• Human-controlled reproductive experience may contribute to incestuous behavior observed in reintroduced semi-feral stallions (Equus caballus)

      Stanley, Christina; Górecka-Bruzda, Alexandra; Jaworska, Joanna; Siemieniuch, Marta; Jaworski, Zbigniew; Wocławek-Potocka, Izabela; Lansade, Lea; University of Chester; Polish Academy of Sciences; University of Warmia and Mazury; Centre INRAE Val-de-Loire (Elsevier, 2021-12-17)
      Equine reproductive behavior is affected by many factors, some remaining poorly understood. This study tested the hypothesis that a period of captivity during the juvenile period and human-controlled reproduction may potentially be involved in the disruption of the development of incestuous mating avoidance behavior in sanctuary-reintroduced male Konik polski horses. Between 1986 and 2000, cases of incestuous behavior in harem stallions born and reared until weaning in the sanctuary were studied. Eight males lived in the sanctuary’s feral herd for the rest of their lives (the non-captive group; nC). They gained their own harem of mares without human intervention (no human-controlled reproductive activity, nHC). Another five stallions were removed as weanlings, reared in captivity and then reintroduced as adults (captive, C). Three of these C stallions were used as in-hand breeding stallions, one as a “teaser” (human-controlled reproductive activity, HC) and one was not used for reproduction in captivity (nHC). Reproductive records for 46 mares, daughters of all 13 harem stallions, were scrutinized and cases of incestuous breeding were recorded by interrogation of foal parentage records. C stallions failed to expel more daughters than nC stallions (33% vs. 18%, P = 0.045), and mated with significantly more of them (28% vs. 11%, P = 0.025). Interestingly, HC stallions expelled fewer (60%) and successfully mated with more (33%) daughters that nHC stallions (84% expelled, P = 0.013, and 10% successful mating with daughters, P = 0.010). All HC stallions bred incestuously at least once. We propose that human intervention during a critical period of development of social and reproductive behavior in young stallions, by enforced separation from their natal herd and in-hand breeding, may contribute to their later aberrant behavior and disruption of inbreeding avoidance mechanisms in these stallions. The previous occurrence of human-controlled breeding may be one of the factors promoting incestuous behavior of stallions in natural conditions. The uninterrupted presence of stallions in their harems and herd member recognition may also play important roles in inbreeding avoidance in horses.
    • ABO Blood Groups Do Not Predict Schistosoma mansoni Infection Profiles in Highly Endemic Villages of Uganda

      Francoeur, Rachel; Atuhaire, Alon; orcid: ; email: aaronatuhaire@gmail.com; Arinaitwe, Moses; orcid: ; email: moses0772359814@gmail.com; Adriko, Moses; orcid: 0000-0001-9748-1207; email: adrikomoses@gmail.com; Ajambo, Diana; orcid: ; email:; Nankasi, Andrina; orcid: ; email: n1andrina@gmail.com; Babayan, Simon; orcid: ; email: simon.babayan@glasgow.ac.uk; Lamberton, Poppy; orcid: 0000-0003-1048-6318; email: poppy.lamberton@glasgow.ac.uk (MDPI, 2021-11-27)
      Schistosoma mansoni is a parasite which causes significant public-health issues, with over 240 million people infected globally. In Uganda alone, approximately 11.6 million people are affected. Despite over a decade of mass drug administration in this country, hyper-endemic hotspots persist, and individuals who are repeatedly heavily and rapidly reinfected are observed. Human blood-type antigens are known to play a role in the risk of infection for a variety of diseases, due to cross-reactivity between host antibodies and pathogenic antigens. There have been conflicting results on the effect of blood type on schistosomiasis infection and pathology. Moreover, the effect of blood type as a potential intrinsic host factor on S. mansoni prevalence, intensity, clearance, and reinfection dynamics and on co-infection risk remains unknown. Therefore, the epidemiological link between host blood type and S. mansoni infection dynamics was assessed in three hyper-endemic communities in Uganda. Longitudinal data incorporating repeated pretreatment S. mansoni infection intensities and clearance rates were used to analyse associations between blood groups in school-aged children. Soil-transmitted helminth coinfection status and biometric parameters were incorporated in a generalised linear mixed regression model including age, gender, and body mass index (BMI), which have previously been established as significant factors influencing the prevalence and intensity of schistosomiasis. The analysis revealed no associations between blood type and S. mansoni prevalence, infection intensity, clearance, reinfection, or coinfection. Variations in infection profiles were significantly different between the villages, and egg burden significantly decreased with age. While blood type has proven to be a predictor of several diseases, the data collected in this study indicate that it does not play a significant role in S. mansoni infection burdens in these high-endemicity communities.
    • Behavioural Indicators of Intra- and Inter-Specific Competition: Sheep Co-Grazing with Guanaco in the Patagonian Steppe

