Death: It's Not Just for Adult Sea Lions

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Dozens of sick and starving sea lion pups are washing up on Southern California shores. Many have not survived. Meanwhile, researchers have cast a wider net for causes of adult sea lion cancer deaths.

None of the baby sea lions filling rescue centers--including Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach that has treated 27 thin and hungry pups since December--would be mistaken for the healthy flapper above.

See for yourself in the sad pictures that accompany Pat Brennan's Orange County Register post.

Brennan writes:

Most are severely underweight and in the advance stages of starvation, and only 11 have survived. Rescuers say El Niño-influenced ocean-water warming is driving away their prey, mainly squid and fish -- the same reason given by experts for a rash of dead and dying pelicans that thronged bird rescue centers in recent months.

"We saw a large number of starvations at the end of last year," said Richard Evans, a veterinarian who was treating sick sea lions at the Laguna Beach center Thursday. "Pups from that group are now out on their own, and they can't find anything to eat."

Twelve pups were being treated Thursday, nine of them in critical condition.

Meanwhile, after 14 years of trying to figure out what is causing large numbers of sea lions to suffer terminal cancer, scientists have zeroed in on viruses, PCBs in the water and genetics.

"Years of study have led researchers to think the answer lies not with any one culprit, but with several," the New YorkTimes reports.

Tumors have been found in sick sea lions' genitals, lymph nodes, lower spine, kidneys, liver and lungs during post-mortem examinations.

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