Seasonal variation in dietary patterns and trophic niche overlap among three sympatric medium-sized carnivores in a cool-temperate zone
Abstract. To understand and sustain carnivore communities and ecosystems, it is important to determine the mechanisms of coexistence and potential competitive interactions among carnivores. This study examined how carnivores coexist and how climatic environmental shifts affect the potential competitive interactions among medium-sized carnivores. The seasonal trophic niche overlap of red foxes, Japanese martens, and raccoon dogs in the cool-temperate zone in Japan was evaluated, where there are distinct seasonal changes, especially from heavy snowfall. Faecal analysis of red foxes (n = 107), Japanese martens (n = 125), and raccoon dogs (n = 100) from 2019 to 2021 showed that carnivores share the main food items and their annual dietary overlap is relatively high despite the co-occurrence of carnivores. These results have indicated that the carnivores have potentially strong competitive interactions, and various competition avoidance mechanisms besides niche partitioning may facilitate the coexistence of carnivores in Japan. The study also found that the degree of trophic niche overlap varied by season, indicating that shifts in environmental conditions, particularly food abundance and snowfall, may affect potential competitive interactions among carnivore guilds.
A record of a melanistic forest dormouse Dryomys nitedula in Lithuania, with a review of colour anomalies in dormice (Gliridae)
Abstract. A melanistic forest dormouse Dryomys nitedula was recorded among 125 individuals marked in a small isolated local population in central Lithuania. Until now, a totally black individual of D. nitedula was captured only in western Ukraine. A review of the literature on colour anomalies in European dormouse species has shown that this phenomenon is rare in dormice. Several black hazel dormice Muscardinus avellanarius were recorded in the same locality in northern Germany in 1972 and 2015, and one such dormouse was captured in the UK. Partial albino M. avellanarius was recorded in Germany. Two melanistic garden dormice Eliomys quercinus were collected in the Czech Republic, an albino specimen in France and a flavistic specimen in Germany. In the edible dormouse Glis glis, melanistic, albino, isabelline and flavistic individuals were recorded, all from Slovenia and the Czech Republic. Among aberrant-coloured European dormice, melanistic individuals were documented most often. Tail-tip albinism is more frequent among M. avellanarius, and this trait was recorded in several countries.
Repeated ecomorphological divergence in Bujurquina (Teleostei: Cichlidae) body shape
Abstract. Based on recent discoveries, Bujurquina appears to be the most widely distributed and species-rich cichlid genus in the western Amazon of (South America). In this study, using a large representative sample of Bujurquina covering its whole distribution area, we use morphological and molecular data to test the hypothesis that each major western Amazon basin includes multiple endemic Bujurquina species arranged along an elevational river gradient and that these species are upland- and lowland-adapted in their ecomorphology. The hypothesis derives from two lines of evidence, i.e. observations of distribution patterns in Bujurquina and paleogeographic reorganisation of western Amazon drainage patterns. Body shape morphometrics and a biogeographic reconstruction of molecular phylogeny supported our hypothesis, confirming that upland and lowland Bujurquina show consistent differences in body shape and proportions that can be explained as repeated adaptations to local aquatic conditions within each main river basin. Ecomorphological divergence in relation to lentic and lotic waters (lowland and upland habitats) was repeated in all five basins studied, i.e. the Madre de Dios, upper Ucayali, central western Amazon-Huallaga, Marañón and Napo-Putumayo basins.
Dispersal of eastern imperial eagles from the Czech Republic
Abstract. The first successful breeding of eastern imperial eagles (Aquila heliaca) in the Czech Republic, which lies at the north-western edge of its world breeding range, was confirmed in 1998. Here we summarise the dispersal, overwintering and expansion of the Czech population based on observational, ringing and telemetry data. The Czech breeding population had increased to at least 14 breeding pairs and 18 territorial pairs by 2022. Between 2017 and 2021, 19 nestlings were equipped with GPS/GSM devices. Two of the 16 surviving individuals (12.5%) spent their first winter in the Mediterranean (1,460 km and 1,671 km from natal nest), but did not repeat this migration pattern again. The other 14 tracked individuals wintered close to their natal areas. Maximal recorded distances from the natal nest and total area occupied (100% minimal convex polygons) were significantly lower in the first calendar year than the second. Signs of settlement prior to the first nesting attempt were already apparent by the third or fourth calendar year. Excluding exploratory trips during the floater period, final natal dispersals for two of the breeding males were 46 km and 92 km, respectively. Further spreading of the species’ Czech breeding range is expected in the future.
Relationships between bird species richness and different facets of landscape heterogeneity – insights from a military area
Abstract. Military areas often host extraordinary biodiversity compared to the typical agricultural landscape in Europe. It has been suggested that this is due to the high landscape heterogeneity caused by disturbances from military training. This study aimed to test this hypothesis using data from the military area Hradiště and nearby farmland in the Czech Republic (Central Europe). Here, we measured two facets of landscape heterogeneity ‒ the number of woody vegetation patches and habitat diversity ‒ and supplemented these measures with previously published data from bird point counts performed on the same sites. The number of woody vegetation patches was higher in the military area than in the farmland and was positively related to the species richness of birds of conservation concern. Habitat diversity did not differ between both regions. It showed, however, a hump-shaped relationship with total bird species richness. Our results indicate that open landscapes of military areas host a higher number of birds of conservation concern than the farmland due to a finer grain of woodland-grassland mosaic. To support more bird species, it is essential to keep habitat diversity high in open landscapes but at a level that does not harm bird populations by area limitation.
Phenotypic trait variations in the frog Nanorana parkeri: differing adaptive strategies to altitude between sexes
Abstract. In many animals, changes in altitude drive adaptive variation in body size. However, how other phenotypic traits change when faced with different environments has been little studied in ectotherms. In this study, we selected the high Himalaya frog Nanorana parkeri as a model species for investigating the adaptive evolution of phenotypic traits that respond to altitude in both sexes. First, we found that body mass in populations at higher altitudes was lower than at lower altitudes in females, with no difference observed in males. Second, we found significant differences in fresh liver mass, fresh heart mass, and the ratio of liver mass to body mass with increasing altitude, while hindlimb length decreased with altitude in both sexes. Third, snout-urostyle length, hindlimb length, fresh heart mass and the ratio of heart mass to body mass showed significant negative correlations with increasing altitude in both sexes. In contrast, body mass showed a significant correlation with altitude in females but not males. On the other hand, the ratio of liver mass to body mass showed a significant correlation with altitude in males but not in females. Thus, the species displayed sex-specific organ-size variation along elevation gradients, which may trade-off in life history strategies among populations. We speculate that selection favours a larger heart and liver mass to maintain a higher respiratory rate and energy consumption as an adaptation to high-altitude environments.
Fluctuating asymmetry and environmental stress in a reptile under different levels of anthropogenic disturbance
Abstract. In the Monte region of Argentina, the local population is causing severe habitat degradation by extracting native vegetation and domestic animal grazing. To assess whether disturbed environments have higher levels of asymmetry than control environments, we examined morphological variation and fluctuating asymmetry in the cephalic region of the longtail whiptail lizard Aurivela longicauda (Teiidae) using a Procrustes analysis with geometric morphometry. This is the first study of asymmetry using geometric morphometry in a lizard from Argentina. While there was no difference in the size of the cephalic region between the two environments, there were differences in shape between the right and left side of the lizard’s head (object symmetry), the differences being greater at disturbed sites (fluctuating asymmetry), suggesting that anthropogenic activities may act as stressors driving alterations in the fitness (reproduction) of reptile populations. Fluctuating asymmetry analysis is an excellent conservation biology and environmental monitoring tool for measuring stress in different organisms.
A rapid assessment of non-native fish distributions in two English river basins using environmental DNA
Abstract. Environmental DNA (eDNA) surveys are increasingly used to inform management decisions for non-native species, for example, by detecting the presence and plotting distributions of species that may be in too low abundance for easy detection by conventional means. A recently-developed nested PCR protocol was used to assess the distributions of three non-native fish species in two river basins of southern England (River Test, Hampshire; River Ouse, Sussex). These river basins were known to contain three non-native fishes, either in the recent past or currently: two invasive small-bodied fish species (topmouth gudgeon Pseudorasbora parva, sunbleak Leucaspius delineatus), as well as a currently non-invasive species predicted to become invasive under future climate conditions, pumpkinseed Lepomis gibbosus. Water samples were collected at locations from headwater streams to estuary. Pumpkinseed and sunbleak were both detected downstream of an angling venue in the Sussex Ouse catchment known to contain those species, with an upstream expansion of sunbleak suggested by the detection of eDNA at a few upstream locations. Neither sunbleak nor topmouth gudgeon was detected in water samples from the River Test catchment, suggesting that neither species has persistent populations in that river catchment.
Male position in a sexual network reflects mating role and body size
Abstract. Several species are characterised by male mating polymorphisms, which are often associated with sperm competition for which some phenotypes show specialisation. With high-resolution behavioural data, we used network analysis to quantify sperm competition intensity; the probability of overlap of the ejaculates of different males among competing male European bitterling (Rhodeus amarus) in a large experimental mesocosm. Implementing Bayesian inference with informative priors, we modelled sperm competition intensity among males adopting two alternative mating roles to understand how sperm competition intensity varied between roles as a function of body size. We demonstrated that larger males performing a “guarder” role experienced lower sperm competition intensity than smaller males. In contrast, for “sneaker males”, larger males experienced greater sperm competition intensity. We discuss these findings in the context of mating system evolution and the reproductive biology of bitterling.
Cedar plantations as habitat for Japanese squirrels in the cool temperate zone
Abstract. In this study, we determine whether coniferous plantations in the cool temperate zone of northeast Japan, with few natural evergreen forests, can serve as a habitat for Japanese squirrels. We also examine whether Japanese squirrel habitat use in cedar plantations varies based on forest structure. Our results showed that the relative frequency of squirrel occurrence, determined by camera traps and the number of feeding signs, was significantly higher at cedar forest survey sites than other forest types. The best generalised linear model for frequency of occurrence included the number of standing trees, canopy openness and understory visibility, while the best model for the number of feeding signs included total basal area, canopy openness and the number of walnut trees. The results suggest that cedar plantations within the study area serve partially as a habitat for squirrels, replacing natural evergreen trees. Furthermore, squirrel habitat use differed between cedar plantations based on forest structure, confirming the importance of a diverse forest structure for squirrels. Therefore, when considering the conservation and management of small arboreal mammals that use such plantations, they must include diverse structures to facilitate their use as a habitat.
Ocellated lizard predation patterns on red-legged partridge nests in olive groves
Abstract. In this study, we evaluated predation of the ocellated lizard on red-legged partridge nests in an olive grove in southern Spain over three consecutive years. The microhabitat characteristics of prey nests are analysed through comparison with successful nests. We found only 13 nests predated by lizards during the study period. This number was three times lower than that of nests that failed due to causes related to agricultural practices or human activity in the same period and study area. A few of the nests were predated by mammals more than they were preyed upon by lizards. The nests preyed on by lizards were associated with proximity to their refuge areas (e.g. stone piles, old buildings with holes, or rabbit burrows). The characteristics of the olive grove (e.g. drip irrigation and absence of vegetation under the olive trees) may favour the ocellated lizards' search-and-hunt strategy, which allows a lizard to readily find a nest if it is inside the lizard's territory and close to its refuge. We propose management strategies for reducing lizard-related nest losses. However, we argue that olive grove intensification is a major cause of partridge nest failure rather than predation by lizards and other predators.
Diet composition of Asiatic lions in protected areas and multi-use land matrix
Abstract. Comparative studies on the diet of large felids in protected areas (PAs) and surrounding multi-use landscapes are important for their conservation. The Asiatic lion is an endangered felid distributed in Gir PA and the surrounding multi-use land matrix. Based on scat analyses, we assessed the dietary composition of Asiatic lions. The frequency of occurrence (FOO), biomass consumption model, dietary niche breadth and dietary overlap index was used to quantify diet. The Asiatic lion ate more wild prey (74%) than domestic livestock (26%) in the Gir PA. In contrast, lion diets comprised 51% wild prey and 42% domestic livestock in the multi-use land matrix. Sambar contributed most (38%) to the diet in PAs, while blue bull most (29%) in the multi-use land matrix. However, diet diversity and niche breadth were similar between these two areas. The dietary overlap in the lions’ diet between these two areas was 0.52. The results suggest that large-size wild ungulates are the main prey species in Gir PA, while in the surrounding multi-use land matrix, both large wild ungulates and domestic livestock are the main prey. The present study may help future lion conservation management decisions.
Ovipositor of bitterling fishes (Cyprinidae, Acheilognathinae): fine structure from a functional perspective
Abstract. The study presents fine structure data on the ovipositor of four bitterling species (Rhodeus ocellatus, Rhodeus amarus, Paratanakia himantegus and Acheilognathus barbatulus). In A. barbatulus and P. himantegus, ovipositor structure has never been studied. Novel data on the structure of the ovipositor were collected using two complementary methods, light- and transmission electron microscopy. The new findings relate to the covering and lining epithelia, basal laminae, cell junctions and supporting/connective tissue layer. All examined fish shared the same basic ovipositor structure and the newly reported details, regardless of their species affiliation. Evaluation of structure modifications related to the passage of eggs through the ovipositor revealed a range of transitional tissue changes, corroborating their presumable role inferred from the study of fine structure.
Forest musk deer (Moschus berezovskii) in China: research and protection
Abstract. The forest musk deer (Moschus berezovskii) is an endangered artiodactyl species. Males have a musk gland that secretes musk. Musk is the raw material for many medicines and has high economic value. In recent years, because of the impacts of illegal trade and habitat fragmentation, the wild forest musk deer has nearly been driven to extinction, and it has been listed as a key protected animal by many countries. Since 2002, the Chinese government has listed wild forest musk deer populations as first-class nationally protected animals and has conducted many artificial breeding studies. In this article, we review and summarise the biological characteristics and protective measures of wild forest musk deer, the musk synthesis mechanisms and the factors influencing musk yield. We also discuss the problems facing forest musk deer conservation and the development of musk-related medicines.
Bone size and its effect on body mass in Eothenomys miletus from the Hengduan Mountain region
Abstract. Morphological characteristics are closely related to habitat characteristics; habitat differences drive morphological differentiation, resulting in intraspecific and interspecific differences. In the present study, it was shown that body mass and body length in Eothenomys miletus from five regions: (Dali (DL), Jianchuan (JC), Lijiang (LJ), Xianggelila (XGLL) and Deqin (DQ)) of Hengduan Mountain, showed differentiation in bone morphological indices. The length of the sternum in E. miletus in JC is smaller than that in XGLL, and the length of the lumbar vertebrae is smaller than that in XGLL and DQ. The length of other trunk bones and limb bones of E. miletus in DL, JC and LJ at low latitudes and high temperatures were longer than in XGLL and DQ at high latitudes and low temperatures. Principal component analysis associated XGLL and DQ populations and cluster analysis divided the populations from five regions into two categories. The increase in bone length and mass correlated with increased body mass in E. miletus. Change in bone length does not conform to Bergmann’s Law, which was affected by altitude, average annual temperature and latitude. Moreover, food, terrain, and living habits may also affect bone morphology in E. miletus.
Early post-release behaviour of Eurasian lynx translocated to the transboundary region of the Dinaric Mountains
Abstract. Translocations of individuals for re-introductions and population reinforcements have been increasingly used in carnivore conservation. Movement is the first behavioural response of reintroduced animals to “forced dispersal” in a new habitat. Our study investigated space use and movement patterns of six male Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) translocated from the Carpathian to the Dinaric Mountains and released at four different sites in Croatia and Slovenia. Data were collected during their early post-release period (i.e. three months after the release) to investigate the first behavioural response following the translocation. Released lynx were monitored with GPS-GSM-VHF telemetry collars set to collect GPS locations in intervals between 4 and 24 h. All animals settled during the study period, on average 23 days (SD = 16.5) after the release. Although outside of the monitoring period that was the focus of this study, two lynx left their first territory 102 and 92 days after their release and went on a second exploratory movement. The main movement direction of the released animals was to the NW-SE, corresponding to the orientation of the predominant ridgelines of the Dinaric Mountain range. Furthermore, by comparing the use and availability of the terrain aspect, we concluded that the lynx chose to move along the mountain range and not perpendicular to the mountain, i.e. they avoided moving uphill and downhill. First, kill sites of all animals were detected on average 3.4 days (SD = 1.7) after the release. This study brought valuable theoretical and practical knowledge on the early movement behaviour of translocated lynx that should be considered when planning translocations.
Two new hypogean species of Triplophysa (Cypriniformes: Nemacheilidae) from the River Yangtze drainage in Guizhou, China
Abstract. Two hypogean species of genus Triplophysa are herein described from two subterranean tributaries of the River Yangtze drainage in Guiyang City, Guizhou Province, China. Triplophysa wudangensis, new species, can be distinguished from its congeners by the combination of the following characters: eye reduced, with diameter 5.1-6.5% HL; interorbital width 33.1-35.8% HL; body scaleless; lateral line complete; posterior chamber of air bladder degenerated; anterior nostril with elongated barbel-like tip; distal margin of dorsal fin truncate; dorsal fin with 7, anal fin with 5, and caudal fin with 14 branched fin rays; vertebrae 4 + 34. Triplophysa qingzhenensis, new species, can be distinguished from its congeners by the combination of the following characters: eye reduced, with diameter 2.1-4.4% HL; interorbital width 25.1-30.4% HL; body scaleless; lateral line complete; posterior chamber of air bladder degenerated; anterior nostril with elongated barbel-like tip; distal margin of dorsal fin truncate; dorsal fin with 7-8, anal fin with 5, and caudal fin with 14 branched fin rays; vertebrae 4 + 36. Molecular phylogenetic analysis supported the validity of these two new species and indicated their close relationship with Triplophysa rosa.
How do seasonal changes in adult wolf defecation patterns affect scat detection probabilities?