      Fernandez, Tomas; Lancaster, Alex; Moraga, Claudio A.; Radic-Schilling, Sergio; von Hardenberg, Achaz; Corti, Paulo; Universidad Austral de Chile; University of Chester; Fundacion CEQUA; Universidad de Magallanes (MDPI, 2021-11-22)
      In extensive livestock production, high densities may inhibit regulation processes, main- taining high levels of intraspecific competition over time. During competition, individuals typically modify their behaviours, particularly feeding and bite rates, which can therefore be used as indicators of competition. Over eight consecutive seasons, we investigated if variation in herd density, food availability, and the presence of a potential competitor, the guanaco (Lama guanicoe), was related with behavioural changes in domestic sheep in Chilean Patagonia. Focal sampling, instantaneous scan sampling, measures of bite and movement rates were used to quantify behavioural changes in domestic sheep. We found that food availability increased time spent feeding, while herd density was associated with an increase in vigilant behaviour and a decrease in bite rate, but only when food availability was low. Guanaco presence appeared to have no impact on sheep behaviour. Our results suggest that the observed behavioural changes in domestic sheep are more likely due to intraspecific competition rather than interspecific competition. Consideration of intraspecific competition where guanaco and sheep co-graze on pastures could allow management strategies to focus on herd density, according to rangeland carrying capacity.
    • Heterospecific Fear and Avoidance Behaviour in Domestic Horses (Equus caballus)

      Stanley, Christina; Wiśniewska, Anna; Janczarek, Iwona; Wilk, Izabela; Tkaczyk, Ewelina; Mierzicka, Martyna; Górecka‐Bruzda, Aleksandra; University of Chester; University of Life Sciences in Lublin; Polish Academy of Sciences (MDPI, 2021-10-28)
      Ridden horses have been reported to be fearful of cows. We tested whether cows could provoke behavioural and cardiac fear responses in horses, and whether these responses differ in magnitude to those shown to other potential dangers. Twenty horses were exposed to cow, a mobile object or no object. The time spent at different distances from the stimulus was measured. In a separate test, heart rate (HR), root mean square of successive differences between heartbeats (RMSSD) and the horses’ perceived fear were assessed at various distances from the stimuli. The horses avoided the area nearest to all stimuli. During hand‐leading, the cow elicited the highest HR and lowest RMSSD. Led horses’ responses to the cow and box were rated as more fearful as the distance to the stimulus decreased. Mares had a higher HR than geldings across all tests. HR positively correlated with the fearfulness rating at the furthest distance from the cow and box, and RMSSD negatively correlated with this rating in cow and control conditions. Our results show that these horses’ avoidance response to cows was similar or higher to that shown towards a novel moving object, demonstrating that potentially, both neophobia and heterospecific communication play a role in this reaction.
    • Non-territorial GPS-tagged golden eagles Aquila chrysaetos at two Scottish wind farms: avoidance influenced by preferred habitat distribution, wind speed and blade motion status

