanya has lived on a tropical island, witnessed volcanic eruptions and flown in zero gravity (without losing her lunch!). To find out what her latest project is, you can visit her website.