Abstract. Wolves are currently recolonising their historic range in France. The collection of scats is a widely used a non-invasive survey method to monitor wolf population size. However, seasonal changes in wolf faecal deposition patterns might affect the results of surveys. We used a detection dog and camera trapping (CT) to compare wolf scat detectability during winter and the nursing season. We collected 113 scats deposited by adult wolves at 29 marking sites on forest roads in the Sainte-Baume Regional Park, Provence, France. After parturition, the mean number of adult wolf scats increased by 160% inside the nursing territory and decreased by 80% outside of it. Around the time the pups are born, changes in faecal deposition patterns of adults make it easier to find scats around the wolf den (87% probability per wolf marking site) and harder to find scats outside the nursing territory (11% probability). During winter, the chance to find scats is equal (38 to 40% probability per wolf marking site) inside vs outside the nursing territory. The combined use of a detection dog and camera traps allowed us to gather data on wolf defecation patterns non-invasively. Detectability of adult wolf scats during the nursing season is highly variable compared to winter due to seasonal behavioural changes affecting scat location. We conclude that surveys to collect samples and estimate wolf population size should be conducted exclusively during winter to avoid sampling biases.
Supplementary morphological information for Cornufer manus (Kraus & Allison, 2009) and Cornufer vogti (Hediger, 1934), with information on colour in life
Abstract. Manus Island is part of the Admiralty Islands, a herpetologically rich but poorly studied area. Seven species of Cornufer (von Tschudi, 1838) are known to occur on the island, five of which have been described. Based on material collected from Manus Island in 2014, we here describe the first female of Cornufer manus and the first male of Cornufer vogti. Additionally, we provide new information on intraspecific variation from a further eight adult males of C. manus, two subadults of C. vogti, as well as the first photographs of both species in life.
Seasonal variation in testicular biometry of wild boar in the game preserve
Abstract. The increase in wild boar numbers in recent decades is partly due to the involvement of most young females in reproduction as early as their first year of life. After the rut of adult females is over, young females are still entering oestrous as they attain maturity, prolonging the rutting period by several months. This study aimed to evaluate the effect of seasonality on the growth rate of male wild boar bodies, the growth of piglet and yearling male wild boar gonads, and sperm concentration in the epididymides. We found that yearlings' weight and body length were almost constant in summer and autumn, with a sharp increase in winter. Seasonality was also reflected in the body condition index, which rose by more than 41% between summer and winter. In terms of seasonality, the testimetric dimensions again differed significantly only in winter. Sperm were recorded in piglets weighing more than 15 kg. Regardless of the time of capture, 41% of piglets were examined as juveniles, only 6%, resp. 8% of piglets reached low or medium concentration values. While 10% of all yearling males were azoospermatic (juvenile), regardless of weight, there was evidence of seasonality in the proportion of males with measurable concentrations. These concentrations gradually increased from 62.5% in summer to 78.6% in winter. No sterile male over two years of age was noted. The results show that even in wild boars, there is a culmination not only of physical characteristics in winter but also a culmination of testimetric dimensions. Sperm already occur in 15 kg of piglets, which means they can theoretically participate in the fertilisation of female piglets.
Mink predation in great crested grebe colonies: random robbery or a well-planned hunt?
Abstract. The study aimed to recognize whether the activity of a semi-aquatic invasive carnivore – the American mink Neovison vison – is related to the distribution of waterbird colonies. For this reason, we monitored mink occurrence in lake reedbeds and the fate of artificial nests imitating those of the great crested grebe Podiceps cristatus. The location of artificial nests in the grebe colony increased the probability of their survival compared to those placed outside the grebe colony. During the study, mink activity increased over time. In general, it was lower in colonies than outside of them, suggesting that the presence of natural nests does not increase the probability of mink occurrence in lake reedbeds. However, mink activity was negatively correlated with the distance from the lake shoreline and differed spatially according to the presence or absence of natural grebe nests. In grebe colonies, the probability of mink occurrence at greater distances from the lake shoreline was higher than outside, which can be explained by optimizing swimming effort while searching for prey. In conclusion, mink activity in colonies was lower than in areas with no waterbird nests, and nest location in a colony decreased predation risk by mink.
Providing scientifically defensible evidence and correct calibrated thresholds for risk screening non-native species with second-generation Weed Risk Assessment-type decision-support tools
Abstract. The risk screening of non-native species that are likely to be invasive in a defined risk assessment area is crucial for implementing strategies of rapid response and mitigation to protect native biodiversity and socio-economic activities. However, for successful risk-ranking of the screened species, scientifically defensible evidence in support of the screening outcomes must be provided, and computation of a correctly calibrated threshold to distinguish between medium-risk and high-risk species must be achieved. This paper reviews published applications of the “second-generation” Weed Risk Assessment-type decision support tools (i.e. the Aquatic Species Invasiveness Screening Kit and the Terrestrial Animal Species Invasiveness Screening Kit) evaluated in terms of the above two requirements. Several procedural errors were identified that involved: i) lack of provision of the report with details of the species-specific screenings; ii) incomplete justifications for the responses in the toolkit questionnaire; iii) incomplete details of the protocol used for the a priori categorisation of the screened species for threshold computation; iv) unaccepted or non-existent taxonomic names for the screened species (including typographical errors). Guidelines are provided for both assessors and reviewers to ensure that these procedural errors are avoided in future applications of these risk screening toolkits.
Habitat use of the mistle thrush (Turdus viscivorus): the importance of urban areas and permanent crops
Abstract. The mistle thrush is a species that occurs in old-growth forests, especially coniferous forests, in hilly and mountain areas and avoids warm and dry areas and human settlements. Despite this, in recent decades, the mistle thrush has colonised Apulia, southern Italy's lowlands and coasts, in rural and urban contexts. This study investigates the habitat selection of this species in central Apulia, in both the breeding season and winter, by carrying out 301 point counts and 264 linear transects. Data were collected to build a Species Distribution Model (SDM) for each season with the MaxEnt algorithm and the regional land use map, selecting variables through the Akaike Information Criterion. Overlap in the suitability of both seasons was measured using Schoener’s D. A total of 133 observations of mistle thrush were noted during the breeding season and 85 observations during winter. During the breeding season, the mistle thrush selected olive orchards, especially those near vineyards and urban areas, where it could find food and safe places to nest. In this period, however, it was also found in coniferous woodlands. The mistle thrush also used vineyards in winter, whereas it avoided urban areas in this period, possibly due to food scarcity. Non-irrigated arable lands were avoided all year round, whereas natural grasslands were only avoided during the winter. Irrigated arable lands positively affected the species. Furthermore, 60% of habitat characteristics were similar between the breeding and winter seasons. It is unclear what makes the mistle thrush shift its range southward and downslope. However, it is likely due to the general increase in forest cover, a positive rainfall trend in Central Italy during summer, and the absence of competition with similar species in central Apulia.
Abstract. The diet composition and prey selection of grey wolves (Canis lupus) inhabiting the Roztocze and Solska Forest (south-east Poland) was studied based on an analysis of scats collected in 2001-2002 (n = 84) and 2017-2020 (n = 302). In both periods, wolves preyed mainly on wild ungulates (96.5-96.7% of consumed biomass). Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) was the most critical wolf prey accounting for 57.8% of consumed biomass in 2001-2002 and 49.2% and 2017-2020, but wolves positively select only wild boar (Jacob’s selectivity index D = 0.213 in 2001-2002 and 0.710 in 2017-2020) and fallow deer (D = 0.588 only in 2017-2020). The largest species – moose Alces alces and red deer Cervus elaphus – were consumed less than expected from their share in the ungulate community. Predation on medium-sized wild mammals and domestic animals was low, 0.8-2.2% and 1.1-2.7% of the biomass consumed, respectively. The breadth of the wolf diet was very narrow and identical in both study periods (B = 1.07), while the similarity of diet composition was high (α = 0.999). This study indicated the stability of the wolf diet over two decades and the importance of wild boar as a food source for this carnivore.
Temporal overlap of human and apex predator activity on wildlife trails and forest roads
Abstract. The daily activity patterns of animals are modulated by external factors such as habitat selection, temporal niche selection, prey availability and predation risk. Furthermore, different species show a variety of responses to human disturbance; therefore, to understand the effects of human activities on wildlife, it is crucial to consider the disturbance characteristics (e.g. type, frequency, timing and location of human activity). Our objective was to evaluate whether vehicles on forest roads altered the daily temporal activity patterns of three apex predators; Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), the grey wolf (Canis lupus) and brown bear (Ursus arctos), using an extensive camera trap data set collected across a gradient of forest roads and wildlife trails in the Croatian part of the Dinaric mountains. We expected a low temporal overlap between humans and apex predators but predicted this even lower at sites where vehicles are present. Consistent with our expectations, the general overlap in temporal activity of all three apex predators and humans was low, the former being primarily active at night/dawn/dusk hours and the latter during daylight hours. In contrast, our results showed similarity in the temporal activity of all three predators on wildlife trails and forest roads where human activity was more frequent and diverse.
Ecological role of the Eurasian otter, Lutra lutra (Mustelidae, Carnivora) as a seed dispersal species for riparian vegetation in Iberian fresh waters
Abstract. Endozoochory is a mutualistic interaction between plants and animals. Such a relationship has rarely been examined in the Eurasian otter Lutra lutra. This study aimed to assess the use and electivity of fruit by this carnivore, along with the viability of ingested seeds. Otter spraints and fruit were collected from the River Bullaque (Guadiana River basin, central Spain) in June and September 2018-2019. A high occurrence of fruit (> 40%) was found in spraints during September. Otters ingested fruit in June from only one plant species: Iberian bushweed Flueggea tinctoria (Phyllanthaceae); whereas seeds ingested in September belonged to four plant species: apple mint Mentha suaveolens (Lamiaceae), common hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, dog rose Rosa canina and elmleaf blackberry Rubus ulmifolius (three Rosaceae species). According to the environmental availability, otters displayed avoidance for mint and rose, neutral selection for hawthorn and preference for blackberry. Germination was unsuccessful for mint seeds, whereas germination was highest for blackberry (37%; 49% for blackbird Turdus merula, a well-known frugivorous species). Otters appear to display an ecological role as seed dispersers for riparian vegetation in Iberian fresh waters. These findings provide insights into this endozoochorous co-evolution between plants and Carnivora.
The Crimean population of the lesser grey shrike (Lanius minor) has low behavioural flexibility in its response to approaching humans
Abstract. The ongoing growth of the human population will increase the rate of wildlife-human interactions. High levels of animal tolerance and flexible responses towards human presence seem to be among the key mechanisms behind successful wildlife-human coexistence, but this behaviour remains unexplored for most populations and species of animals. Here, we investigate the escape behaviour (measured as flight initiation distance) of the Crimean population of a charismatic and declining bird species, the lesser grey shrike (Lanius minor). We examined its relationship with starting distance of the approaching human, directness of that approach (direct or tangential), habitat type (rural or suburban), and height of the perch used by shrikes. We found that the starting distance was significantly associated with escape responses of shrikes to approaching humans. In contrast, we found no significant association between escape responses and directness of approach, habitat type, or height of perch. Our results indicate that the lesser grey shrike may exhibit low flexibility in their escape responses towards humans which may have implications for their conservation management. Our results also indicate that the widely used 30 m threshold for minimum starting distance may be insufficient for rural populations, even of small passerines.
A comparison of capture-mark-recapture and camera-based mark-resight to estimate abundance of Alpine marmot (Marmota marmota)
Abstract. Obtaining reliable estimates of population abundance is of utmost importance for wildlife research and management. To this aim, camera-traps are increasingly used, as this method has the advantage of being non-invasive and allows continuous monitoring. Camera traps can be used to estimate abundance in combination with traditional capture-recapture techniques, as well as with estimators that do not require marked individuals. Here, we investigated the use of camera-based mark-recapture methods applied to an Alpine marmot (Marmota marmota) population in the Paneveggio-Pale di San Martino Natural Park (eastern Italian Alps). We compared abundance estimates derived from a traditional capture-mark-recapture (CMR) framework and camera trap mark-resight (CTMR) over three consecutive years. CMR models estimated a population size of n = 19 individuals (95% CI = 18-27), n = 15 (14-22) and n = 24 (22-32) in 2019, 2020 and 2021 respectively. CTMR returned an estimated population size of n = 24 (95% CI = 19-30), n = 20 (17-24) and n = 22 (21-24) for the same years. The difference between the estimate of these two methods was significant only in 2020, with CMR returning a lower estimate than CTMR (95% CI = –9.4-–0.6). This difference was not significant for 2019 (95% CI = –10.9-0.9) and 2021 (95% CI = –1.8-5.9). Based on our results, the use of CTMR techniques is promising in the estimation of absolute population size of marmots, and the estimator was slightly more precise than CMR. Further studies are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of CTMR with reduced capture effort.
Patterns of spatial distribution and diel activity in carnivore guilds (Carnivora)
Abstract. In mammalian carnivore guilds (order Carnivora), spatiotemporal partitions play a major role in reducing competitive confrontations and facilitating successful sympatry. Using camera-trapping techniques, the present study aimed to elucidate patterns of spatial distribution and diel activities among medium- and large-sized carnivore species across central Bulgaria. We obtained 3,364 images of nine focal carnivores from 13,988 camera-trapping days between 2015 and 2020. Our findings indicated that the spatial distribution of the focal carnivore guilds varied with changes in altitudinal gradient, ruggedness, and forest-agricultural landscape changes. Specifically, the two largest species, the grey wolf (Canis lupus Linnaeus, 1758) and the brown bear (Ursus arctos Linnaeus, 1758), were found only in the Balkan Mountains, whereas the largest mesocarnivore, the golden jackal (Canis aureus Linnaeus, 1758), was mainly distributed agricultural lowlands. The European wildcat (Felis sylvestris Schreber, 1777) was found in forests inside protected areas, and other mesocarnivores were distributed at intermediate levels between wooded-mountains and agricultural lowlands. Brown bear, golden jackal, and domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris Linnaeus, 1758) showed cathemeral, crepuscular, and diurnal activity, respectively, whereas the remaining six carnivores showed nocturnal activity in synchrony with their main prey. Our findings indicated that anthropogenic landscape modifications and potential interspecific competition resulted in patterns of spatial distribution and temporal activity in this carnivore guild.
Utilization of cultivated fruits by Japanese martens and red foxes in a snowy environment: a comparison of feeding habits between rural and forest landscapes
Abstract. Cultivated fruits can serve as an important winter food resource for medium-sized carnivores in rural areas that experience heavy snowfall. However, studies on the food analysis of medium-sized carnivores in heavy snowfall areas, particularly on the use of cultivated fruits, are limited. We evaluated the use of cultivated fruits by medium-sized carnivores during winter in a heavy snowfall area by comparing their feeding habits in rural and forest landscapes. We conducted faecal analysis of Japanese martens (Martes melampus) and red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) in rural and forest landscapes in north-eastern Japan during periods of snow cover. Based on a faecal analysis in the rural landscape, both Japanese martens and red foxes consumed mammals, birds, fruits, and unknown plant material. In the forest landscape, mammals and insects were consumed by Japanese martens and mammals, fruits, and unknown plant material were consumed by red foxes. Our results showed that cultivated fruits, such as persimmons and apples, were a major food source in snowy environments, suggesting a wider range of available resources and overlapping feeding habits. It has been suggested that red foxes in forest landscapes move long distances (several kilometres) to consume cultivated fruits. This study suggests that cultivated fruits may also indirectly feed wildlife, even in areas with heavy snowfall.
Osteological description of Indian lepidophagous catfish Pachypterus khavalchor (Siluriformes: Horabagridae) from the Western Ghats of India
Abstract. The present study provides a comprehensive osteological description of Pachypterus khavalchor from the family Horabagridae. Nine individuals of P. khavalchor representing both males and females collected from the type locality were cleared and double-stained to provide a description of osteological characteristics. The presence of an almost straight dorsal roof to the cranium, a long and protruding premaxilla with numerous rows of tiny, villiform teeth, a spoon-like lower jaw with villiform teeth projecting outward, and five long and ossified ceratobranchials, with the 5th ceratobranchial containing a set of 80 to 90 conical teeth, sheds light on the ecomorphological adaptation in P. khavalchor that may have led to the evolution of lepidophagy. A slight difference in the structure of the complex hypurapophysis was observed between males and females. Furthermore, information on the osteology of the Khavalchor catfish forms a baseline for taxonomic research of the whole Horabagridae family comprising four genera with ten species distributed in Asia.
Detectability of birds under different sampling efforts and during the breeding season: a case study from Central Europe
Abstract. During the years 2019 and 2020, I conducted a bird survey transect in the Bohemian Forest. I did not record any changes in habitat structure or weather conditions between the two years. The two surveys differed in sampling effort, which was significantly lower in 2020 (n = 5 visits) than 2019 (n = 14 visits). I found that sampling effort affected the assessment of avian community diversity but did not affect the total number of individuals recorded. I also recorded a similar pattern in the cumulative number of species between the two breeding seasons, but 80% of species were recorded ten days earlier with the higher sampling effort. In the year with the lower sampling effort, I recorded fewer species than in the year with higher sampling effort. In both study periods, avian community diversity peaked during May and June. These results suggest that even a sampling effort three times lower is still sufficient to detect most species if the minimal number of visits are conducted. The pattern of detectability during the breeding season differed significantly among species. Most species (n = 24) showed a decreasing linear detectability throughout the summer months (e.g. Turdidae or Muscicapidae), most probably due to their breeding activities. In two species (willow tit Poecile montanus and European goldfinch Carduelis carduelis), this linear relationship was reversed, probably due to singing of young birds from the previous breeding season and the effect of the autumn equinox on birdsong activity. Many species (n = 21) did not show any trend and the rest, mainly migratory species, showed non-linear relationships with the peak in the middle of the breeding season. The differences in trends of detectability (i.e. song activity) among bird species are therefore directly linked with their life history.
Behavioural responses of grey herons Ardea cinerea and great egrets Ardea alba to human-caused disturbance
Abstract. This study examined the effects of different types on anthropogenic disturbance on behaviours of grey herons Ardea cinerea, and great egrets Ardea alba, that gather in an Important Bird Area near Belgrade (Serbia), during their autumn migration, with the goal of assessing how diverse human-caused stimuli affect the behaviours of foraging and resting birds. I obtained behavioural data through scan sampling, with six categories of behaviour distinguished: vigilant, flying, feeding, comfort, inactive and other. In total, I collected 5,065 observations of individual birds: 1,293 for grey herons and 3,772 for great egrets. Significantly more birds were vigilant or in flight when they were disturbed by construction vehicles, military jets, and rural free-ranging dogs, whereas no statistical significance was associated with shooting and passing cars. Using a linear mixed model, it was shown that a greater proportion of birds was vigilant during disturbance than following disturbance or in the absence of disturbance, whereas air temperature and wind speed were not statistically significant. This study demonstrates that anthropogenic disturbance can alter the behaviour of the study species, which could aid future management and conservation planning.