      Fielding, Alan H; Anderson, David; Benn, Stuart; Dennis, Roy; Weston, Ewan; Whitfield, Philip; Natural Research Ltd; Forestry and Land Scotland; RSPB Scotland; Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation; University of Chester (Public Library of Science, 2021-08-05)
      Wind farms can have two broad potential adverse effects on birds via antagonistic processes: displacement from the vicinity of turbines (avoidance), or death through collision with rotating turbine blades. These effects may not be mutually exclusive. Using detailed data from 99 turbines at two wind farms in central Scotland and thousands of GPS-telemetry data from dispersing golden eagles, we tested three hypotheses. Before-and-after-operation analyses supported the hypothesis of avoidance: displacement was reduced at turbine locations in more preferred habitat and with more preferred habitat nearby. After-operation analyses (i.e. from the period when turbines were operational) showed that at higher wind speeds and in highly preferred habitat eagles were less wary of turbines with motionless blades: rejecting our second hypothesis. Our third hypothesis was supported, since at higher wind speeds eagles flew closer to operational turbines; especially – once more – turbines in more preferred habitat. After operation, eagles effectively abandoned inner turbine locations, and flight line records close to rotor blades were rare. While our study indicated that whole-wind farm functional habitat loss through avoidance was the substantial adverse impact, we make recommendations on future wind farm design to minimise collision risk further. These largely entail developers avoiding outer turbine locations which are in and surrounded by swathes of preferred habitat. Our study illustrates the insights which detailed case studies of large raptors at wind farms can bring and emphasises that the balance between avoidance and collision can have several influences.
    • A Global Survey of Current Zoo Housing and Husbandry Practices for Fossa: A Preliminary Review

      Harley, Jessica J; orcid: 0000-0002-9355-9641; O’Hara, Lisa; email: education@taytopark.ie; Rose, Paul E.; orcid: 0000-0002-5375-8267; email: p.rose@exeter.ac.uk (MDPI, 2021-07-20)
      The fossa is a specialized Malagasy carnivore housed in ex situ facilities since the late 19th century. Moderate breeding success has occurred since the 1970s, and welfare issues (notably stereotypic pacing behaviour) are commonly documented. To understand challenges relating to fossa housing and husbandry (H) across global facilities and to identify areas of good practice that dovetail with available husbandry standards, a survey was distributed to ZIMS-registered zoos in 2017. Results showed that outdoor housing area and volume varied greatly across facilities, the majority of fossa expressed unnatural behaviours, with pacing behaviour the most frequently observed. All fossa received enrichment, and most had public access restricted to one or two sides of the enclosure. The majority of fossa were locked in/out as part of their daily management and forty-one percent of the fossa surveyed as breeding individuals bred at the zoo. Dense cover within an enclosure, restricted public viewing areas, a variable feeding schedule and limited view of another species from the fossa exhibit appear to reduce the risk of unnatural behavior being performed. The achievement of best practice fossa husbandry may be a challenge due to its specialized ecology, the limited wild information guiding captive care, and the range of housing dimensions and exhibit features provided by zoos that makes identification of standardized practices difficult. We recommended that holders evaluate how and when enrichment is provided and assess what they are providing for environmental complexity as well as consider how the public views their fossa.
    • Responses of dispersing GPS-tagged Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) to multiple wind farms across Scotland

      Fielding, Alan H; Anderson, David; Benn, Stuart; Dennis, Roy; Geary, Matthew; Weston, Ewan; Whitfield, Phil; Natural Research Ltd; Forestry and Land Scotland; RSPB Scotland; Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation; University of Chester (Wiley, 2021-07-20)
      Wind farms may have two broad potential adverse effects on birds via antagonistic processes: displacement from the vicinity of turbines (avoidance), or death through collision with rotating turbine blades. Large raptors are often shown or presumed to be vulnerable to collision and are demographically sensitive to additional mortality, as exemplified by several studies of the Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos. Previous findings from Scottish Eagles, however, have suggested avoidance as the primary response. Our study used data from 59 GPS-tagged Golden Eagles with 28 284 records during natal dispersal before and after turbine operation < 1 km of 569 turbines at 80 wind farms across Scotland. We tested three hypotheses using measurements of tag records’ distance from the hub of turbine locations: (1) avoidance should be evident; (2) older birds should show less avoidance (i.e. habituate to turbines); and (3) rotor diameter should have no influence (smaller diameters are correlated with a turbine’s age, in examining possible habituation). Four generalized linear mixed models (GLMMs) were constructed with intrinsic habitat preference of a turbine location using Golden Eagle Topography (GET) model, turbine operation status (before/after), bird age and rotor diameter as fixed factors. The best GLMM was subsequently verified by k-fold cross-validation and involved only GET habitat preference and presence of an operational turbine. Eagles were eight times less likely to be within a rotor diameter’s distance of a hub location after turbine operation, and modelled displacement distance was 70 m. Our first hypothesis expecting avoidance was supported. Eagles were closer to turbine locations in preferred habitat but at greater distances after turbine operation. Results on bird age (no influence to 5+ years) rejected hypothesis 2, implying no habituation. Support for hypothesis 3 (no influence of rotor diameter) also tentatively inferred no habituation, but data indicated birds went slightly closer to longer rotor blades although not to the turbine tower. We proffer that understanding why avoidance or collision in large raptors may occur can be conceptually envisaged via variation in fear of humans as the ‘super predator’ with turbines as cues to this life-threatening agent.
    • Evaluation of the Feasibility, Reliability, and Repeatability of Welfare Indicators in Free-Roaming Horses: A Pilot Study

