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Behavioural and physiological adaptations to low-temperature environments in the common frog, Rana temporariaBackground: Extreme environments can impose strong ecological and evolutionary pressures at a local level. Ectotherms are particularly sensitive to low-temperature environments, which can result in a reduced activity period, slowed physiological processes and increased exposure to sub-zero temperatures. The aim of this study was to assess the behavioural and physiological responses that facilitate survival in low-temperature environments. In particular, we asked: 1) do high-altitude common frog (Rana temporaria) adults extend the time available for larval growth by breeding at lower temperatures than low-altitude individuals?; and 2) do tadpoles sampled from high-altitude sites differ physiologically from those from low-altitude sites, in terms of routine metabolic rate (RMR) and freeze tolerance? Breeding date was assessed as the first day of spawn observation and local temperature recorded for five, paired high- and low-altitude R. temporaria breeding sites in Scotland. Spawn was collected and tadpoles raised in a common laboratory environment, where RMR was measured as oxygen consumed using a closed respiratory tube system. Freeze tolerance was measured as survival following slow cooling to the point when all container water had frozen. Results: We found that breeding did not occur below 5°C at any site and there was no significant relationship between breeding temperature and altitude, leading to a delay in spawning of five days for every 100 m increase in altitude. The relationship between altitude and RMR varied by mountain but was lower for individuals sampled from high- than low-altitude sites within the three mountains with the highest high-altitude sites (≥900 m). In contrast, individuals sampled from low-altitudes survived freezing significantly better than those from high-altitudes, across all mountains. Conclusions: Our results suggest that adults at high-altitude do not show behavioural adaptations in terms of breeding at lower temperatures. However, tadpoles appear to have the potential to adapt physiologically to surviving at high-altitude via reduced RMR but without an increase in freeze tolerance. Therefore, survival at high-altitude may be facilitated by physiological mechanisms that permit faster growth rates, allowing completion of larval development within a shorter time period, alleviating the need for adaptations that extend the time available for larval growth.
Behavioural development in wild Western lowland gorillas (gorilla gorilla gorilla)Behavioural development has received little attention in primates, despite having important influences on infant mortality, interbirth intervals, and therefore, growth of populations. Gorillas have long developmental periods, exhibit strong maternal bonds and integrate into intricate social systems, making them an ideal species in which to investigate non-human primate development. Gorillas exist across a range of habitats, and differences in behaviour, both within and between species reflect socioecological differences, for example, in the availability and distribution of food. Consequently, by using gorillas as a model, opportunities also exist to investigate environmental constraints on the development of independence. This study provides the first detailed analysis, with reference to ecological factors, of the development of behavioural skills and relationships in wild western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). Behavioural development of western lowland gorillas is then compared with published accounts of development in mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) to determine the extent to which differing ecology influences behaviour. The study was conducted at Mbeli Bai in the Republic of Congo, a large, marshy clearing, visited by gorillas predominantly for feeding purposes. Data were collected using scan, focal, all-occurrence and ad libitum sampling methods from 58 gorillas below 8 years of age. Spatial relationships, suckling, and the nature of interactions involving immature individuals were analysed. The distribution of time between different behaviours by immatures, and the development of independent feeding and travelling behaviour was also investigated, and all were tested for differences as a result of immature age, sex and social group, or the mother's parity. Towards the end of infancy, individuals showed competent feeding behaviour in the bai. However, western lowland gorillas were not weaned until the juvenile period, and until this time, close association was common between mothers and offspring. With increasing independence from the mother there was limited investment in relationships with other individuals, and instead, a greater emphasis was placed on developing skills through play, alloparenting and agonistic interactions. When results were compared with those of mountain gorillas, there was evidence of increased investment in relationships, particularly with the silverback, by immature mountain gorillas, which was assumed to reflect lower rates of natal dispersal by mountain gorillas, and the greater likelihood that relationships with individuals in the natal group could prove useful in the future. Suckling and close proximity to the mother continued until later ages in western lowland gorillas, resulting in clear differences between them mountain gorillas in the duration of investment by mothers. More frugivorous western lowland gorillas required increased levels of investment by the mother before independence could be achieved, demonstrating the effect that resource availability can have on behavioural development in species where resources are widely and unpredictably dispersed.
Endocrinology and Behaviour: A stress-free approach to improving animal welfareFollowing implementation of the UK Animal Procedures Scientific Act (1986) there has been a plethora of research combining endocrine titres with behavioural measures to address applied questions in the field of animal welfare science. The goal of these studies has been to measure and optimize animal welfare. An eloquent example is the reduced welfare observed in collared peccaries (Pecari tajacu) as indicated by high glucocorticoid (GC) levels and negative judgment bias in behavioural tests. The latter is associated with space restriction but alleviated by the provision of enrichment. Good animal welfare is essential not only from an ethical standpoint but also to ensure valid scientific outcomes. Animals with good welfare produce more reliable, biologically valid, robust, repeatable scientific data compared to their counterparts with poorer welfare. ‘Happy’ animals live longer, can be used repeatedly and need replacing less often. This leads to a ‘reduction’ of animal use and satisfaction of one of the 3Rs: the guiding principles for the use of animals in research2.
UKCES: Understanding Human Centred ManagementThe Human Centred Management project was required to solve the problem of supply chain inefficiencies brought about by unproductive human behaviours. Specifically, the project sought to used Behavioural Economics to improve the decisions made by making people aware of their illogical ‘Biases’ and ‘Heuristics’. Use of Transactional Analysis to make people more aware of their impressions and their audience to reduce antagonism in communication. Combine these methods using Behavioural Management Theory to create one unified approach which will create a 21st century solution to behavioural inefficiencies. The project primarily targeted two supply chains, led by two larger or ‘Prime’ organisations that had SME’s feeding the production process. The two supply chains underwent a number of interventions in the form of one-to-one sessions, workshops, master classes and simulations, in order to understand and influence the behavioural inefficiencies they were suffering. An Action Research methodology was used to both provide a flexible approach and also generate qualitative data. Before each intervention, questionnaire data and in some cases a behavioural health check was carried out in order to gain baseline data. Once complete the same questionnaires were completed and interviews with key participants were carried out. The interventions were a success producing a large amount of positive change and behavioural insights for analysis. Such improvements included dramatically improving the supply chain communication leading to claims of improved supply chain effectiveness over all, development of closer ties between supply chains in a geographically separated area and improved logical decision making where managers are aware of their biases and take the time to reflect on all the options. The three areas of psychology introduced proved to combine extremely well, complimenting one another’s weaker areas in order to produce the unified approach envisaged. Behavioural Economics was found to be an excellent analytical tool capable of deconstructing the root causes of behaviours. Transactional Analysis provided a suite of easily implementable and practical techniques for improving communication. Behavioural Management Theory provided a flexible approach to implementing the changes required. From the experience of the project and analysis of the data a Behavioural Framework was generated in order to allow other supply chains to benefit from this effective 21st century solution to behavioural inefficiencies.