Socio-environmental changes and rodent populations in lowland agroecosystems of the lower delta of the River Senegal, West Africa: results of observations over a decade, 2008-2019
Abstract. In the context of food self-sufficiency, the River Senegal Valley has been undergoing profound environmental changes for several decades. Rice production has increased due to the development of vast irrigated perimeters, which has been accompanied by recurrent proliferations of rodent populations that are crop pests and reservoirs of zoonoses. The aim of our study was to determine the factors underlying these phases of increased rodent abundance over a ten-year (2008 to 2019) sampling period during the hot dry season (February-May). A total of 1,867 rodents of four species were captured, among which Arvicanthis niloticus and Mastomys huberti dominated. Our results showed that, during this season, rodent abundance (i) increases significantly with rainfall from the previous year, (ii) is higher in cultivated than in uncultivated plots, (iii) increases with plant cover, (iv) increases, for M. huberti, with the presence of open water. We showed that in an area that was first sparsely cultivated and then impacted by hydro-agricultural rehabilitation of irrigation and drainage infrastructure, the abundance of A. niloticus changed following this program, reaching the level of a nearby area that has been intensively cultivated for decades. Moreover, we showed that the proportion of adults among the captured individuals was lower in rice plots than in vegetable gardening fields and uncultivated plots. The breeding pattern of adult individuals was also affected by land use. Results suggest that uncultivated areas and vegetable gardening fields constitute refuge and breeding ground hotspots and would thus form a starting point for the invasion of rice fields. Following these results, we advocate for regular monitoring of rodent breeding and abundance patterns, with a special focus on these refuge areas, particularly during the hot dry season. We recommend implementing effective and sustainable science-based control strategies at national and community levels to keep rodent populations within tolerable limits.
Lion-tailed macaques show a stable direction and reinforcement of hand preference in simple reaching tasks over several years
Abstract. Research on hand preference in non-human primates provides information about the evolutionary origin of population-level bias of human handedness. Human hand preference has been shown to remain stable throughout an individual’s lifespan. However, the stability of hand preference and its change with age in non-human primates remains questionable. We recorded hand use in lion-tailed macaques (Macaca silenus) during simple reaching tasks in three time periods over six years. We tested the effect of age and body posture on the direction and strength of hand preference in 23 observed individuals. In a subsample of 13 individuals followed for two or three subsequent time periods, we assessed the stability of hand preference across study periods. The direction of hand preference was highly stable; we detected no individuals changing from a left- to right-, or right- to left- preference and repeated quantitative measures of hand preference were correlated among subsequent study periods. Hand preference was, however, reinforced in older individuals and an individual’s hand preference was stronger in postures with both hands free for foraging. Stable hand preference at an individual level, and its reinforcement over an individual’s lifetime, is emerging as a robust finding across the primate order.
A review of spotted hyaena population estimates highlights the need for greater utilisation of spatial capture-recapture methods
Abstract. As apex predators with a regulating effect on interspecific competitors and prey demographics, monitoring of spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) population trends can provide a reliable indicator of ecosystem health. However, the ability of current survey techniques to monitor carnivore densities effectively are increasingly questioned. This has led recent studies to advocate increased application of spatial capture-recapture (SCR) methods to estimate population density for large carnivores. We reviewed the literature regarding methods used to estimate population density for spotted hyaena since 2000. Our review found that SCR methods are underutilised for estimating spotted hyaena density, with only eight published studies (13% of articles assessed) using an SCR approach. Call-in surveys were the most frequently used method, featuring in 47% of studies. However, 63% of studies that used call-in surveys could not estimate a site-specific calibration index. The calibration index estimates the distance and rate at which the focal species responds to audio lures and, as response rates are impacted by site-specific ecological and environmental factors, studies that could not calibrate this index are likely inaccurate. Further application of SCR techniques will allow more robust estimation of spotted hyaena density, reducing uncertainty and potential overestimation that limit inference from existing survey methods.
First confirmed record of a woolly flying squirrel (Eupetaurus sp.) in Bhutan
Abstract. The three species of woolly flying squirrels of the genus Eupetaurus are amongst the rarest and least studied mammals in the world. The different species are known to occur from only a few locations in the western, north-central and south-eastern margins of the Himalayas. Though the genus has been recorded in Bhutan, there has been no confirmed evidence until now. Here we confirm for the first time the presence of Eupetaurus in Bhutan and discuss some records of mammals and birds with which it co-exists. The woolly flying squirrel was photographed by camera trap during a rapid biodiversity survey in the north-eastern part of Jigme Dorji National Park in Bhutan. From the three widely disjunct populations of Eupetaurus, the external pelage and appearance of this specimen appears to most closely resemble Eupetaurus nivamons. This record warrants further study to confirm identification and better understand its morphology, habitat selection and distribution in Bhutan.
Methodology for intravital mitotic chromosome preparation from regenerated tissue derived from the tail tips of tadpoles
Abstract. We propose a modified and updated protocol to obtain mitotic chromosomes from the regenerated tissue of Pelophylax tadpole tail tips. Chromosomal preparations from regenerated tissue results in high-quality and clean slides suitable for further staining and study. Tadpoles remain alive, undergo minimum suffering, and can be grown to adulthood for further investigation. The method could be used for other groups of Anura and modified for other species with the ability to regenerate their tissues.
Finding of hybrid African catfish “Clariobranchus” in the River Danube
Abstract. The record is confirmed of a “Clariobranchus” hybrid Clarias gariepinus × Heterobranchus sp. specimen in the River Danube in Croatia. Clarias gariepinus was introduced to Europe for farming and research purposes. Because of their faster growth and short time to achieve market size, “Clariobranchus” hybrids have gained attention in European aquaculture. To date, no record has been found in the literature of “Clariobranchus” hybrid escapees in inland waters of Europe. The present finding suggests that the “Clariobranchus” hybrid escaped from an unprotected aquaculture system or open pond farm. The threat of establishment of a population of this hybrid in suitable environments, such as thermal ponds, cannot be ruled out.
Histology of major organ systems of Nothobranchius fishes: short-lived model species
Abstract. A proper understanding of tissue and cell structure is of great importance for correct biological inferences, and particularly so in organisms used as research models. Nothobranchius spp. are short-lived freshwater fish species which are promising model organisms for toxicology, evolutionary ecology, aging and regeneration research. Nevertheless, studies examining Nothobranchius histology have focused exclusively on a few specific organs and associated functional impairments, and there is a lack of reference material on the natural state and appearance of tissue structure. Here we present a detailed histological map of the major body organ systems, which was built from 300 Nothobranchius spp. specimens. This overview offers baseline material for comparative histological studies and provides insights into functional and anatomical aspects of organs related to the unique life cycle of Nothobranchius spp.
Two new species of Tanichthys (Teleostei: Cypriniformes) from China
Abstract. Tanichthys albiventris, new species, from the River Jiangping in Dongxing City, Guangxi Province is distinguished from Tanichthys albonubes by the presence of a reddish-orange dorsal-fin margin (vs. white) and 9-10 (9 in mode) branched anal-fin rays (vs. 8 in mode). Tanichthys flavianalis, new species, from the River Jiuqu in Qionghai City, Hainan Province is distinguished from T. albiventris and T. albonubes by the presence of a golden anal-fin margin (vs. white) and 7 (rarely 6) branched dorsal-fin rays (vs. 6 in mode). In T. albiventris, T. albonubes, and T. flavianalis the black lateral stripe is located on the dorsal half of the flank, distinguishing them from Tanichthys kuehnei and Tanichthys micagemmae, in which it is mid-lateral. Tanichthys thabacensis is different from all other species of Tanichthys in the shape of the mouth and insertion of the anal fin; it is tentatively referred to as Aphyocypris.
Trends in research on invasive fishes
Abstract. We aimed to assess the importance of anthropogenic roosts for bats hibernating in the Roztocze National Park (south-east Poland), based on data collected from 2009 to 2021. We recorded 310 bats from nine species hibernating in 27 artificial underground roosts (root cellars and basements of buildings). The most abundant and constantly recorded species were Plecotus auritus (60.2%), Barbastella barbastellus (20.6%) and Myotis nattereri (14.2%), while the remaining species can be considered of secondary importance; Plecotus austriacus (1.3%), Myotis myotis (1.9%), Myotis bechsteinii (1.3%), M. daubentonii (0.3%), Myotis mystacinus sensu lato (0.3%) and Eptesicus serotinus (1.3%). An estimate of the Shannon diversity index gave a mean H = 0.947 (SD = 0.247, range 0.377-1.352), while the Buzas and Gibson evenness index gave values of E = 0.695 (SD = 0.125, range 0.551-0.940). The Shannon index was positively correlated with the number of recorded bats and varied substantially among years.
Abstract. Invasive carps are ecologically and economically problematic fish species in many large river basins in the United States and pose a threat to aquatic ecosystems throughout much of North America. Four species of invasive carps: black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus), grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella), silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) and bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis), are particularly concerning for native ecosystems because they occupy and disrupt a variety of food and habitat niches. In response, natural resource agencies are developing integrated pest management (IPM) plans to mitigate invasive carps. Control tools are one key component within a successful IPM program and have been a focal point for development by governmental agencies and academic researchers. For example, behavioural deterrents and barriers that block migratory pathways could limit carps range expansion into new areas, while efficient removal methods could suppress established carp populations. However, control tools are sometimes limited in practice due to uncertainty with deployment, efficacy and availability. This review provides an overview of several emerging modelling approaches and control technologies that could inform and support future invasive carp IPM programs.
Abstract. We analysed and compared the structure and parameters of the songflight calls of expansive Pipistrellus kuhlii and Pipistrellus lepidus, that recently colonized Central Europe from the south and east, respectively. Bat calls were recorded mainly in urban areas of Central Europe and the Balkans, including a narrow zone of these species’ recent parapatric or sympatric occurrence (around the Carpathians and the eastern part of the Pannonian Basin). The newly described songflight calls of P. lepidus consist of more elements (median 6), are longer (mean 56.4 ms) and of a higher frequency of maximum energy (mean 25.7 kHz) than those of P. kuhlii (median 3, mean 41.0 ms and mean 14.0 kHz, respectively). This finding provides new evidence that P. lepidus represents a different species, in accordance with results from previous genetic and morphological studies. Reported differences in songflight calls permit the acoustic discrimination of P. kuhlii and P. lepidus, which is not possible based on overlapping parameters of their echolocation calls. Our findings enable distributional and ecological studies of these two species, based on acoustic methods, in the context of their rapid European expansion and the local co-occurrence.
Seasonal differences in escape behaviour in the urban hooded crow, Corvus cornix
Abstract. This study examined escape behaviour of hooded crows, Corvus cornix, in an urban environment, in Belgrade, Serbia, with the goal of assessing the effect of breeding season on components of escape behaviour; flight initiation distance (FID), distance fled (DF), and escape method (flying vs. running/walking). Using GLMMs, it was shown that FID was longer during the breeding season, and increased with alert distance. DF was significantly influenced by escape method, with birds escaping for distances greater than 10 m more often when flying, whereas escape method itself was significantly influenced by FID, with birds escaping more often by flying at greater distances from an approaching predator. The majority of individuals (78%) fled for distances < 10 m after initiating escape, and escaped by walking or running (67%). Our results show that hooded crows, although adapted to living in highly urbanized environments, may be more risk-averse during the breeding season, which may allow them to more successfully take care of their young.
Occurrence and diversity of anaerobic gut fungi in wild forest elephants and buffaloes inhabiting two separated forest ecosystems in Central West Africa
Abstract. Anaerobic gut fungi of the class Neocallimastigomycetes are of great importance for herbivorous animals. Their immediate colonization and mechanical breakdown of plant particles pave the way for highly efficient enzymatic fermentation of complex plant polysaccharides. Neocallimastigomycetes are found in a variety of herbivores, yet so far studies almost exclusively investigated domestic or captive animals. Here, the occurrence and diversity of Neocallimastigomycetes in two different populations of sympatric, wild African forest elephants and forest buffaloes were determined. In both hosts together, a total of 16 species-equivalent Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs) (0.05 cut-off level) were generated. Buffaloes harboured four and elephants five anaerobic fungi genera or genus-equivalent taxa, respectively, with four genera occurring in both hosts. In elephants the majority of gut fungi group within a cluster of yet unknown Neocallimastigomycetes. Similarly, some anaerobic fungi found in buffaloes form a genus-equivalent cluster with likewise undescribed gut fungi. Sequences grouping in these two clusters could potentially qualify as representatives of new anaerobic fungi genera. Further, three sequences have not yet been encountered in any study and cannot be assigned to any genus or genus-equivalent Neocallimastigomycetes taxon. Whether these sequences also represent putative new lineages needs further investigation.
Assessing the efficiency of using passive hair traps as a method for non-invasive sampling from European beavers (Castor fiber L.)
Abstract. Using passive hair traps to obtain genetic material from wild mammals is an effective form of testing the abundance of animal populations. Based on genetic analysis of collected hair, it is possible to estimate the number and sex of individuals present in a given area. The aim of this study was to confirm the success of the method of collecting hair from beavers in a non-invasive way, as well as to determine the effectiveness of using passive hair traps as sampling tools that can be applied in different regions. The study was carried out in the area of Stobrawa Landscape Park (southwestern Poland) between December 2017 and May 2018. For 17 control days, 12 samples were obtained, which gave the result of 0.7 samples per control day. This study shows that the proposed method, due to its simplicity and efficiency, could be a cost-effective way of collecting hair from free-ranging beavers without the need for capturing individuals.
Evaluating establishment success of non-native fishes introduced to inland aquatic habitats of tropical Pacific islands
Abstract. An information-theoretic approach was used to evaluate non-native freshwater fish species introduced to insular habitats of Hawaii and Guam comparing successful establishments vs. failures. Since the late 1800s, as many as 81 non-native freshwater fish species have been recorded as introduced to Hawaii and Guam (combined) and 50 (62%) of these are documented as having one or more established populations. We examined eleven independent variables to investigate establishment success by creating 21 a priori logistic regression models ranked using Akaike’s Information Criterion adjusted for small sample size. An additional eight post-hoc models were included that comprised the best a priori model and various combinations of individual variables. The best overall model of establishment probability included effects of taxonomic affinity (family membership), prior establishment success on other tropical islands, and hypoxia tolerance. Establishment success in Hawaii and Guam was highest for those species established on many other islands, and according to our best model air-breathing fishes were more likely to become established. Six fish families, each with from three to 18 species introduced to Pacific islands, were highly successful at establishment: Cichlidae (16 established of 18 species introduced), Poeciliidae (seven of eight), Cyprinidae (four of seven), Centrarchidae (four of four), Clariidae (three of three), and Loricariidae (three of four). Those that successfully established include both small and moderately large-bodied taxa, while representing a diverse array of other morphological and life-history traits. Pathways and motives associated with fish introductions in the Pacific have been linked to desires to develop aquaculture, enhance wild stocks of food, sport, and bait fishes, for use as biological control agents, or are linked to the ornamental fish trade. We found that many established species were introduced via multiple pathways (up to eight) and our analyses suggest that the combination of prior establishment success on other tropical islands and presence of non-native fishes in multiple pathways was indicative of high propagule pressure. Overall, our study results and conclusions on Pacific tropical island introductions are in general agreement with previous studies on non-native freshwater fishes in other regions of the world and similar to observations in continental ecosystems and temperate zones.
Food habits of the Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx in south-east Poland
Abstract. We studied diet and prey preferences of the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) inhabiting south-east Poland, based on kills found during GPS-GSM telemetry and opportunistic winter tracking. Among 64 lynx kills were roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) (91%), red deer (Cervus elaphus) (3%) and brown hare (Lepus europaeus) (6%). From the ungulate community, lynx selected roe deer (D = 0.845) and avoided all other ungulates. We recorded one case of surplus and two cases of parallel killing. Lynx visited the same killed roe deer on average for 2.3 days, and for up to six days when surplus or parallel killing occurred. High numbers of the roe deer in south-east Poland supports the persistence of the lynx, but we urge managers to take under consideration food requirements of the lynx when planning game management.
Non-native gobies share predominantly immature parasites with local fish hosts
Abstract. Non-native species are known to escape their parasites following introduction into a new range, but they also often acquire local parasites as a function of time since establishment. We compared the parasite faunas of five non-native Ponto-Caspian gobies (Gobiidae) and local fish species (Perca fluviatilis, Gymnocephalus cernua, Gobio gobio) in three European river systems; the Rivers Rhine, Vistula and Danube, where Ponto-Caspian gobies were introduced 4-13 years prior to the study. Overall parasite species richness was considerably lower in non-native gobies compared to local fish species, and the same result was found at the component and infra-community levels. Both parasite abundance and diversity greatly varied among the regions, with the highest values found in the River Vistula (Wloclawski Reservoir), compared to a relatively impoverished parasite fauna in the River Morava (Danube basin). While only half of parasite species found in local hosts were acquired by non-native gobies, most of the parasites found in gobies were shared with local fish species related either phylogenetically (percids) or ecologically (benthic gudgeon), including the co-introduced monogenean Gyrodactylus proterorhini. As a result, similarity in parasite communities strongly reflected regional affiliation, while phylogenetic distances between fish host species did not play a significant role in parasite community composition. In accordance with other studies, all parasites acquired by gobies in their new range were generalists, all of them infecting fish at the larval/subadult stage, indicating the possible importance of gobies in the life cycle of euryxenous parasites. The absence of adult generalists, particularly ectoparasites with low host specificity, in non-native fish may reflect their generally low abundance in the environment, while an absence of adult endoparasitic generalists was probably related to other factors.
Abstract. Sonic booms or disruptive explosions cause differing response in wildlife. In May 2021, when missiles were fired at urban areas in Israel, we observed the responses of breeding common swifts (Apus apus). In both nests, the initial boom resulted in a startled awakening of the swifts. In one case, a parent engaged in displacement behaviour of feeding the young while in the second case a parent tried to clamber up the walls. Our data support earlier studies that although auditory booms are disruptive, they do not result in nest abandonment or nest failure.