      Harley, Jessica J; orcid: 0000-0002-9355-9641; Stack, J David; Braid, Helen; orcid: 0000-0003-2582-7584; McLennan, Krista M; orcid: 0000-0002-8888-540X; Stanley, Christina R. (MDPI, 2021-07-02)
      Validated assessment protocols have been developed to quantify welfare states for intensively managed sport, pleasure, and working horses. There are few protocols for extensively managed or free-roaming populations. Here, we trialed welfare indicators to ascertain their feasibility, reliability, and repeatability using free-roaming Carneddau Mountain ponies as an example population. The project involved (1) the identification of animal and resource-based measures of welfare from both the literature and discussion with an expert group; (2) testing the feasibility and repeatability of a modified body condition score and mobility score on 34 free-roaming and conservation grazing Carneddau Mountain ponies; and (3) testing a prototype welfare assessment template comprising 12 animal-based and 6 resource-based welfare indicators, with a total of 20 questions, on 35 free-roaming Carneddau Mountain ponies to quantify inter-assessor reliability and repeatability. This pilot study revealed that many of the indicators were successfully repeatable and had good levels of inter-assessor reliability. Some of the indicators could not be verified for reliability due to low/absent occurrence. The results indicated that many animal and resource-based indicators commonly used in intensively managed equine settings could be measured in-range with minor modifications. This study is an initial step toward validating a much-needed tool for the welfare assessment of free-roaming and conservation grazing ponies.
    • Street-level green spaces support a key urban population of the threatened Hispaniolan Parakeet Psittacara chloropterus

      Geary, Matthew; Celia, Brailsford; Laura, Hough; Fraser, Baker; Simon, Guerrero; Yolanda, Leon; Nigel, Collar; Stuart, Marsden; University of Chester; Manchester Metropolitan University; Autonomous University of Santo Domingo; Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo; BirdLife International (Springer, 2021-04-14)
      While urbanisation remains a major threat to biodiversity, urban areas can sometimes play an important role in protecting threatened species, especially exploited taxa such as parrots. The Hispaniolan Parakeet Psittacara chloropterus has been extirpated across much of Hispaniola, including from most protected areas, yet Santo Domingo (capital city of the Dominican Republic) has recently been found to support the island’s densest remaining population. In 2019, we used repeated transects and point-counts across 60 1 km2 squares of Santo Domingo to examine the distribution of parakeets, identify factors that might drive local presence and abundance, and investigate breeding ecology. Occupancy models indicate that parakeet presence was positively related to tree species richness across the city. N-Mixture models show parakeet encounter rates were correlated positively with species richness of trees and number of discrete ‘green’ patches (> 100 m2) within the survey squares. Hispaniolan Woodpecker Melanerpes striatus, the main tree-cavity-producing species on Hispaniola, occurs throughout the city, but few parakeet nests are known to involve the secondary use of its or other cavities in trees/palms. Most parakeet breeding (perhaps 50‒100 pairs) appears to occur at two colonies in old buildings, and possibly only a small proportion of the city’s 1,500+ parakeets that occupy a single roost in street trees breed in any year. Our models emphasise the importance of parks and gardens in providing feeding resources for this IUCN Vulnerable species. Hispaniola’s urban centres may be strongholds for populations of parakeets and may even represent sources for birds to recolonise formerly occupied areas on the island.
    • The role of brain size on mammalian population densities

