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Mysterious Sea Lion Stranding Continues

Scientists are stumped as to why hundreds of starved pups have been washing up on the California shore.

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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A California sea lion pupWIKIMEDIA, ORBITGALAs of late last week there appears to be no end in sight to a steady stream of sea lion pups that have been washing up on the coast of California, suffering from starvation. And researchers are struggling to determine what’s causing the mass strandings. More than 1,000 pups had already been taken to marine mammal rehabilitation facilities in the state by Thursday (April 4), according to Wired Science.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has declared it an “Unusual Mortality Event,” and teams of investigators are preparing to study the problem. Already, the event has produced more stranded sea lion pups than the yearly average.

Researchers will try to determine what exactly is causing the animals to starve, with the likely suspect being some environmental perturbation that is disturbing the sea lions’ food source, small fish that normally congregate offshore....

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