Abstract. The invasion success of gibel carp (Carassius gibelio) depends on demographic and competitive traits. The major biological trait responsible for the invasiveness of C. gibelio is the mode of reproduction. Apart from sexual reproduction, which is typical in fish, C. gibelio is a unique cyprinid species able to reproduce through asexual gynogenesis, which is also known as sperm-dependent parthenogenesis, observed in all-female populations. Though the sexual and asexual forms of C. gibelio co-exist widely in natural habitats, the gynogenetic form has the capacity to modulate the range of effective ecological niches, which may facilitate the process of invasion. In this paper, we reviewed current knowledge of the sexual and gynogenetic forms of gibel carp along with their physiological advantages, immunological traits, and ability to withstand different environmental conditions. As parasitic infection may directly alter the immunology of hosts, and also indirectly alter their investment in reproduction, we provide some insights into the role of parasites as one of the potential drivers facilitating the coexistence of asexual and sexual forms. We highlight evidence that gibel carp have been identified as a serious threat to native species; hence, its impact on the ecosystem is also discussed.
Several decades of two invasive fish species (Perccottus glenii, Pseudorasbora parva) of European concern in Lithuanian inland waters; from first appearance to current state
Abstract. Following their first appearance, the invasive fishes Pseudorasbora parva and Perccottus glenii have been in Lithuania for several decades. However, until recently, information relating to their distribution and secondary spread was limited. For this reason, suitable habitats for these fish species were surveyed for their presence across the entire country. Additionally, all previously reported records on the presence of these species were summarized. Results revealed P. glenii to be widely distributed within the country with abundant populations in habitats suitable for the species. The recent distribution of P. parva is restricted to only a few water bodies. It was shown that both species are associated with human mediated transfer, while no natural dispersal of these invasive species was observed. The results of this study suggest that the invasion of Lithuanian inland waters by P. parva and P. glenii is still ongoing, and their occurrence in numerous water bodies, which are still devoid of these species, now seems probable. Demonstrated vectors of P. parva and P. glenii introductions in Lithuania highlight the importance of controlling and screening human activities related to aquaculture, recreational angling and the ornamental fish trade in order to restrict further P. glenii and P. parva expansion in this region.
Tubenose goby – a discreet invader from the past goes higher
Abstract. The tubenose goby has been reported to be the first non-native postglacial gobiid immigrant from the Lower Danube refuges. It is thus a pioneer species that was the forerunner of the extensive invasion of Ponto-Caspian gobies that ascended the River Danube and spread across Europe a century before other goby species. It appears that recently the tubenose goby invasion has accelerated. In this paper historical data on the distribution of the tubenose goby, together with data from extensive monitoring of fish communities in Slovakia are examined to evaluate both the temporal and spatial aspects of tubenose goby distribution dynamics. Until the 1990s, the species was recorded only in the River Danube and small water bodies in the Danubian Lowland (Slovakia). Since then the tubenose goby has spread upstream into tributaries of the River Danube. It was also recorded in several streams in eastern Slovakia after 2014, and the spatial data demonstrate that the tubenose goby has been colonising new water bodies, progressing to the north and ascending rivers, reaching higher altitudes than previously reported. These findings suggest that the tubenose goby deserves attention, even after two centuries following the onset of its invasion, and its further expansion across Europe should be carefully monitored.
Mitochondrial and karyotypic evidence reveals a lack of support for the genus Nasuella (Procyonidae, Carnivora)
Abstract. Coatis are traditionally divided into two genera (Nasua and Nasuella). Coatis from the lowlands of the Neotropics are larger (Nasua nasua in South America and Nasua narica in Central America) than those from the highlands in the Andean Cordilleras (Nasuella olivacea and maybe Nasuella meridensis). Some authors have claimed that Nasuella should be included in Nasua but strong data have not been provided to support this statement. We reported an extensive mitochondrial (mt) DNA analysis with 205 specimens with complete mitogenomes. Some N. olivacea were intermixed among haplogroups of N. nasua, some haplotypes of N. narica were intermediate between N. nasua and the most recent haplotypes of the Central American N. narica, and N. narica from southern Central America and northern Colombia were introgressed with mtDNA from N. olivacea. Furthermore, the spatial genetic structure of N. nasua, N. narica, and N. olivacea were practically identical. Additionally, we also show, for first the time, the karyotype of N. olivacea. The chromosome morphology of N. olivacea was un-differentiable from that of N. nasua. These data fail to support the independence of these two genera.
Predicting successful reproduction and establishment of non-native freshwater fish in peninsular Florida using life history traits
Abstract. Identification of factors that facilitate successful completion of invasion process stages by non-native species is a major priority among invasion biologists. Stage-based analyses of non-native fish species traits have been conducted for several regions, but not for a subtropical non-native species hotspot like peninsular Florida. Typically, establishment is the first stage of analysis but Florida is home to many non-native fish species that have successfully reproduced, yet failed to establish. Therefore, we used life history traits and three model types (categorical and regression trees, logistic regression, and discriminant function analysis) to predict successful reproduction and establishment by non-native fishes in peninsular Florida. Statistical models for predicting both successful reproduction and establishment suggested parental care was the most important variable, but other traits included in the best models differ between the two stages. The high level of parental care in successful non-native fishes of Florida is unique among non-native freshwater fish faunas across the United States. Other studies also found that suites of traits used to predict various stages of the invasion process differ, suggesting that stage-based analyses provide a good foundation for better understanding invasion processes. Our results may be applied to stage-based risk screening tools for non-native fishes in Florida.
Phylogenetic relationships and biogeography of the Hybomys division (Muridae: Murinae: Arvicanthini), rodents endemic to Africa’s rainforests
Abstract. The Hybomys division (Muridae: Murinae: Arvicanthini) consists of four genera (Hybomys, Typomys, Dephomys, and Stochomys) endemic to the Guineo-Congolian rainforests of central Africa. Based on sequences from two mitochondrial (Cytb, 12S rRNA) and two nuclear (Rbp3, Ghr) genes, we present a fossil-calibrated molecular phylogeny of the Hybomys division, based on wider taxon and geographic sampling than previously published phylogenies. Species of Typomys formed a clade that was sister to a clade containing Hybomys and the sister genera Dephomys and Stochomys. Hybomys basilii and Hybomys lunaris were recovered as monophyletic, whereas Hybomys univittatus was recovered as polyphyletic and likely consists of at least three species. The divergence between the East African taxon H. lunaris, and the West and Central African taxa of Hybomys is estimated at 3.1 Mya. Based on molecular phylogenies and genetic distances, we infer that forms of Hybomys from both the highlands and lowlands of the Cameroon Volcanic Line, except for H. basilii, should be considered a single species for which Hybomys rufocanus is the oldest available name. As proposed, H. rufocanus would include the named forms badius and eisentrauti as synonyms, as well as populations north of the River Sanaga previously recognized as H. univittatus. Material from nearest the type locality of H. univittatus is sister to H. rufocanus, whereas other specimens currently recognised as H. univittatus from south of the River Ogooue and in the Congo Basin are sister to this H. rufocanus + true H. univittatus clade. Dating estimates place the origin and early diversification of the Hybomys division in the late Miocene, slightly preceding the radiation of most arvicanthine genera that inhabit savannah biomes. The historical biogeography of the Hybomys division appears to be congruent with hypothesized forest refugia, savannah barriers, and aridification cycles of the Neogene and Pleistocene.
The importance of rip-rap for round goby invasion success – a field habitat manipulation experiment
Abstract. In a recent study, we showed how local-scale climate change impacts (increased temperature, reduced rainfall, shifts in peak rainfall) affected the hydrology of a channelised lowland European river (reduced flow, reduction in flood events, increased siltation, macrophyte growth), allowing native fish species to recolonise the bankside zone and reduce the density of invasive round goby Neogobius melanostomus by effectively removing its preferred habitat, rip-rap bank stabilisation. Here, we report on a follow-on study whereby stretches of the newly vegetated bank were stripped back to clean rip-rap to assess whether presence/absence of rip-rap was the major factor affecting non-gobiid, tubenose goby Proterorhinus semilunaris and round goby abundance. Our results confirmed rip-rap as a major factor increasing round goby abundance, and hence invasion success, on European rivers, while vegetated banks saw an increase in the abundance and diversity of non-gobiid species. While tubenose gobies showed no preference for habitat type, their numbers were significantly reduced in rip-rap colonised by larger and more aggressive round gobies. We discuss our results in light of recent artificial bank restoration measures undertaken on the Danube and Rhine and the potential role of round goby as a flagship species for cost-effective, large scale river bank restoration projects with multiple ecosystem benefits.
An assessment of regulation, education practices and socio-economic perceptions of non-native aquatic species in the Balkans
Abstract. Alongside climate change, the introduction of non-native species (NNS) is widely recognized as one of the main threats to aquatic biodiversity and human wellbeing. Non-native species and biodiversity are generally low priority issues on the political agendas of many countries, particularly in European countries outside the European Union (EU). The objectives and tasks of this study were to address the policy regulation, education level, education practices, and socioeconomic perceptions of NNS in the Balkans. A questionnaire-based survey was conducted in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Turkey (Balkan EU candidate and potential candidate members), in Croatia and Greece (Balkan EU Member States) and Italy (non-Balkan EU Member State). The EU Alien Regulation (1143/2014) concerning NNS is implemented in EU Member States and Montenegro, whereas Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Turkey have not reported specific policy regulations for NNS. Permanent monitoring programmes specifically designed for NNS have not yet been established in the EU Member States. Most countries tackle the issue of NNS through educational activities as part of specific projects. Education level is indicative of the implementation of NNS policy regulation, and efforts are needed for the proper development of relative study programmes. Public awareness and educational preparedness concerning NNS in the Balkans were identified as poor. Strong programmes for management and education should be developed to increase public awareness to prevent further biodiversity losses in the Balkan region.
Niche segregation of a newly introduced invasive and co-occurring native fish species in a productive shallow lake (Manyas, NW Anatolia)
Abstract. The impacts of aquatic invasive species vary from the population to ecosystem level most strikingly through modifications to native communities, often leading to a decline in native species. A primary impact mechanism is competitive displacement of native by invasive species through resource partitioning. However, the trophic interactions between native and invasive species occupying the same habitat remain poorly understood, particularly at the early stages of invasion. This study used stable isotope analysis of two co-occurring populations of invasive topmouth gudgeon, Pseudorasbora parva and native Caucasian dwarf goby, Knipowitschia caucasica in a highly productive shallow lake to characterize overlap of potential trophic niches. The trophic niches of both species were divergent, with no overlap. Mixing models suggest some inter-specific dietary differences. The trophic niche of the Caucasian dwarf goby was slightly and non-significantly larger than that of topmouth gudgeon. These results suggest that when introduced outside of their natural range, topmouth gudgeon might integrate into new fish communities via the exploitation of resources that are underexploited by native fishes, which could also explain the high invasion success of the species.
Reproductive biology of pioneer round gobies (Neogobius melanostomus Pallas, 1814) at the edge of their invasion front in three small rivers (Lower Danube Basin, Bulgaria)
Abstract. Reproductive traits are among the most important biological characteristics that facilitate or impede the establishment of non-native fish into new environments. In several tributaries of the Lower River Danube (Bulgaria), the round goby (Neogobius melanostomus Pallas, 1814) is a recent invader. Specimens from the edge of the invasion front were collected monthly (March 2017 to May 2018) from each river. The pioneer individuals displayed relatively small body sizes. First maturation of females occurs at 49 mm total length. Based on the dynamics of oocyte size and GSI, it was established that spawning begins in early spring, at a relatively low water temperature (6-7 °C). The breeding season extended from March to June. Average absolute fecundity was 162 ± 62 oocytes, while average relative fecundity was 94 oocytes/g ± 24. Female fecundity is linearly dependent on the length and weight. Both of the known male alternative reproductive tactics were observed. Body condition factor was lowest during April for both sexes. The relationship between reproductive traits and invasive potential in N. melanostomus is discussed.
Abstract. The monograph reviews viruses, bacteria, microfungi and protozoa pathogenic to homeotherm vertebrates (including humans) associated with birds of the family Laridae (larids, for short). The survey also presents a review of larid microbial diseases worldwide: a total of 569 determined microbial morbidity and mortality events in larids have been reported. The dominating disease is avian botulism (in fact, microbial toxicosis) representing 38% of all recorded microbial disease events. Additional relatively frequent and important diseases in larids are salmonellosis (10% of all recorded microbial events), aspergillosis (9%), avian cholera (9%), Newcastle disease (5%) and ornithosis (5%), while other microbial diseases have occurred in < 5% of the reported events: West Nile virus disease, haemosporidiosis, avian influenza, avian tuberculosis, toxoplasmosis, coccidiosis, avian pox, tick-borne virus diseases, circovirus infection, avian papilloma, erysipelas, candidosis, staphylococcosis, sarcosporidiosis, cryptosporidiosis, necrotic clostridial enteritis, colibacillosis, babesiosis, calicivirus and avian bornavirus infections. However, many observations indicate that some microbial diseases of larids have remained unidentified and additional investigations about infectious morbidity and mortality in them is warranted.
Variability of colour pattern and genetic diversity of Salamandra salamandra (Caudata: Salamandridae) in the Czech Republic
Abstract. Two evolutionary lineages of the fire salamander occur in central Europe: the typically striped subspecies Salamandra salamandra terrestris (Bonnaterre, 1789) and the typically spotted Salamandra salamandra salamandra (Linnaeus, 1758). In the Czech Republic, fire salamanders have traditionally been viewed as belonging to the S. s. salamandra evolutionary lineage. Nevertheless, the colour pattern of some individuals in the westernmost part of the Czech Republic resembles that of S. s. terrestris in having parallel continuous bands along the back. In this study, we investigated whether in the Czech Republic the presence of striped fire salamander phenotype could be associated with the genotype of S. s. terrestris. We sequenced the mitochondrial D-loop and two nuclear markers, Rag2 and PDGFRα, of 61 fire salamander individuals from the Czech Republic. To describe the geographical distribution pattern of the striped and spotted fire salamander phenotype in the Czech Republic, we evaluated colour phenotypes of 398 individuals from ten localities distributed so as to cover the whole country. We found no evidence of presence of genotypes corresponding to the S. s. terrestris lineage. We did, however, find that the striped phenotype is found mostly in the northwest of the Czech Republic, where both the striped and the intermediate phenotype occur significantly more frequently than in the rest of the country, where the spotted phenotype seems dominant. This finding indicates that Czech and Polish populations of S. salamandra show a degree of phenotypic pattern variation comparable to that observed in German populations, although at a local level the frequencies of the striped and spotted phenotype vary. It would be interesting to test whether a genetic toolkit responsible for the colour pattern is shared via genetic introgression between populations, or whether the striped phenotype of Czech fire salamanders evolved independently.
Anatomical identification of the neuroendocrine system in the Nothobranchius furzeri brain
Abstract. The hypophysis functions as a central gland of the neuroendocrine system for regulating fundamental body physiology. Upon aging, several hormones produced by the endocrine system are dramatically altered. Recently, Nothobranchius furzeri (the turquoise killifish) has become a popular model for aging studies because of its short lifespan and highly conserved aging phenotypes. However, the anatomical details of the major neuroendocrine system of the killifish have not been investigated so far. In this study, we have identified the pituitary and pineal glands of the turquoise killifish, which are critical components of the brain endocrine system. These two neuroendocrine glands were weakly attached to the main body of the killifish brain. The pineal gland was located on the dorsal part of the brain, while the pituitary gland was located on the ventral part. Brain sections revealed that cells in the pituitary and pineal glands were more densely situated than in other regions of the brain. Further, three-dimensional images of the pineal and pituitary glands demonstrated their distinctive cellular arrangements. Vasopressin intestinal peptide (VIP) was strongly expressed in the neurohypophysis of the pituitary gland. Glial cells were found inside the pineal gland, while astrocytes covered the outside. These findings illustrate basic features of the neuroendocrine system of N. furzeri.
Birds in power-line corridors: effects of vegetation mowing on avian diversity and abundance
Abstract. Human activities have tremendous impact on the environment but the extent of this influence on animals is frequently unknown. Here we focus on a ubiquitous man-made landscape element, power line corridors in forested areas where vegetation is regularly mowed, and its effects on avian species richness and abundance. We surveyed bird communities at 35 sites in southern Czech Republic and found power line corridors hosted on average three more bird species and eight more individuals than transects in the surrounding forests. The lesser whitethroat (Sylvia curruca) and the tree sparrow (Passer montanus) were the most frequently detected species under power lines, suggesting the importance of these habitats for open-habitat specialists. Overall, we found positive effects of this human-altered landscape element on avian communities but future studies could focus on communities of other animals in this habitat with an emphasis on the presence of endangered species.
Habitat suitability and nest-site selection of short-toed eagle Circaetus gallicus in Tolfa Mountains (Central Italy)
Abstract. The availability of a suitable nesting site can be an important limiting factor for the reproduction of birds of prey, which are highly influenced by forest management and exploitation activities. Among them, the short-toed eagle (Circaetus gallicus) seems to tolerate logging activities carried out with traditional practices. This study aimed to investigate the habitat selection of 29 territorial pairs of this species in the Tolfa Mountains (Central Italy). Using Generalized Linear Models and the Information-Theoretic Approach, we compared the environmental features (i.e. land cover and topography) that characterize nesting sites in the study area. Additionally, we describe the nest-site selection of the species by characterizing nine detected nests and comparing their characteristics with those of an equivalent number of nearby randomly selected sites. We found that, as expected, the short-toed eagle settles on hillsides covered by broad-leaved forests (both evergreen and deciduous) with open areas and away from agricultural areas. Moreover, the nests were found on steeper slopes, on trees extensively covered with climbing plants, possibly to hide them from predators and human disturbance. Our results suggest that, for the conservation of the short-toed eagle, careful management of woodland coppicing is required, as well as greater control of human disturbance.