      González-Suárez, Manuela; Gonzalez-Voyer, Alejandro; von Hardenberg, Achaz; Santini, Luca; University of Reading; Universidad Autonoma de Mexico; University of Chester; Italian National Research Council (Wiley, 2020-12-22)
      1. The local abundance or population density of different organisms often varies widely. Understanding what determines this variation is an important, but not yet fully resolved question in ecology. Differences in population density are partly driven by variation in body size and diet among organisms. Here we propose that the size of an organism’ brain could be an additional, overlooked, driver of mammalian population densities. 2. We explore two possible contrasting mechanisms by which brain size, measured by its mass, could affect population density. First, because of the energetic demands of larger brains and their influence on life history, we predict mammals with larger relative brain masses would occur at lower population densities. Alternatively, larger brains are generally associated with a greater ability to exploit new resources, which would provide a competitive advantage leading to higher population densities among large‐brained mammals. 3. We tested these predictions using phylogenetic path analysis, modelling hypothesized direct and indirect relationships between diet, body mass, brain mass and population density for 656 non‐volant terrestrial mammalian species. We analysed all data together and separately for marsupials and the four taxonomic orders with most species in the dataset (Carnivora, Cetartiodactyla, Primates, Rodentia). 4. For all species combined, a single model was supported showing lower population density associated with larger brains, larger bodies and more specialized diets. The negative effect of brain mass was also supported for separate analyses in Primates and Carnivora. In other groups (Rodentia, Cetartiodactyla and marsupials) the relationship was less clear: supported models included a direct link from brain mass to population density but 95% confidence intervals of the path coefficients overlapped zero. 5. Results support our hypothesis that brain mass can explain variation in species’ average population density, with large‐brained species having greater area requirements, although the relationship may vary across taxonomic groups. Future research is needed to clarify whether the role of brain mass on population density varies as a function of environmental (e.g. environmental stability) and biotic conditions (e.g. level of competition).
    • Contrasting responses to salinity and future ocean acidification in arctic populations of the amphipod Gammarus setosus

      Brown, James; Whiteley, Nia; Bailey, Allison; Graham, Helen; Hop, Haakon; Rastrick, Samuel; University of Chester; Bangor University; Norwegian Polar Institute; Institute of Marine Research; Norwegian Polar Institute; Institute of Marine Research (Elsevier, 2020-10-07)
      Climate change is leading to alterations in salinity and carbonate chemistry in arctic/sub-arctic marine ecosystems. We examined three nominal populations of the circumpolar arctic/subarctic amphipod, Gammarus setosus, along a salinity gradient in the Kongsfjorden-Krossfjorden area of Svalbard. Field and laboratory experiments assessed physiological (haemolymph osmolality and gill Na+/K+-ATPase activity, NKA) and energetic responses (metabolic rates, MO2, and Cellular Energy Allocation, CEA). In the field, all populations had similar osmregulatory capacities and MO2, but lower-salinity populations had lower CEA. Reduced salinity (S = 23) and elevated pCO2 (~1000 μatm) in the laboratory for one month increased gill NKA activities and reduced CEA in all populations, but increased MO2 in the higher-salinity population. Elevated pCO2 did not interact with salinity and had no effect on NKA activities or CEA, but reduced MO2 in all populations. Reduced CEA in lower-rather than higher-salinity populations may have longer term effects on other energy demanding processes (growth and reproduction).
    • The role of specific biomarkers, as predictors of post-operative complications following flexible ureterorenoscopy (FURS), for the treatment of kidney stones: a single-centre observational clinical pilot-study in 37 patients

