What is Killing the Sea Otters?

There is a parasite, known as toxoplasma gondii, that reports say are responsible for killing many sea otters. The parasite is found in, of all things, domestic cat feces. How, you may wonder, are cat feces getting into the ocean and into the shell fish that sea otters eat? Every time someone cleans their cat’s litter box by dumping the feces into the toilet, the feces end up where most of our waste water ends up, in the ocean. This exemplifies the interconnectedness of all things. Sea Otters eat shellfish and sea urchins, in particular. If sea otters are not around to eat sea urchins, which live on kelp, scientists fear the sea urchins will wipe out the sea forests. Sea otters are being looked at as indicator species providing information on our ecosystem as a whole. If indicators are healthy, the rest of the ecosystem is healthy.

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