Issues in bat (Chiroptera) treatment and rehabilitation: the scale of the problem, reasons and effects of interventions
Abstract. Bats are the second most numerous group of mammals in the world, after rodents. About 1,400 species have been described, of which 27 occur in Poland. All bats found in Poland are subject to strict species protection. Therefore, activities related to detention, including the treatment of injured, ill, or malnourished individuals, require appropriate permits. Caring for these mammals also requires knowledge of the biology and ecology of native species. Surveys were conducted in Polish wildlife rehabilitation centres, as well as among bat workers. The described interventions took place from September 2015 to September 2017. During this period, a total of 962 bats were taken under care. Most of the specimens required feeding and/or watering (645 specimens), 137 specimens suffered from injuries and/or diseases, 97 specimens were given emergency care, 77 specimens were taken from the environment without justified cause, and six specimens were born in captivity. Most of the interventions (760 individuals) resulted in the bats being released, 84 individuals remained under treatment or rehabilitation, 69 died, and a further 49 were euthanized. Statistical analysis showed a difference in the reasons for intervention and the intervention outcome between the care provided by rehabilitation centres and bat workers.
Farmer perceptions of carnivores, their culpability for livestock losses, and protective measures used in Northern Cape Province, South Africa
Abstract. Livestock losses are often integral to human conflicts over carnivores; these conflicts threaten the livelihoods of many communities, as well as carnivore species survival. To begin assessing livestock depredation and conflict over carnivores in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province, a farmers’ union meeting was used to capture farmer (n = 22) perceptions of carnivores in 2017. Most farmers reported black-backed jackals and caracals (n = 11 and 10, respectively) as most frequently culpable for livestock losses. However, culpability and reported presence on farmlands by these and other carnivore species were not always aligned. Carnivores were generally perceived in a negative manner, with most respondents supporting livestock protection methods involving the removal or separation of carnivores from farmland, as opposed to those facilitating coexistence. Comprehensive socio-ecological investigation of factors relevant to improving human-carnivore coexistence of benefit to both farmers and wildlife is warranted in this region.
A warming Southern Ocean may compromise Antarctic blue whale foetus growth
Abstract. After declining in abundance due to commercial whaling during the 20th century, populations of the Antarctic blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus intermedia) have failed to recover to pre-exploitation levels. Using historical whaling data from 1926-1954, in combination with temperature data for the Southern Ocean, a gamma GLM with temporal dependency was fitted to 20,144 records of B. m. intermedia foetus size using Bayesian inference. There was a negative relationship between antecedent winter sea surface temperature (SST) in the Southern Ocean on foetus size. This relationship is proposed as being mediated by a positive effect of the extent of winter sea ice on Antarctic krill (Euphasia superba) abundance on which B. m. intermedia feed. There was also a positive density-dependent effect of a “krill surplus” at low B. m. intermedia population sizes. However, the positive effect of a “krill surplus” at low B. m. intermedia population size on foetus growth was reversed at elevated winter SST due to a proposed negative impact on E. superba recruitment. Projected increases in temperature in the Southern Ocean are predicted to compromise the growth rates of B. m. intermedia foetuses, with implications for the capacity of the subspecies to recover from overexploitation.
Abstract. Physiological regulation of body temperature, set at a high level, is one of the key features of endothermic homeotherms, such as birds and mammals. However, many mammals and some birds have evolved the ability for temporal down-regulation of core body temperature. We investigated how variation in environment temperature and habitat primary productivity determine variation in daily body temperature down-regulation among mammalian species. Nearly half of the variation in minimum daily body temperature among species was explained by variation in both primary productivity and environmental temperature. Mammals expressing low minimum body temperature inhabited regions of low annual temperature with wide daily and seasonal temperature variation. Simultaneously, those regions were characterized by low productivity and low seasonality in productivity. Furthermore, regions characterized by a high level of among-year variation in environmental temperature, but not in primary productivity, were inhabited by species with low minimum body temperature, but only by those adapted to relatively humid conditions. Our results suggest that daily heterothermy can be selectively advantageous in the environmental circumstances when high energetic demands for maintaining endothermic homeothermy, physiological regulation of a high and stable body temperature, cannot be supported. The results corroborate the hypothesis that mammals that have evolved daily down-regulation of body temperature may have higher chances of surviving extinction events caused by climatic changes. Therefore, daily heterothermy adaptation in contemporary mammals represents a mechanism for surviving the ongoing global warming.
Ectoparasite load increase in reproductively active sand lizards
Abstract. Sexual reproduction imposes risks on participating adults through increased probability of injury, predation pressure, or parasite exposure. Evolutionary theory predicts that animals will tolerate parasite infection during reproduction at the expense of increased parasite load, resulting in individual trade-offs between the temporary costs of current reproduction against the long-term evolutionary benefits in the form of life-long production of viable offspring. We tested this hypothesis, predicting that participation in sexual reproduction increases parasite exposure by investigating ectoparasite load on sand lizards (Lacerta agilis). Using generalized additive models to correct for bimodal seasonal dynamics of ectoparasite activity, site and year, we found that ectoparasite load is higher in adults (animals that overwintered at least twice) than in subadults that overwintered once only. Between sexes of adult sand lizards, males had a higher number of blood-sucking ectoparasites than females. Our results indicate that both sexually-motivated extensive locomotion associated with territory defence and mate search in males, and increased energy uptake during gestation in females, contribute to elevated ectoparasite exposure. Increased host mobility associated with increased ectoparasite exposure leads to collateral burden of reproduction on sand lizard populations.
Alien and invasive terrestrial vertebrate species on Corfu, Ionian Islands, Greece
Abstract. The Ionian Island of Corfu is rich in both species and habitats, but is also under pressure from heavy tourism, substantial water abstraction, and increased development, all of which have caused both loss and fragmentation of habitats. In addition, invasive alien species (IAS) constitute a global problem and may cause substantial problems for indigenous wildlife, especially on islands. To be able to successfully control IAS it is important to identify them, report their status, and raise awareness as early as possible. Here we present the status of ten alien species reported from Corfu, four of which are considered as invasive, the coypu (Myocastor coypus), the raccoon (Procyon lotor), the Siberian chipmunk (Tamias sibiricus), and the American pond slider (Trachemys scripta). Measures required as outlined by the EU Working Group on Invasive Alien Species are briefly discussed.
Comparative morphology and morphometry of the micropyle of two Korean rice-fishes, Oryzias latipes and Oryzias sinensis (Pisces, Adrianichthyidae)
Abstract. The morphology and morphometry of the micropyle of two Korean rice fishes, Oryzias latipes and O. sinensis, were investigated by light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy. Obtained from adult gravid females during the spawning season, the full-grown eggs of each species have a single micropyle at the animal pole. For the two species, the micropyles are similar in appearance, but there exist some differences in detail. The egg is larger in O. latipes than in O. sinensis (1,123.3-1,465.5 µm vs. 823.1-1,152.1 µm in diameter), and the outer diameter of a single micropyle for O. latipes is nearly two times larger than that of O. sinensis (18.5-22.4 µm vs. 10.0-12.5 µm). The micropylar diameter to egg diameter ratio (1.6 ± 0.1% vs. 1.0 ± 0.1%) is also larger in O. latipes than O. sinensis. In regard to micropyle structure, the two showed distinguishing characteristics: O. latipes has a funnel-shaped micropyle consisting of two regions, an outer gradual pit and an inner narrow canal, while O. sinensis has a conical-shaped micropyle having only a deep narrow canal. Consequently, these differences in micropylar structure between the two Korean rice-fishes may be considered as a useful taxonomic characteristic in closely related taxa and seem to be structural adaptations to shape and control entry velocity of spermatozoa into the micropyle.
Microhabitat partitioning in a rodent community in the arid conditions of the South-western Caspian Lowland
Abstract. This article analyses the factors underlying the spatial distribution of a rodent community in the arid conditions of the Caspian Lowland. Based on a habitat selection model, we hypothesized that sympatric species would occupy and utilize species-specific environmental habitats and resources in common spaces and that niche overlap between species would be low. Thirteen environmental parameters were chosen for study. Nine parameters significantly discriminated interspecies differences (Meriones meridianus occurred in dry microhabitats, Meriones tamariscinus occurred in wetter microhabitats, and Apodemus witherbyi and Cricetulus migratorius showed eurybiotic spatial patterns). Mus musculus was predominantly found in wet environmental conditions. Thus, A. witherbyi and C. migratorius were characterized by the greatest range of spatial niches in the community, and M. musculus was characterized by the narrowest range of spatial niches. Pairwise comparisons of rodent spatial niches revealed low overlap values.
No evidence of pre-hibernation or pre-migratory body mass gain in Miniopterus natalensis in north-eastern South Africa
Abstract. Migration and hibernation are survival strategies that require physiological preparation using fattening. Bats employ both strategies in times of resource shortages. However, because males and females vary seasonally in their reproductive physiological needs, they may employ different fattening patterns. Whilst fattening, migration and hibernation are common in temperate bats, little is known about subtropical migratory insectivores. This study investigated seasonal variation in body mass of the regionally migrating Natal long-fingered bat Miniopterus natalensis to determine if males and females show fattening in preparation for migration/hibernation. Seasonal change best explained the variation observed in overall body mass, whilst sex and forearm length explained the variation to a lesser extent. Body mass between males and females differed significantly by reproductive category among the four seasons. Forearm length was a significant predictor of the body mass of males. Scrotal males had a higher body mass in summer compared to autumn. This pattern of mass gain was not observed in non-scrotal males. The summer body mass of nonpregnant and post-lactating females was not significantly higher than the autumn body mass of nonpregnant females, which did not support the hypothesis that females would exhibit fattening during summer before migration. Results suggest that males and females employ different mass-gain strategies related to reproductive investment rather than fattening preparation for migration or hibernation.
Dogs and Conservation: emerging themes and considerations
Benefits of incorporating a scat-detection dog into wildlife monitoring: a case study of Pyrenean brown bear
Abstract. In the Pyrenees, brown bear population abundance is estimated from non-invasive genetic analyses of scat and hair samples. Although such analyses are highly beneficial for population monitoring and research, it can be especially difficult for humans to locate bear scats in the field. To address this, we have incorporated a dog (trained from an early age to detect bear scats) into these efforts since 2014. Here, we compared the effectiveness of the scat-detection dog/handler and human-only teams to locate bear scats using our work in the Pyrenees as a case study. A species validation was systematically carried out, either genetically or visually using a microscope, based on the presence of bear hair, for all scats collected from 2010 to 2019. From 2014 to 2019, the use of the dog/handler team in addition to human-only teams increased the average number of bear scats collected annually by four times in comparison with the 2010-2013 period when only humans were searching for scats. This temporal augmentation could not be explained by the increase in bear population size. From 2014 to 2019, the annual percentage of outings during which at least one bear scat was found was 17 times higher for the dog than for humans. The use of the dog also resulted indirectly in a better genotyping success and genetic identification of more individuals due to a larger choice of viable samples that could be sent to the molecular laboratory, as well as a larger number of cub scats detected by the dog. We found that even the use of a single scat-detection dog can greatly improve the efficiency of detecting target scats in challenging monitoring conditions.
Wolf scat detection dog improves wolf genetic monitoring in new French colonized areas
Abstract. A detection dog and handler team were used to recover scats in areas newly colonized by wolves outside the Alpine mountains of France between October 2018 and May 2019. Survey areas were classified as occupied by a resident wolf pack (WP) or dispersers (no-WP). The efficiency of monitoring by a targeted dog-handler team was compared to opportunistic monitoring by trained observers. Use of the detection dog allowed up to 99.6% time savings relative to monitoring by trained observers. Wolf scats found by the dog represented 82.1% of genetically confirmed samples in the 12 sample units (each being 10 × 10 km) monitored by both trained observers and the dog-handler team. Occupancy modelling was used to estimate wolf detection probabilities. Ten kilometres of survey with the dog were required to reach a 98% detection probability in WP territories and 20 km to reach 96% in no-WP areas. By contrast, two years of opportunistic monitoring by trained observers were required to obtain a 90% and 76% probability of detecting wolves in WP and no-WP areas, respectively. The use of the detection dog via dog-team surveys greatly increased the collection of viable samples for genetic analysis and individual genotype identification. Our study offers further confirmation that dog-handler teams can be very effective at locating scats from target carnivores, to supplement or complement human search efforts.
Twenty-five years of livestock guarding dog use across Namibian farmlands
Abstract. Preventing human-wildlife conflict is key to maintaining viable predator populations. In Namibia, over 90% of cheetahs are found outside of protected areas, therefore risk of conflict with farmers is high. Since 1994, the Cheetah Conservation Fund has implemented a programme to prevent livestock depredation using livestock guarding dogs (LGDs). Long-term (25-year period) monitoring efforts in Namibia have provided insights on the efficiency and performance of LGDs and farmers‘ perceptions. LGDs reduced livestock losses for 91% of respondents and farmers were highly satisfied with their LGD. Poor performance from behavioural issues, such as “staying at home“ and “chasing game“, was linked to the LGDs receiving less care and being found in poorer body condition. Unwanted ecological impacts of wildlife killings by LGDs merit further investigation, but occurrence of behavioural issues reduced over time, suggesting a targeted and adaptive management approach to increase performance. Addressing behavioural issues, increasing LGD lifespans and understanding LGD performance under different conditions will be crucial for optimising LGD management leading to better performance. Our long-term study provides unique insights into a highly successful programme and is recommended to be replicated and adapted where imminent human-predator conflicts threaten coexistence.
Using detection dogs to reveal illegal pesticide poisoning of raptors in Hungary
Abstract. In Hungary, during the 2000s, pesticide poisoning became the most important threat for raptors, especially for the globally threatened Eastern imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca). In September 2013, with a focus on carbofuran and phorate, the first poison and carcass detection dog (PCDD) unit was formed in Hungary with a specifically trained detection dog and handler. Two more dogs were subsequently trained and joined the unit in 2017 and 2020 respectively. Between its inception until August 2020, the PCDD unit conducted 1,083 searches in five countries, which revealed 329 poisoned animals of 15 bird and nine mammal species, 120 poisoned baits and five pesticide products. Globally threatened species, including eight Eastern imperial eagles and four saker falcons (Falco cherrug), were among the detected victims. Present at 66.45% of wildlife poisoning events, the unit revealed 37.87% of the victims and 79.70% of the poisoned baits known in Hungary during the period 2013-2020. Compared to human surveys, the PCDD unit demonstrated a significantly higher find rate for poisoned baits. At 22 poisoning events (14.38% of all cases) only the PCDD unit revealed victims or poisoned baits; cases that would probably have gone undetected without the PCCD unit. Of the two focal pesticides, carbofuran was more frequently detected – in 88.56% of the positive samples. The unit played a significant role in detecting and combating wildlife poisoning incidents by deterring potential offenders and facilitating police investigations through retrieval of evidence otherwise difficult to obtain.
Every dog has its day: indigenous Tswana dogs are more practical livestock guardians in an arid African savanna compared with their expatriate cousins
Abstract. Livestock guarding dogs (LGDs) have been used for centuries to reduce depredation on livestock and, more recently, to facilitate the conservation of threatened carnivores. Conservation organisations in southern Africa promote the use of Anatolian shepherds as LGDs. However, livestock farmers in Botswana use a variety of breeds for this purpose, including local landrace “Tswana” dogs. Our study sought to test the overall effectiveness of these local breeds as LGDs. Irrespective of breed, all LGDs reduced livestock losses, with 47.9% of farmers experiencing no losses after obtaining a guarding dog. Owners with more LGDs, and LGDs of a single sex, had greater reductions in livestock losses. Anatolian shepherds displayed more behavioural problems than other breeds in our study. The health of LGDs was reliant on them receiving a balanced diet, and owners with fewer dogs reported fewer health issues. Moreover, Tswana guarding dogs were cheaper to purchase and feed than their purebred counterparts. Our results show that local landrace dogs can be considered a cheaper and more practical alternative to purebred LGDs for reducing livestock losses and for mitigating human-wildlife conflict in Botswana.
Abstract. Tracking and sniffer dogs have been employed in a variety of law enforcement roles world-wide and are increasingly utilized to combat wildlife crimes (i.e. poaching and trafficking). I examined the K-9 counter-poaching unit based at Akagera National Park in Rwanda. I discuss motivations and reasoning for the unit’s creation, and examine the challenges faced and methods used to overcome these. I also highlight successes and best practices in place at the Park. The major challenge encountered is health issues related to the parasitic protozoan Trypanosoma spp. Minor budgetary and facility challenges exist. Developing in-house solutions such as setting up a small clinic and basic veterinary training for handlers have reduced health risks and costs. Crossbreeding the original tracking dogs from Europe with local dogs from the communities around the park has been a success. Puppies bred and trained on-site offer affordable alternatives to purchasing additional dogs from abroad. The cross-bred dogs may also be better suited for working in the Akagera environment but further scientific study is needed to understand this. Additional successes include training dogs to track both on- and off-lead, allowing for a unit with multiple skill sets and more efficient, faster tracking.
Abstract. Efficient and systematic survey methods are essential for wildlife researchers and conservationists to collect accurate ecological data that can be used to make informed conservation decisions. For endangered and elusive species, that are not easily detected by conventional methods, reliable, time- and cost-efficient methodologies become increasingly important. Across a growing spectrum of conservation research projects, survey outcomes are benefitting from scent detection dogs that assist with locating elusive species. This paper describes the training methodology used to investigate the ability of a scent detection dog to locate live riverine rabbits (Bunolagus monticularis) in their natural habitat, and to determine how species-specific the dog was towards the target scent in a controlled environment. The dog was trained using operant conditioning and a non-visual methodology, with only limited scent from roadkill specimens available. The dog achieved a 98% specificity rate towards the target scent, indicating that the dog was able to distinguish the scent of riverine rabbits from the scent of other lagomorph species. The dog has already been able to locate ten of these elusive individuals in the wild. The training method proved successful in the detection of this critically endangered species, where scent for training was only available from deceased specimens.
Abstract. The intensification of agriculture has resulted in changes to mowing techniques. Slow manual cutting gave wild animals time to move to safer habitat patches and left hiding places for them. With the arrival of much faster mowing machinery this is no longer the case. To date, there are few ways of measuring direct mortality of new mowing capabilities on wildlife. In our study we aimed to answer whether a search dog, previously trained to find carcasses, could be used to assess mowing mortality of various species in different vegetation types in Hungary. Working with a handler, a carcass-trained dog fitted with a GPS surveyed several habitats post-mowing. All the animal remains detected were identified and recorded. 149 killed individuals were detected on 12 land parcels studied (158.2 carcasses/100 ha). The most affected vertebrate group was the reptiles (57%), all with protected status in Hungary, followed by mammals (30%) and birds (6%). Reptiles were predominantly represented by lizards, while rodents were the most common mammals found (91% and 70%, respectively). The dog also found dead brown hares, pheasants and roe deer (11% of all carcasses), which has implications for local wildlife managers. There was no statistical difference in the density of dead individuals between grassy meadows and leguminous vegetation, or in those found in the morning or afternoon. The mortality rate was not associated with the area of the mowed field. Our findings suggest that this is a viable use of carcass detection dogs. We recommend additional work of this kind to reveal the fatal impacts of new, faster mowing practices on wildlife living in agricultural landscapes to help mitigate conservation and game management conflicts.