      Hughes, Stephen Fôn; orcid: 0000-0001-6558-9037; email: Stephen.hughes6@wales.nhs.uk; Moyes, Alyson Jayne; Lamb, Rebecca May; Ella-tongwiis, Peter; Bell, Christopher; Moussa, Ahmed; Shergill, Iqbal (BioMed Central, 2020-08-14)
      Abstract: Background: The number of patients diagnosed and subsequently treated for kidney stones is increasing, and as such the number of post-operative complications is likely to increase. At present, little is known about the role of specific biomarkers, following flexible ureterorenoscopy (FURS) for the surgical treatment of kidney stones. The main aim of the study was to evaluate the role of kidney and infection biomarkers, in patients undergoing FURS. Methods: Included were 37 patients (24 males, 13 females), who underwent elective FURS, for the treatment of kidney stones. Venous blood samples were collected from each patient: pre-operatively, and at 30 min, 2 and 4 h post-operatively. Changes to kidney (NGAL, Cystatin-C) and infection (MPO, PCT) biomarkers was quantified by means of ELISA, Biomerieux mini-vidas and Konelab 20 analysers. Results: Four patients developed post-operative complications (3 - UTIs with urinary retention, 1 - urosepsis. NGAL concentration increased significantly following FURS (p = 0.034). Although no significant changes were seen in Cystatin C, MPO and PCT (p ≥ 0.05) some key clinical observation were noted. Limiting factors for this study were the small number of patients recruited and restriction in blood sampling beyond 4 h. Conclusions: Although not confirmative, changes seen to biomarkers such as Cystatin C, NGAL and MPO in our observational clinical pilot-study may warrant further investigation, involving larger cohorts, to fully understand the role of these biomarkers and their potential association with post-operative complications which can develop following FURS.
    • White-faced Darter distribution is associated with coniferous forests in Great Britain

      Geary, Matthew; von Hardenberg, Achaz; Conservation Biology Research Group, Department of Biological Science, University of Chester, Chester, CH1 4BJ (Wiley, 2020-08-11)
      Abstract 1) Understanding of dragonfly distributions is often geographically comprehensive but less so in ecological terms. 2) White-faced darter (Leucorhinnia dubia) is a lowland peatbog specialist dragonfly which has experienced population declines in Great Britain. White-faced darter are thought to rely on peat-rich pool complexes within woodland but this has not yet been empirically tested. 3) We used dragonfly recording data collected by volunteers of the British Dragonfly Society from 2005 to 2018 to model habitat preference for white-faced darter using species distribution models across Great Britain and, with a more detailed landcover dataset, specifically in the North of Scotland. 4) Across the whole of Great Britain our models used the proportion of coniferous forest within 1km as the most important predictor of habitat suitability but were not able to predict all current populations in England. 5) In the North of Scotland our models were more successful and suggest that habitats characterised by native coniferous forest and areas high potential evapotranspiration represent the most suitable habitat for white-faced darter. 6) We recommend that future white-faced darter monitoring should be expanded to include areas currently poorly surveyed but with high suitability in the North of Scotland. 7) Our results also suggest that white-faced darter management should concentrate on maintaining Sphagnum rich pool complexes and the maintenance and restoration of native forests in which these pool complexes occur.
    • Seascape genomics reveals population isolation in the reef-building honeycomb worm, Sabellaria alveolata (L.)

      Dubois, Stanislas; Muir, Anna P; orcid: 0000-0002-6896-6915; Ross, Rebecca; Firth, Louise; Knights, Antony; Lima, Fernando; Seabra, Rui; Corre, Erwan; Le Corguillé, Gildas; Nunes, Flavia; et al. (BMC, 2020-08-10)
      Background: Under the threat of climate change populations can disperse, acclimatise or evolve in order to avoid fitness loss. In light of this, it is important to understand neutral gene flow patterns as a measure of dispersal potential, but also adaptive genetic variation as a measure of evolutionary potential. In order to assess genetic variation and how this relates to environment in the honeycomb worm (Sabellaria alveolata (L.)), a reef-building polychaete that supports high biodiversity, we carried out RAD sequencing using individuals from along its complete latitudinal range. Patterns of neutral population genetic structure were compared to larval dispersal as predicted by ocean circulation modelling, and outlier analyses and genotype-environment association tests were used to attempt to identify loci under selection in relation to local temperature data. Results: We genotyped 482 filtered SNPs, from 68 individuals across nine sites, 27 of which were identified as outliers using BAYESCAN and ARLEQUIN. All outlier loci were potentially under balancing selection, despite previous evidence of local adaptation in the system. Limited gene flow was observed among reef-sites (FST = 0.28 ± 0.10), in line with the low dispersal potential identified by the larval dispersal models. The North Atlantic reef emerged as a distinct population and this was linked to high local larval retention and the effect of the North Atlantic Current on dispersal. Conclusions: As an isolated population, with limited potential for natural genetic or demographic augmentation from other reefs, the North Atlantic site warrants conservation attention in order to preserve not only this species, but above all the crucial functional ecological roles that are associated with their bioconstructions. Our study highlights the utility of using seascape genomics to identify populations of conservation concern.
    • The importance of long-term genetic monitoring of reintroduced populations: inbreeding in the natterjack toad (Epidalea calamita)