Abstract. Accurate survey methods are required for any wildlife research to yield reliable population data. This constraint finds significance in amphibian research that involves a highly threatened group of animals with a large proportion of cryptic species not easily detected by conventional survey methods. Across a growing spectrum of zoology research, survey outcomes are benefitting from the efficacy of scent detection dogs in assisting with species detection. We investigated the ability of a scent detection dog to locate and identify traces of giant bullfrog, Pyxicephalus adspersus scent and investigate methods of preserving frog scent for use in subsequent conditioning training of dogs. The scent detection dog was able to detect 100,000 times diluted scent with 87% sensitivity and 84% efficacy. High specificity (98,6%) was also achieved while presented with the challenge of detecting P. adspersus scent amid that of other frog species. Detection sensitivity was negatively correlated with scent preservation time but yielded the highest sensitivity for samples that were preserved as skin swabs stored at 4 °C and diluted shortly before use. Conservationists, scientists, and customs officials alike can benefit from scent detection dog detection of amphibians through enhanced sample acquisition rates with reduced collection biases.
Impact of multiple stressors on the fish community pattern along a highly degraded Central European river – a case study
Abstract. In this study, we provide a descriptive assessment of how chemical and hydro-morphological stressors have affected the fish community along one of the most impacted rivers in Central Europe. In addition to the toxicity of combined pollutants (expressed in toxic units), a range of hydro-morphological characteristics were measured to assess which stressors have had an impact. No longitudinal spatial trend was observed in fish assemblage characteristics as individual sites were affected by different stressors. Instead, five largely artificial assemblage “zones” were identified corresponding to different combinations of stressors. Water quality (principally dissolved O2) and hydromorphology were the main drivers affecting fish presence and density, with self-purification processes, restocking from tributaries and geomorphology promoting fish survival and/or recovery, despite increasing toxic pressure downstream. Our results suggest that a) toxic units alone are insufficient to establish causative factors in fish community loss as they do not take account of hydro-morphological stressors, many of which interact with and/or mask each other, and b) that a single WFD monitoring site in such heavily impacted rivers is insufficient to assess ecological status; rather, the ecological status of specific “zones” (identified based on fish assemblage structure, habitat and water quality) should be assessed, with the ultimate aim of merging the zones and returning the river to a single functioning longitudinal ecosystem, accepting that this is unlikely to resemble the natural pre-industrial status of the river.
Comparing non-invasive surveying techniques for elusive, nocturnal mammals: a case study of the West European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)
Abstract. Monitoring changes in populations is fundamental for effective management. The West European hedgehog (Erinaceus europeaus) is of conservation concern in the UK because of recent substantial declines. Surveying hedgehogs is, however, problematic because of their nocturnal, cryptic behaviour. We compared the effectiveness of three methods (infra-red thermal camera, specialist search dog, spotlight) for detecting hedgehogs in three different habitats. Significantly more hedgehogs were detected, and at greater distance, using the camera and dog than the spotlight in amenity grassland and pasture; no hedgehogs were detected in woodland. Increasing ground cover reduced detection distances, with most detections (59.6%) associated with bare soil or mown grass; the dog was the only method that detected hedgehogs in vegetation taller than the target species’ height. The additional value of surveying with a detection dog is most likely to be realised in areas where badgers (Meles meles), an intra-guild predator, are and/or where sufficient ground cover is present; both would allow hedgehogs to forage further from refuge habitats such as hedgerows. Further consideration of the effectiveness of detection dogs for finding hedgehogs in nests, as well as developing techniques for monitoring this species in woodland, is warranted.
Abstract. This study investigated the browning plasticity of white adipose tissue (WAT) in Tupaia belangeri during cold acclimation and rewarming in order to demonstrate the adaptation mechanism of tree shrews to environmental change. The experimental group was transferred to a cold temperature, 5 ± 1 °C, acclimated for 28 d, and then returned to 25 ± 1 °C for 28 d, while the control group was maintained at the acclimation temperature, 25 ± 1 °C, for 56 d. Body mass, food intake, resting metabolic rate (RMR), WAT mass, morphology and related gene expression in male T. belangeri were measured. The results showed that body mass, food intake and RMR increased significantly under cold acclimation. There was also a significant increase in WAT mass and expression of peroxisome proliferation receptor α (PPARα), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ coactivator-1α (PGC-1α), cyclooxygenaseⅡ (COXⅡ), bone morphogenetic protein 7 (BMP7) and the PR domain containing 16 (PRDM16), all of which decreased to control levels after rewarming. Further, WAT cells showed more multilocule adipocytes during cold acclimation, which returned to control levels after rewarming. These results suggest that browning may appear in the WAT of T. belangeri during cold acclimation. The return to control levels of WAT cell characteristics and expression of the genes involved in WAT browning after rewarming demonstrates strong browning plasticity.
How strong are eggs of the common cuckoo Cuculus canorus?
Abstract. The common cuckoo Cuculus canorus is an obligate brood parasite that lays its eggs in the nests of small passerines. It has long been hypothesized that cuckoo eggs should be structurally stronger than host eggs or those of non-parasitic cuckoos to reduce chances of breakage during laying, to prevent accidental damage during incubation and/or to hinder their rejection through puncture ejection by the host. Therefore, we analysed selected characteristics of a sample of freshly laid eggs of the common cuckoo with two of its major hosts, the reed warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus and great reed warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus, and a sample of species with known puncture resistant eggs. We found that in puncture resistance tests cuckoo eggs tolerated on average 231 g. The cuckoo eggs were 3.3 and 2.5 times stronger than those of the reed warbler and great reed warbler, respectively. Greater shell thickness can explain only 17% of the total extra strength of the cuckoo eggs (125.97 g). When we controlled for the confounding effects of egg size (using a sample of eggs of normal strength from bird species of varying size), the common cuckoo eggs were 2.2 times stronger than expected for their size. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that cuckoo eggs are structurally stronger and this trait probably represents an adaptation for a brood parasitic life style.
The blunt pole is not a source of more salient recognition cues than the sharp pole for the rejection of model eggs by American robins (Turdus migratorius)
Abstract. Hosts of obligate avian brood parasites can reduce the costs of raising parasitic offspring by rejecting foreign eggs from their nests. Rejecter hosts use various visual and tactile cues to discriminate between own and foreign eggs. The blunt pole hypothesis specifically states that avian-perceivable visual information at and around the broader pole of the eggshell contains more salient recognition cues than does the sharp pole of the same egg. The directional prediction is, therefore, that eggs painted non-mimetically on their blunt pole should more likely be rejected relative to those similarly painted on their sharp pole. This hypothesis had been experimentally tested and its predictions supported solely in mimetic avian host-parasite systems, with hosts producing denser and more variable eggshell maculation patterns at the blunt pole, and in one species with immaculate eggs but still with distinctly discernible blunt-pole specific colouration. Here we aimed to expand upon these previous works and assessed whether the blunt pole of model eggs contains more salient egg rejection cues, relative to the sharp pole, for the American robin (Turdus migratorius), a robust rejecter of non-mimetic brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater) eggs. In this system host eggs are uniformly immaculate whereas the brood parasitic shell is maculated. We painted model cowbird-sized eggs on either the blunt or the sharp half to mimic the immaculate robin egg colours and the other half to resemble non-mimetic egg colours and patterns. There was no statistical support for the predicted outcomes of the blunt pole hypothesis in our trials as rejection rates were similar regardless of whether eggs were painted with non-mimetic colours on the blunt or sharp poles. Future work should test the role of asymmetrical signalling content for anti-parasitic rejection of eggs in additional host species, especially those with both immaculate own and mimetic parasitic eggs.
Nest-site selection of an avian urban exploiter, the Eurasian magpie Pica pica, across the urban-rural gradient
Abstract. Although rapid growth in the extent of urbanized habitats across the globe represents a major threat to biodiversity, there is growing evidence that urban ecosystems can represent suitable habitats for many taxa, including birds. Exploring aspects of bird ecology across the urban-rural gradient, including determinants of habitat associations, are crucial to understanding responses to urbanisation. Here, we examined factors affecting nest-site selection of Eurasian magpies across an urban-rural gradient, contrasting urban and non-urban habitats. The presence and density of Eurasian magpie nests was positively associated with the proportion of green urban areas, and negatively with forests, arable land and buildings, despite habitat associations differing across the urban-rural gradient. We also found a negative relationship between nest height and distance from city edge. The highest nests were found in city centre residential areas, whereas the lowest nests were in the new residential areas. We conclude that Eurasian magpies can successfully exploit urban environments, partially due to adaptation of their nesting behaviour. In particular, they construct their nests higher in urban areas to avoid the negative impacts of human disturbance and predation.
Survival of water rail Rallus aquaticus (Aves, Rallidae) embryos exposed to experimental flooding
Abstract. Rails (family Rallidae) are adapted to wetland habitats, nesting in emergent vegetation where flooding is one of the main factors that contributes to nesting failure rates. We conducted an experiment to test the capacity of water rail and Japanese quail embryos to survive flooding. During the experiment, 52 water rail and 60 quail eggs were divided into three groups. One control group was artificially incubated in standard conditions and the other two groups were submerged during artificial incubation for 2 hours and 3 hours, respectively, in the third week of the incubation period in water at 21 °C. A total of 88.2% of water rail eggs hatched in the control group, 83.3% in the 2 h flooded group and 29.4% in the 3 h flooded group. For the quail eggs, 75% hatched in the control group, 10% in the 2 h flooded group and 5% in the 3 h flooded group. Water rail embryos were five times more resistant to 2 h flooding conditions, and approximately twice as resistant to a 3 h immersion compared to quail embryos. The elevated survival rate of water rail embryos may be related to their capacity to enter torpor.
Abstract. Livestock guarding dogs (LGDs) are used across the world to reduce livestock depredation by free-ranging predatory wildlife. In doing so, they reduce the need for lethal predator control and are considered beneficial for conservation. However, LGDs might be perceived as predators by wildlife and induce a multitude of both positive and negative ecological effects. We conducted a literature review to evaluate the ecological effects of LGDs and found 56 publications reporting LGDs interacting with or affecting wildlife. Featuring in 77% of the publications, LGDs were widely reported to chase and kill wildlife, leading to species-specific behavioural responses. A total of 80 species were affected by LGDs, 11 of which are listed as Near Threatened or higher on the IUCN Red List. Of the affected species, 78% were non-target species, suggesting that any benefits arising from the use of LGDs likely occur simultaneously with unintended ecological effects. However, the frequency of LGD-wildlife interactions and the magnitude of any resulting ecological effects have rarely been quantified. Therefore, more empirical studies are needed to determine the net ecological outcome of LGD use, thereby ensuring that negative outcomes are minimised, while benefiting both farmers and wildlife.
Reducing livestock-carnivore conflict on rural farms using local livestock guarding dogs
Abstract. Livestock depredation can be devastating to both farmers and the species considered responsible if they are subsequently persecuted. Many proposed conflict solutions are limited in their uptake because they may be short-term, localised, expensive or species-specific. Livestock guarding dogs have been a successful solution in many parts of the world, however recommended imported breeds are generally expensive or inaccessible to many rural farmers. In this study, we report on a program placing local Tswana dogs with farmers in Botswana as a tool to reduce livestock loss. Seventy-five farmers who experienced high conflict from carnivores in both rangelands and wildlife areas were selected to receive a Tswana puppy. Puppies were monitored regularly to determine their performance, survival and owner attitudes toward wildlife. From initial baseline reports of goat losses before farmers received a puppy, loss declined by at least 85% over the following three years. Farmers were very satisfied with the performance of their livestock guarding dog and attitudes toward protection and tolerance of wildlife improved after one year of receiving a puppy. Our study suggests locally bred Tswana dogs are an effective solution for livestock at risk to depredation, particularly for rural farmers and development of community-led programs can be further used to reduce conflict.
Interactions between livestock guarding dogs and wolves in the southern French Alps
Abstract. Thirty years after the return of grey wolves (Canis lupus) to the French Alps, the number of livestock losses is on the rise despite livestock guarding dogs (LGDs) being widely used. Their relevance is, therefore, questioned by some sheep owner associations. To date, no study has investigated how LGDs interact with wolves in pastures. We present the results of a 6-year study totalling 3,300 hours of direct night-time observations to record the nature, frequency and outcomes of LGD-wolf interactions in the southern French Alps. We recorded 476 wolf events in the presence of LGDs, including 175 interactions, 66% of which were agonistic. Most (65%) of the interactions occurred at a distance > 100 m from the flock and on average involved more LGDs than wolves. In the presence of LGDs, wolves approached the flocks 134 times resulting in no attack (65%), attacks with no sheep victim (24.6%), or attacks with ≥ 1 sheep victim (10.4%). Our results suggest that LGD-wolf interactions are complex and do not simply occur in the immediate vicinity of the flock. We recommend using groups > 6 LGDs and reinforcing the presence of LGDs in a wider radius around the flock to limit the presence of isolated groups of sheep and to improve protection against wolf attacks.
Wilson D.E. & Mittermeier R.A. (eds.) 2019: Handbook of the Mammals of the World – Vol. 9, Bats
Two new species of Crocidura (Mammalia: Soricidae) from Ethiopia and updates on the Ethiopian shrew fauna
Abstract. We describe two new species of white-toothed shrews from south-western and central Ethiopia, based on recent collections and an application of morphological and genetic methods, Crocidura similiturba sp. nov. and Crocidura makeda sp. nov. Comparisons are provided with other Crocidura species known to occur in the country. Both new species are currently known only from the Ethiopian Highlands. Furthermore, we provide new geographical records and discuss biogeographical patterns in the country. New molecular data, even if based primarily on mitochondrial cytochrome b, suggests substantial divergence within afrotropical Suncus megalura, suggesting that the East African lineage might be considered separated at the species level – Suncus sorella (Thomas, 1897), stat. nov. Molecular data support a monophyly of the clade, grouping most Crocidura species endemic to Ethiopia (the East African subclade of the Old World clade), but also indicates additional colonisations of Ethiopian Plateau from East and Central Africa in the past. The remarkable number of endemics shows that Ethiopia is an important centre for the Crocidura radiation, as is the case for other groups of non-flying terrestrial vertebrates.
Effects of prescribed burning on rodent community ecology in Serengeti National Park
Abstract. A study on the effects of prescribed burning on rodent community ecology was conducted in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. The study aimed at generating ecological knowledge about the changes in rodent communities when areas of the park are intentionally burned to regulate grasslands or reduce undergrowth that can lead to uncontrolled forest fires. A completely randomized design (CRD) factorial layout with two treatments (burned and unburned) and two replications was applied. A total of 148 animals comprising six species of rodent and one insectivore were captured over 2,940 trap nights. Among the trapped individuals, 41.9% were adults, 16.1% juveniles and 41.9% sub-adults. Males and females were at parity between treatments. Species abundance was estimated using the minimum number alive (MNA) method for different rodent species and was found to vary with treatment where Mastomys natalensis declined in burned plots whilst Arvicanthis niloticus increased. However, species diversity did not differ across treatments (F1, 10 = 0.15, p = 0.70). Differences in the reproductive condition of female M. natalensis (z = 4.408, df = 15, p < 0.001) and A. niloticus (z = 2.381, df = 15, p = 0.017) were observed between treatments showing that higher numbers of reproductively active females were observed in burned plots in March, whilst in unburned plots more were observed from November to February. Conservation strategies involving periodic habitat burning should, therefore, consider small mammal reproductive periods to ensure that species potentially at risk are not adversely affected and able to rapidly recover from the effects of burning in temporarily lowering food resources and longer term impacts of increased predation caused by reduced cover.
Freshwater gobies (Gobiidae) of Bosnia and Herzegovina: a review of the current status and distribution
Abstract. This review updates the information on the actual status and distribution of freshwater gobies in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The available literature has been critically reviewed to provide more complete and up-to-date information. Consequently four species are proposed for removal from the national checklist, given the lack of any data to support their presence: Knipowitschia panizzae, Pomatoschistus microps, Proterorhinus marmoratus and Zosterisessor ophiocephalus. Therefore, the freshwater gobiid fauna is confirmed to include seven species from six genera. The Adriatic Sea basin (Neretva River catchment) is inhabited by three endemic species: Knipowitschia radovici, Orsinigobius croaticus and Ninnigobius canestrinii, while the Black Sea basin (Danube River catchment) is inhabited by the invasive species: Babka gymnotrachelus, Neogobius fluviatilis, Neogobius melanostomus and Ponticola kessleri. However, due to the possibility of misidentify the finding of B. gymnotrachelus is questionable and needs confirmation. Distribution of both endemic Knipowitschia and Orsinogobius species is restricted to small areas in the lower Neretva River catchment on both sides of the Croatia-Bosnia and Herzegovina border. The vulnerability of these species is discussed, and the IUCN conservation and units meriting conservation attention were identified. The invasive character of other species is highlighted. This review indicates that the knowledge on the Bosnia-Herzegovinian freshwater gobiid fauna is still far from complete, hence this up-to-date checklist can serve as a basis for further ecological and zoogeographical studies. For better species inventory, finer scale distribution surveys are needed, followed by detailed morphological, molecular phylogenetic and ecological studies.
Abstract. The presence of the parasitic copepod Neoalbionella globosa in the olfactory chamber of a specimen of the catshark Scyliorhinus canicula has been already reported in the literature, but this is the first record from the north-western Mediterranean Sea. Besides confirming this host-parasite association in the Ligurian Sea, the present study aims to describe some effects of the copepod’s presence on the olfactory system of S. canicula, thus inferring potential effects of nasal parasites on olfaction. The copepod was accidentally found during a sampling campaign. The copepod, a mature female with well-developed egg sacs, parasitized the right olfactory rosette; the rosette presented visible swelling in some of the olfactory lamellae while, histologically, restricted edema was detectable close to the zone of attachment. The ipsilateral olfactory bulb, which receives the primary olfactory afferences, had a smaller number of cells and smaller neuron density compared to the contralateral bulb and to the average values for non-parasitized specimens of the same size. The results suggest that, although the olfactory rosette does not seem severely damaged, the presence of the parasite could deeply affect the highly efficient water flow within the nasal chamber, potentially causing partial olfactory impairment.
On the role of (and threat to) natural history museums in mammal conservation: an African small mammal perspective
Abstract. The global environment is faced with growing threats from anthropogenic disturbance, propelling the Earth into a 6th mass extinction. For the world’s mammals, this is reflected in the fact that 25% of species are threatened with some risk of extinction. During this time of species loss and environmental alteration, the world’s natural history museums (NHMs) are uniquely poised to provide novel insight into many aspects of conservation. This review seeks to provide evidence of the importance of NHMs to mammal conservation, how arguments against continued collecting of physical voucher specimens is counterproductive to these efforts, and to identify additional threats to collecting with a particular focus on small mammals across Africa. NHMs contribute unique data for assessing mammal species conservation status through the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened species. However, NHMs’ contributions to mammal conservation go well beyond supporting the IUCN Red List, with studies addressing topics such as human impacts, climate change, genetic diversity, disease, physiology, and biodiversity education. Increasing and diverse challenges, both domestic and international, highlight the growing threats facing NHMs, especially in regards to the issue of lethally sampling individuals for the purpose of creating voucher specimens. Such arguments are counterproductive to conservation efforts and tend to reflect the moral opposition of individual researchers than a true threat to conservation. The need for continued collecting of holistic specimens of all taxa across space and time could not be more urgent, especially for underexplored biodiversity hotspots facing extreme threats such as the Afrotropics.
Variations in the trophic niches of the golden jackal Canis aureus across the Eurasian continent associated with biogeographic and anthropogenic factors
Abstract. Our aim was to determine biogeographical patterns in the food habits of golden jackals by first reviewing their dietary patterns at the continental scale and then analysing associations between the food items in their diets and geographical, regional productivity and land-use variables, using multivariate analyses. Our findings indicated that jackals generally consume small mammals as a staple food but shift to consume plant materials or the carcasses of larger mammals when food resources are scarce owing to changes in the regional climate and productivity, as well as anthropogenic habitat modifications. Disruption of natural food resources (specifically small mammals) due to anthropogenic landscape modifications provokes dietary shifts in golden jackals, potentially increasing their reliance on anthropogenic resources. Consequently, conservation of their habitat in combination with waste management to decrease the accessibility to anthropogenic resources is required to resolve human-jackal conflicts.
Factors affecting the composition of rodent assemblages in the North Uluguru Mountains, Tanzania
Abstract. The Uluguru Mountains, which are part of the Eastern Arc Mountains, is a hotspot for diversity and an important area for the conservation of biodiversity in Tanzania, but faces increasing disturbance due to anthropogenic activities leading to a high rate of forest degradation and fragmentation. Changes in habitat structure have caused significant changes in the faunal assemblage of the region. However, information on these effects in the Uluguru Mountains is currently lacking. We conducted a survey of the small rodent assemblage on the Uluguru Mountains in three different habitats: forest, fallow, and cultivated land along two elevation gradients: 900-1,400 and 1,500-2,000 m a.s.l. Additionally, we recorded the habitat structure for each transect by looking at grass cover, tree density and shrub density. Generalised linear mixed models were used to examine the effects of habitat structure on both species richness as well as abundance. Our results revealed that, even while species richness remained similar over the whole study area, the species composition significantly changed depending on habitat structure. This finding arose particularly from changes in the numbers of Praomys delectorum and Mastomys natalensis, with the latter more abundant in cultivated and fallow land but not in forest, where P. delectorum is more abundant. This outcome may indicate that an increase in forest degradation and expansion of agriculture could have an impact on rodent assemblage and potentially on their population dynamics.
Rodent species composition, relative abundance, and habitat association in the Mabira Central Forest Reserve, Uganda
Abstract. A study was conducted in Mabira Central Forest Reserve in Uganda to determine rodent species composition, relative abundance, and habitat association. A total of 1,030 rodents belonging to 14 species were captured on 10,584 trap nights. Rodent species recorded include: Lophuromys stanleyi, Hylomyscus stella, Praomys jacksoni, Mastomys natalensis, Lophuromys ansorgei, Lemniscomys striatus, Aethomys hindei, Mus triton, Mus minutoides, Deomys ferrugineus, Gerbilliscus kempi, Rattus rattus, Grammomys kuru, and Hybomys univittatus. Overall, L. stanleyi (23.7%) was the most dominant species followed by H. stella, P. jacksoni, and M. natalensis. Species richness and evenness was highest in the regenerating forest habitat and least in the intact forest habitat. Rodent abundance was significantly affected by habitat type. The regenerating habitat had the highest number of animals, while the lowest numbers were observed in the depleted forest habitat. Species diversity was higher in regenerating forest habitat and lowest in the intact forest. The three habitats appeared distinct in terms of rodent species composition and there was a strong association between the two trapping grids in the same habitat type. All ordination plots showed that different rodent species consistently associated with distinct habitats. Habitat type and seasonal changes influenced rodent composition, relative abundance and habitat association. Composition of rodent community reflected the level of habitat degradation and can be used as a proxy for evaluating the biodiversity of lowland tropical forests.
Factors influencing the distribution and abundance of small rodent pest species in agricultural landscapes in Eastern Uganda
Abstract. Small rodents are increasingly gaining importance as agricultural pests, with their distribution and abundance known to vary across landscapes. This study aimed at identifying ecological factors in the landscape that may influence small rodent distribution and abundance across agricultural landscapes in Uganda. This information may be used to inform the development of adaptive control measures for small rodent pests. Small rodent trapping surveys were conducted in three agro-ecosystem landscapes: Butaleja, Mayuge and Bulambuli districts in Eastern Uganda between November 2017 to June 2018 covering both dry and wet seasons. Data on small rodent abundance and richness, vegetation characteristics, land use/cover characteristics, farm management practices and soil characteristics were collected from quadrats. Additionally, Geographic Information System and remote sensing were used to determine vegetation characteristics (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index – NDVI) and land use/cover from satellite images. Our results showed that crop field state (including hygiene, crop type and growth stage) is the most important variable with an overall relative importance of 34.4% prediction value for the abundance of Mastomys natalensis across the landscape studied. In terms of number of species encountered (species richness), results showed field crop status scoring highest with an overall relative importance of 39.8% at predicting small rodent species richness. Second in importance for overall rodent abundance was percentage composition soil silt particles with 15.6% and 18.1% for species richness and abundance respectively. Our findings have important implications for small rodent management, where land use characteristics, especially field crop state, is a critical factor as different conditions tend to affect rodent abundances differently. The study thus recommends that control efforts should be planned to consider field crop state; i.e. field hygiene where fields should be kept free of weeds to eliminate potential rodent breeding/habitation sites thus lowering rates of reproduction and population increase.
Anomalies and pathological changes of skulls and dentition of wild small mammal species from Germany
Abstract. Skulls, jaws and teeth of wild terrestrial small mammals (Sciuridae, Soricidae, Erinaceidae, Talpidae, Gliridae, Arvicolidae, Muridae) are occasionally affected by anomalies and pathologies. The present study documents a total of 362 anomalies and 122 pathological changes across 20 different species. These are all based on data published in Germany, supplemented by our own records. Cases were classified into 14 different categories, according to bone and dental anomalies, fractures and inclusions, bone proliferation, dental disease and extreme wear of teeth. An additional category to specifically account for bone proliferation of the skull was not needed, but such findings are to be expected. The most frequent finding was abnormal tooth growth, particularly the elongation of the upper incisors. In individual cases, there was evidence that small mammals are able to recover even from serious injuries to the skull.
Activity patterns of aoudad (Ammotragus lervia) in a Mediterranean habitat
Abstract. There is increasing recognition of the occurrence of non-native species that are invasive and potentially contribute to biodiversity loss. A two-year camera trap survey was undertaken on Mountain Mosor, Croatia to determine the daily and seasonal activity patterns of recently introduced non-native aoudad (Ammotragus lervia). Aoudad were most active in open rocky habitats and least active in forest habitats. The effect of habitat on the recorded number of aoudad was significant, while the effects of month and the interaction month × habitat were not. The results showed a typical bimodal activity pattern of aoudad, with a modest peak in activity between 05:00 and 09:00 a.m., and a second, more pronounced activity peak between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. Since the native habitat of aoudad is similar to that in the Mediterranean region, the inferred range of daily and seasonal activities show that the species is well adapted to the new habitat.
Abstract. The abundance and microhabitat use of rodents were investigated in four different habitats: two rain-fed crop fields with differing stone bund density, an irrigated field and bushland. A total of 444 individual small mammals belonging to six rodent and one shrew species were recorded in trapping grids and line transects. Of these, 230 individuals (52%) belonged to three pest rodent species of crop fields in northern Ethiopia: Stenocephalemys albipes (65%), Mastomys awashensis (25%) and Arvicanthis niloticus (10%). Population abundance of the three species was higher in the early dry season compared to the rainy season. While the bushland was significantly (p < 0.05) favoured by S. albipes and M. awashensis in both seasons, the irrigated field was preferred by Arvicanthis niloticus in the early dry season. In the early dry season, the microhabitat use of A. niloticus was strongly associated with the type of ground cover (herb) (R2adj = 0.152, P < 0.01). While M. awashensis was associated with vegetation density (R2adj = 0.13, P < 0.01), S. albipes was associated with vegetation cover (R2adj = 0.102, P < 0.001). The findings indicate that co-occurring pest rodent species prefer different microhabitats. Understanding their co-occurrence particularly in crop fields is vital for crop protection as they are known serious agricultural pests in northern Ethiopia.
Integrative taxonomic revision of the Ethiopian endemic rodent genus Stenocephalemys (Muridae: Murinae: Praomyini) with the description of two new species
Abstract. Ethiopian rats (genus Stenocephalemys) represent a monophyletic group of Ethiopian endemic rodents that diverged in the Ethiopian Highlands during the Pleistocene. Because of the frequent occurrence of so-called reticulate evolution (i.e. repeated hybridization of partially diverged populations), their taxonomy has not been adequately resolved, despite the fact that they belong to the most abundant rodent genus in Ethiopia and are important as pests and carriers of pathogens (e.g. hantaviruses). Here we analysed material for 623 Stenocephalemys specimens using integrative taxonomy composed of genomic analyses (388 nuclear markers and complete mitogenomes), 2D-geometric morphometry of skulls and classical morphometry of external traits. The genus consists of six clearly defined gene pools (= species), characterized by specific morphology, ecology and distribution. Two of them, described here as new species, live in fragmented populations in Afro-alpine habitats in the north-western part of the Ethiopian Highlands. We also showed that mitochondrial DNA is not applicable as a universal diagnostic tool for species discrimination in Stenocephalemys, because of multiple cases of mitochondrial introgression. This finding illustrates the utility of the genus as a suitable model for future studies of mito-nuclear coevolution along an elevational gradient.
Thermal independence of energy management in a tailed amphibian
Abstract. The relationship between the minimum metabolic requirements (standard metabolic rate, SMR) and energy costs of non-mandatory physiological functions and behaviour is fundamental for understanding species responses to changing environmental conditions. Theory predicts that ectotherms manage their energy budget depending on whether the relationship between SMR and energy available for other tasks is negative (allocation model), neutral (independent model), or positive (performance model). Energy management has received more attention in endotherms than in ectotherms, where metabolic-behavioural relations may be affected by body temperature variation. We examined the predictions of energy management models at four body temperatures in alpine newts, Ichthyosaura alpestris, under laboratory conditions. High SMR reduced the amount of energy dedicated to food digestion and locomotor activity. The maximum metabolic rate for food digestion was positively related to SMR, while its relationship with locomotor activity was inconclusive. Body temperature affected the intercept but not the slope of these relationships. We conclude that (i) newts manage their energy budget according to the allocation model, (ii) energy management is insensitive to body temperature variation, and (iii) determining energy management models using indirect estimates may be misleading. These findings improve our understanding of the eco-evolutionary significance of SMR variation in tailed amphibians and other ectotherms.
Abstract. Macropod Progressive Periodontal Disease (MPPD), colloquially referred to as “lumpy jaw”, is a commonly observed disease in captive macropods. However, the prevalence of this disease in the wild is largely unknown. A systematic study of MPPD in wild macropods would provide an indication of the endemic presence of this disease in wild populations, and could assist those managing disease in captive populations, by highlighting potential risk factors for disease development. Utilising kangaroos culled as part of a population management program, this study used visual observation and computer tomography (CT) of skulls to investigate the prevalence of MPPD in wild western grey kangaroos (Macropus fuliginosus) from the Perth metropolitan region, Western Australia. The sample suitable for visual and CT analysis comprised 121 specimens, 71 (58.7%) male and 50 (41.3%) female, with the mean age for all 121 specimens being 4.5 years (±2.63 SD). No evidence of MPPD was detected in any of the specimens examined. Overabundance may not be associated with the development of MPPD, as previously considered, and age-related factors should not be eliminated. This results may reflect low susceptibility to MPPD in western grey kangaroos, given low prevalence is reported in this species in captive populations. Further investigation into species-specificity is recommended, and should include samples with soft tissue to improve sensitivity of disease detection. Surveillance of MPPD in wild populations of macropods helps to improve our understanding of the biological significance, development and potential spread of this disease. Notably, this information may assist in the management of MPPD in captive populations, and may have a positive impact on both the welfare and conservation of macropods in captivity.
Camouflage in arid environments: the case of Sahara-Sahel desert rodents
Abstract. Deserts and semi-deserts, such as the Sahara-Sahel region in North Africa, are exposed environments with restricted vegetation coverage. Due to limited physical surface structures, these open areas provide a promising ecosystem to understand selection for crypsis. Here, we review knowledge on camouflage adaptation in the Sahara-Sahel rodent community, which represents one of the best documented cases of phenotype-environment convergence comprising a marked taxonomic diversity. Through their evolutionary history, several rodent species from the Sahara-Sahel have repeatedly evolved an accurate background matching against visually-guided predators. Top-down selection by predators is therefore assumed to drive the evolution of a generalist, or compromise, camouflage strategy in these rodents. Spanning a large biogeographic extent and surviving repeated climatic shifts, the community faces extreme and heterogeneous selective pressures, allowing formulation of testable ecological hypotheses. Consequently, Sahara-Sahel rodents poses an exceptional system to investigate which adaptations facilitate species persistence in a mosaic of habitats undergoing climatic change. Studies of these widely distributed communities permits general conclusions about the processes driving adaptation and can give insights into how diversity evolves.
Abstract. During the last two decades, genotyping of African rodents has revealed important hidden diversity within morphologically cryptic genera, such as Rhabdomys. Although the distribution of Rhabdomys is known historically, its diversity has been revealed only recently, and information about the distribution range of its constituent taxa is limited. The present study contributes to clarifying the distribution of Rhabdomys taxa, primarily in southern Africa, and identifies gaps in our knowledge, by: 1) compiling the available information on its distribution; and 2) significantly increasing the number of geo-localised and genotyped specimens (n = 2428) as well as the localities (additional 48 localities) sampled. We present updated distribution maps, including the occurrence and composition of several contact zones. A long-term monitoring of three contact zones revealed their instability, and raises questions as to the role of demography, climate, and interspecific competition on species range limits. Finally, an analysis of external morphological traits suggests that tail length may be a reliable taxonomic trait to distinguish between mesic and arid taxa of Rhabdomys. Tail length variation in Rhabdomys and other rodents has been considered to be an adaptation to climatic (thermoregulation) and/or to habitat (climbing abilities) constraints, which has still to be confirmed in Rhabdomys.
Abstract. The use of livestock guarding dogs (LGDs) has been widely advocated as a responsible tool for reducing livestock predation and conserving wildlife. However, their hidden ecological costs have rarely been investigated. We analysed scats (n = 183) from six LGDs and visited Global Positioning System (GPS) location clusters (n = 352) from nine GPS-collared LGDs to reconstruct their diet and assess impacts on wildlife and livestock in Namaqualand, South Africa. Wild mammals, including 10 native species, and small-livestock were the main secondary foods (i.e. besides dog food pellets). A total of 90% of scats and one third of GPS clusters investigated had associated animal remains. When accompanied by a human attendant, fewer LGD scats contained animal matter (39.9%; of which 32.3% wild mammals and 4.6% livestock), in contrast to scats of LGDs on their own (93.2%; 14.4% wild mammals, 75.4% livestock). Similarly, few clusters of accompanied LGDs included animal remains (5.7%; of which 43.8% wild mammals and 31.3% livestock), whereas unaccompanied dogs clustered frequently at carcasses (92.4%; 16% wild mammals, 74% livestock). While sample sizes were relatively small and some dogs might have scavenged, we emphasize the importance of rigorous training and intensive monitoring of LGDs to correct unwanted predation behaviour and to maximize their ecological and protective benefits.
Abstract. Colour pattern influences behaviour and affects survival of organisms through perception of light reflectance. Spectrophotometric methods used to study colour optimise precision and accuracy of reflectance across wavelengths, while multiband photographs are generally used to assess the complexity of colour patterns. Using standardised photographs of sand lizards (Lacerta agilis), we compare how colours characterised using point measurements (using the photographs, but simulating spectrophotometry) on the skin differ from colours estimated by clustering pixels in the photograph of the lizard’s body. By taking photographs in the laboratory and in the field, the experimental design included two 2-way comparisons. We compare point vs. colour clustering characterisation and influence of illumination in the laboratory and in the field. We found that point measurements adequately represented the dominant colour of the lizard. Where colour patterning influenced measurement geometry, image analysis outperformed point measurement with respect to stability between technical replicates on the same animal. The greater colour variation derived from point measurements increased further under controlled laboratory illumination. Both methods revealed lateral colour asymmetry in sand lizards, i.e. that colours subtly differed between left and right flank. We conclude that studies assessing the impact of colour on animal ecology and behaviour should utilise hyperspectral imaging, followed by image analysis that encompasses the whole colour pattern.
Abstract. Colour traits can be elaborated through sexual selection and have potential to drive reproductive isolation. Male three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) express striking visual signals to attract choosy females during courtship, typically expressed as red carotenoid-based pigmentation on their throat and jaw during the breeding season, along with blue eyes and blue/green flanks. The extent and intensity of red colouration in males have been linked to fitness benefits to females, including body condition, parasite resistance, parental ability and nest defence. In some populations in the Pacific Northwest of North America, male three-spined sticklebacks express melanic nuptial colouration. In these populations, male possess black throats instead of red, and have dark or black bodies. Melanic males are associated with waterbodies that are red-shifted due to the presence of tannins, where the ambient light environment is dominated by long wavelengths. Here we report the first discovery outside North America of melanic populations of three-spined sticklebacks on the island of North Uist in the Scottish Hebrides, on the northwest Atlantic coast of Europe. These populations are associated with a hotspot of stickleback morphological diversity and occur in association with red-shifted waterbodies.
Dhati Welel virus, the missing mammarenavirus of the widespread Mastomys natalensis
Abstract. The Natal multimammate mouse, Mastomys natalensis, occurs throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Mitochondrial phylogenetics indicate this species was fragmented during the Pleistocene, forming six matrilineage phylogroups: A-I, A-II, A-III, B-IV, B-V, B-VI with distinct ranges. All except the A-III lineage are identified as natural reservoirs of mammarenaviruses. M. natalensis A-III is found in western Ethiopia and is the only lineage reported in the country. While screening 203 small mammal samples from Dhati Welel National Park for mammarenaviruses, we detected mammarenavirus RNA in nine samples, eight from M. natalensis and one from M. awashensis. A sequence similarity search and phylogenetic analysis confirmed the M. natalensis mitochondrial DNA belongs to the A-III lineage. We characterised the complete virus genome, which showed typical mammarenavirus organisation. Phylogenetic analysis indicated it clusters with Gairo virus found in M. natalensis B-IV in Tanzania, while showing sufficient divergence from other mammarenaviruses to be considered as a new species, for which we proposed the name Dhati Welel. Additional sampling in the M. natalensis A-III phylogeographic range should help determine whether the detection of the virus in M. awashensis represents a local spill-over or if the virus circulates in both Mastomys species.
Rodents of Choke Mountain and surrounding areas (Ethiopia): the Blue Nile gorge as a strong biogeographic barrier
Abstract. Faunal studies of rodent assemblages from the areas on and around Choke Mountain (north-western Ethiopia) were conducted during two field seasons in 2012 and 2018. Here we present results of a genetic study of nine rodent species, and evaluate their genetic diversity and evolutionary relationships between conspecific populations from neighbouring montane massifs. Results of comparative analysis of phylogeographic patterns in Lophuromys, Desmomys, Stenocephalemys and Tachyoryctes have emphasized the role of the Blue Nile gorge as a strong biogeographic barrier, separating “northern” and “southern” independently evolved populations. Results of genetic analysis also revealed the presence of a new taxon of Dendromus, presumably belonging to a new species. Our study allows re-evaluation this area as an important “hotspot” of Ethiopian small mammal biodiversity.
The 13th African Small Mammal Symposium in Mekelle, Ethiopia, and the evolution of these meetings
The effect of elevation on haematocrit in Ethiopian rodents
Abstract. Key adaptations enabling mammals to cope with oxygen deficiency at high elevations relate to oxygen transfer into the blood. Among others, the efficiency of this mechanism depends on haematocrit (Hct, the volumetric fraction of red blood cells in blood). Although blood of high-elevation mammals is usually characterised by normal or slightly increased Hct, there are contradictory findings from studies along different elevational gradients. The aim of this study was to explore variability of Hct at both inter- and intraspecific levels in six rodent species from lower and higher elevations of Choke Mountain in Ethiopia. We found that Stenocephalemys sp. A from higher elevation had higher Hct than its congener Stenocephalemys albipes from lower elevation and a similar but weaker tendency was observed intraspecifically in Lophuromys simensis. Furthermore, Hct among four species occupying the high-elevation Afroalpine zone was comparable, and higher than in animals from lower elevations. Higher Hct in the three Afroalpine specialists probably contributes to local adaptations for life in high elevation environments under hypobaric hypoxia.
Genetic diversity and origins of invasive black rats (Rattus rattus) in Benin, West Africa
Abstract. Black rats (Rattus rattus) are native to the Indian subcontinent but have now colonized most continents and islands following human movements and international trade. They are involved in the circulation and transmission to humans of many zoonotic agents as well as in massive damage to food stocks and native biodiversity in the regions they have settled. This study investigates the genetic diversity and possible origins of black rats from Benin, West Africa. We sequenced the complete mitochondrial cytochrome b gene in 90 individuals from nine localities in Benin. These sequences were subsequently compared to 390 other cytochrome b haplotypes from individuals from various European, Asian, American and African localities. Nucleotide polymorphism analysis, haplotype network and maximum likelihood phylogenetic tree reconstructions showed low mitochondrial diversity in black rats from Benin. Our results also suggest at least two distinct introduction events: one introduction probably occurred during the spice trade (15th-17th century) through the Indies Road connecting Europe to Asia. Other introduction events could have occurred more recently following the intensification of globalized trade from the eighteenth century, and onwards.
Small mammal inventory in the Lama forest reserve (south Benin), with new cytogenetical data
Abstract. The Lama forest is the largest natural forest in southern Benin, and one of the last remnant forests within the Dahomey Gap. It harbours several species of major importance in terms of conservation. Small mammals are known to represent more than 80% of the African mammalian species diversity but they have received little attention in Benin. In this article we present the results of the first terrestrial small mammal species inventory (murid rodents and shrews) in the Lama forest. In September and October 2007, we captured 280 small mammals belonging to 12 species, identified by morphological and genetic analysis. We also provide detailed cytogenetic data for six of the 12 captured species. For five of them, we compare our data with previously published karyotypes, and for the sixth one (Hylomyscus pamfi), the karyotype is published here for the first time. Two of the captured species are closed-forest specialists (Praomys misonnei, H. pamfi), and H. pamfi is endemic to the Dahomey Gap region. Our results are congruent with those obtained on other animal groups, and highlight the importance of the Lama forest for the conservation of the country’s forest biodiversity.
Integrative taxonomy of Guinean Lemniscomys species (Rodentia, Mammalia)
Abstract. In the Republic of Guinea (West Africa), the diversity and distribution of striped grass mice of the genus Lemniscomys is poorly known. In the course of long-term field surveys from 2003 to 2011, we collected 97 specimens from various regions of Guinea with the aim of characterizing the morphological and genetic diversity of the genus in the country. We performed an integrative study that allowed us to detect the existence of at least two species in the collected specimens. Two molecular clades, corresponding to different karyotypes, were recovered. By comparison with type specimens and using classical morphometric analyses, we are able to confirm the presence of L. linulus and L. striatus in Guinea. We redescribe the skull and dental characters of the poorly known L. linulus and report its standard karyotype formula (2N = 56, NFa = 66). We did not collect any L. zebra in Guinea despite its presence in South Mali. In conclusion, the distributions of L. striatus and L. linulus described for Guinea and, including the previously reported L. bellieri, three species are now known to occur in this country. We recognise these three species as valid pending further revision of the genus at a pan-African scale.
Caught on camera: circumstantial evidence for fatal mobbing of an avian brood parasite by a host
Abstract. Hosts have evolved a multiplicity of defensive responses against avian brood parasites. One of them is mobbing behaviour which often includes direct contact attacks. These aggressive strikes may not only distract the parasites but may also be fatal to them, as documented by cases of dead brood parasite females found near host nests. Here, we present the first video-recording of a great reed warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) host whose vigorous nest defence appears to directly lead to the death of a female common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus). We suggest that the chance of parasite death probably rises with the presence of unfavourable factors, such as water below the nest. Our observation supports previous suggestions that hosts may pose a lethal danger to their parasites.
Book Review - Kruuk H. 2019: The Call of Carnivores, Travels of a Field Biologist
Abstract. The research was aimed at examining 230 skulls and mandibles (113 males and 117 females) of the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania. The object of the study was macroscopic evaluation of dental and periodontal pathologies, including changes in the structure of the skull and mandible. The most common teeth pathology was indicated to be hypodontia 13.27% in males and 5.98% in females (excluding M3 molar tooth). The hypodontia of the M3 was found to be common in males 6.19% and 7.69% in females. The findings of the research reveal that pathologies such as hyperdontia, dental fractures, enamel hypoplasia, abrasion, periodontitis stage 3 and stage 4 were less common: 1-4% in both males and females. In four skulls and mandibles of females a complex of severe pathologies of teeth and periodontium were found. There were no similar cases observed in males. This was the only significant difference between males and females. Other pathologies, including fractures of the skull or mandible, atypical form of foramen magnum, and changes in bone structure were rare overall, though slightly more common in males but not significantly.
Abstract. Multimammate mice of the genus Mastomys are widespread in sub-Saharan Africa and occur in a wide range of open habitats. Representatives of this genus are the most common African rodents, the main vertebrate agricultural pests and vectors of human pathogens. In Ethiopia, the biogeographically most complex eastern African country, several species have been reported, but their distribution has never been described because of their cryptic morphology. Here we present genetically identified species from 377 Ethiopian Mastomys specimens and analyse their distributional patterns. The genus, represented by four species, inhabits most of the country, with the exception of the highest mountains and dry areas, such as the Afar triangle and the Somali region. For the first time we document M. kollmannspergeri from a single locality in the northernmost part of Ethiopia. Three previously recorded species are more widespread – M. erythroleucus was found at 32 localities, M. natalensis at 13 localities and the Ethiopian endemic species M. awashensis at 18 localities. Phylogenetic analysis of mitochondrial cytochrome b gene sequences indicates that only one of the six phylogroups of M. natalensis and one of the four phylogroups of M. erythroleucus are represented in Ethiopia. Haplotype network analysis indicates two subclades of Ethiopian M. erythroleucus separated by the Ethiopian Rift Valley. Using presence records, we constructed distribution models for the species and analysed the level of overlap. The predicted distribution shows most overlap between M. awashensis and M. natalensis, which is in agreement with empirical data as both species were found in sympatry at four localities. A medium level of overlap was predicted between M. natalensis and M. erythroleucus and both species were found co-existing at two localities. This study not only presents the first detailed distribution of cryptic Mastomys species, but also clearly identifies multimammate mice as model taxa for future evolutionary studies (e.g. the evolution of co-existence or host-parasite interactions) and indicates the regions suitable for such studies.
Abstract. Parasites commonly manipulate host behaviour to increase transmission success between hosts. While most behavioural changes comprise slight alterations to host activity patterns and habitat use, some represent impressive alterations to routine behaviour which, while having direct positive effects on parasite transmission, compromise host survival. Here, we report conspicuous risky behaviour in an African annual killifish, Nothobranchius furzeri, infected by metacercariae of a strigeid trematode, Apatemon sp., residing in their cranial cavity. We demonstrate a striking contrast in the spatial and temporal behavioural responses of fish from populations naturally infected with Apatemon sp. and fish from two control populations with either a similar baseline parasite fauna but lacking Apatemon, or an overall low-level of infection. During routine activity, fish from Apatemon-infected populations positioned themselves just below the water surface, while other fish spent most of their time near the bottom. During a simulated avian attack, killifish from Apatemon-infected populations jumped above the water surface, moved in an uncoordinated manner, and rotated in the upper water layer, while fish from the control populations rapidly escaped into deeper water and ceased moving. The same self-exposing behaviour (jumping out of the water and lying on floating lily pads for extended periods) was also observed under natural conditions. Such behaviour greatly facilitates location of Apatemon-infected host fish by avian definitive hosts, especially in turbid pools. Moreover, the nothobranchiid killifish host’s own life history, i.e. an extremely short lifespan limited to several months, may represent an important driver in the evolution of behavioural manipulation.
Abstract. Sibling competition leading to physiological stress and elevated allostatic load is driven by asymmetrical development and limited resources. To investigate these predictions, we studied broods of the lesser kestrel Falco naumanni, from a nest-box population in Armenio, Central Greece. For each nestling reared in nest-boxes, we noted the age (in days) since hatching, measured the wing chord length and body mass. We also clipped the central right rectrix for ptilochronology for subsequent analysis in the laboratory. We measured 206 nestlings from 61 broods (range 2-5 nestlings). In the case of nestlings < 18 days old (n = 198, 96.1% of all) we also measured the length of feathers. As a measure of body condition, we used the residuals of the linear regression for the relationship between wing chord length and body mass, while the growth bar width of feathers was used as a second, independent index of body size and allostatic load. A GLMM and information-theory criterion showed that both measures of body condition decreased incrementally from the first sibling to the most subordinate in the brood. Body condition of subordinate siblings was influenced by the number of siblings in the nest; i.e. the larger the brood size the greater the discrepancy in body condition between siblings. At the same time, we did not find any influence of sex on either measure of fitness. Thus, our results indirectly support the hypothesis that sibling competition may cause physiological developmental stress which is reflected in decreased body condition and increased allostatic load for younger nestlings.
Abstract. Understanding the diets of predators, prey selection and their impact on prey populations is pivotal to investigations on the ecology of predator and prey species. In this study, we observed a hand-reared European otter (Lutra lutra) foraging in the wild, in order to identify the type of prey captured by the predator. The study was carried out between March and June 2001 in a diverse range of natural otter habitats in Białowieża Forest (NE Poland). We found that tadpoles represented an important part of the otter’s diet in June, when their frequency of occurrence and biomass reached 38% and 11%, respectively. During spring, tadpoles were less common than other types of prey, such as adult amphibians, fish, or aquatic Coleoptera. Otter diet varied among months and there were differences in the main prey type captured among water body types. Our results highlight the need to develop methods that enable the identification of tadpoles and other cryptic seasonal food items in riparian predator diets.
Abstract. Rhodeus cyanorostris sp. nov. and R. nigrodorsalis sp. nov. are described from two tributaries of the River Yangtze, in Sichuan and Jiangxi Provinces, China, respectively. Both species have a small number of branched dorsal-fin rays (both with a mode of 8) and anal-fin rays (mode of 7-8 and 8, respectively), which makes them easily distinguished from all congeners. Rhodeus cyanorostris sp. nov. differs from R. nigrodorsalis sp. nov. in having more predorsal scales (14-16 vs. 12-13), fewer pectoral-fin rays (10-11 vs. 12), a shorter major axis of the eggs (2.5-2.8 mm vs. mostly 3.3-3.5 mm), absence of two rows of light spots on the dorsal-fin rays (vs. presence), and the absence of a black blotch on the dorsal fin in adult males (vs. presence). The breeding season in winter of the two new species is unique among the Acheilognathinae.
Cooperative defence of colonial breeding house martins (Delichon urbicum) against nest-usurping house sparrows (Passer domesticus)
Abstract: The usurpation of house martin nests by house sparrows has previously been reported. However, our study demonstrates how neighbouring house martins cooperatively defended against nest-usurping attempts by house sparrows. House martins collectively helped a conspecific pair build their nest at a much faster pace than would be possible for the breeding pair alone, within several hours as compared to a couple of days, in order to overcome the continued attempts of house sparrows to usurp the partially built nest. In our study, between the two breeding seasons of 2018 and 2019, the number of breeding house martins at the study site decreased by almost 63% while in contrast the number of house sparrow breeding pairs increased almost six-fold. The number of usurped nests by house sparrows was comparatively higher in 2019 as compared to 2018.
Review of the lampreys (Petromyzontidae) in Bosnia and Herzegovina: a current status and geographic distribution
Abstract: The general status of lampreys (family Petromyzontidae) in Bosnia and Herzegovina was reviewed to determine the species composition and geographical distribution of this group in the region. This paper reviews the available literature to provide a critical analysis of the current status of lamprey species. According to the available data, their status can be considered as indeterminate, largely due to limited published records. While eight species are recorded as present in the region (Eudontomyzon danfordi, E. mariae, E. vladykovi, Lampetra fluviatilis, L. planeri, L. soljani, Lethenteron zanandreai, Petromyzon marinus), only three species (E. vladykovi, L. soljani, P. marinus) are confirmed to occur. Their distribution is recorded in waters of both the Danube and the Adriatic Sea catchments. Given the deficiencies in our understanding of the taxonomic status of some populations and knowledge of the geographical distribution of lampreys inhabiting both catchments, research focused on improving understanding of the phylogenetic, morphological and phenotypic traits of lampreys in Bosnia and Herzegovina is warranted to resolve these uncertainties. Problems related to threats and conservation, and future perspectives for protective management strategies are discussed. This paper provides the context for future biodiversity conservation and management with regard to lamprey species in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Endangered weatherfish (Misgurnus fossilis) age and growth is affected by the size of the watercourses
Abstract: The age and growth of weatherfish (Misgurnus fossilis), an endangered and protected freshwater fish with a poorly known life history, was studied in two watercourses (the River Ner and the Nowy Rów canal, Poland). The weight, length and sagittal otoliths of 166 specimens collected in April 2015 were measured for weight-length relationships, ageing and back-calculation of length at age. At both sites sex ratio did not differ from 1:1. Weatherfish otoliths were small, elliptic (1.85 mm longer axes of the largest otolith) and the annuli were clearly visible. Female lifespan was six years but the oldest males were four and five years. In both sites populations were dominated by 2+ (the River Ner) and 3+ (the Nowy Rów canal) specimens. In general, weatherfish grows isometrically (b = 3) and the intercept of the weight-length relationship differ between study sites but not between sexes. Its total length (TL) was predicted by an interaction between sex and age, as well as capture site and age. Back-calculated estimates of TL fitted a von Bertalanffy growth function, though Taylor’s criterion showed that the asymptotic length were overestimated. Multiple comparisons of the von Bertalanffy growth function parameter revealed difference between sexes and sites.
The Journal of Vertebrate Biology is a continuation of Folia Zoologica (ISSN: 0139-7893, e-ISSN 1573-1189, 1977-2019, volumes 26-68), Zoologické Listy (Folia Zoologica, 1956-1976, volumes 5-25), Zoologické a Entomologické Listy (Folia Zoologica and Entomologica, 1952-1955, volumes 1-4, n.s.) and Entomologické Listy (Folia Entomologica, 1938-1951, volumes 1-14).
For volumes before 2002 please go to the individual link below (you can generate free PDF files by selecting the desired pages in the left column, clicking on the second tab in that column and choosing "Generate PDF") or contact head of library Hana Slabáková firstname.lastname@example.org with your request.