      Muir, Anna P.; Phillips, Susanna; Geary, Matt; Allmark, Matthew; Bennett, Sarah; Norman, Kim; Ball, Rachel J; Peters, Catherine; University of Chester; Cheshire Wildlife Trust; Eni UK Ltd (British Herpetological Society, 2020-07-31)
      Genetic monitoring is an important, but frequently lacking, component of management actions to support long-term persistence in reintroduced populations. Populations that remain small, due to demographic processes and genetic diversity, are more likely to experience a second extinction event. The natterjack toad (Epidelea calamita) is legally protected in Britain and was the subject of a reintroduction programme in the 1990s. However, subsequent genetic assessment has been mostly lacking. The aim of this study was to assess the genetic diversity of two reintroduced populations of natterjack toads in order to inform conservation management. Adults were sampled and nine microsatellites amplified to assess neutral genetic variation within each site and for comparison with the source population. Inbreeding was observed at the reintroduction sites, as evidenced by high FIS values (0.43 and 0.72), low observed compared to expected heterozygosities, and significant deviation from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium. Observed heterozygosity is currently lower in the reintroduction sites than it was in the source population at the time of the reintroductions (Red Rocks: 0.15±0.20; Talacre: 0.12±0.20; Ainsdale (source): 0.29). Evidence for a bottleneck was not found, although this is likely a result of sampling overlapping generations. No within-site population structuring was observed. Such low genetic diversity has not previously been recorded in any natterjack population. Genetic rescue, combined with pool creation, is the most viable option for safeguarding the species at these sites into the future. Our work highlights the importance of ongoing genetic monitoring, in collaboration with conservation organisations, to support conservation management.
    • Social Experience of Captive Livingstone’s Fruit Bats (Pteropus livingstonii)

      Stanley, Christina R; Smith, Tessa; Welch, Morgan J; Hosie, Charlotte; Wormell, Dominic; Price, Eluned; University of Chester; Jersey Zoo (MDPI, 2020-07-30)
      Social network analysis has been highlighted as a powerful tool to enhance the evidence-based management of captive-housed species through its ability to quantify the social experience of individuals. We apply this technique to explore the social structure and social roles of 50 Livingstone’s fruit bats (Pteropus livingstonii) housed at Jersey Zoo, Channel Islands, through the observation of associative, affiliative, and aggressive interactions over two data collection periods. We implement binomial mixture modelling and characteristic-based assortment quantification to describe the complexity and organisation of social networks, as well as a multiple regression quadratic assignment procedural (MRQAP) test to analyse the relationship between network types. We examine the effects of individual characteristics (i.e., sex, age, and dominance rank) on social role by fitting models to explain the magnitude of node metrics. Additionally, we utilize a quadratic assignment procedural (QAP) test to assess the temporal stability of social roles over two seasons. Our results indicate that P. livingstonii display a non-random network structure. Observed social networks are positively assorted by age, as well as dominance rank. The frequency of association between individuals correlates with a higher frequency of behavioural interactions, both affiliative and aggressive. Individual social roles remain consistent over ten months. We recommend that, to improve welfare and captive breeding success, relationships between individuals of similar ages and dominance levels should be allowed to persist in this group where possible, and separating individuals that interact frequently in an affiliative context should be avoided.
    • Margaret Chorley Crosfield, FGS: the very first female Fellow of the Geological Society

      Burek, C. V.; orcid: 0000-0002-7931-578X (Geological Society of London, 2020-07-10)
      AbstractIn May 1919 the first female Fellows of the Geological Society were elected and from then on attended meetings at the Society. The first person on the female fellows’ list was Margaret Chorley Crosfield. She was born in 1859 and died in 1952. She lived all her life in Reigate in Surrey. After studying and then leaving Cambridge, Margaret had sought to join the Geological Society of London for many years, in order to gain recognition of her research work, but also to attend meetings and use the library. This paper will look at her history and trace her geological achievements in both stratigraphy and palaeontology, as well as her extraordinary field notebooks that she left to the Geological Survey. She worked closely with two female geological colleagues, Mary Johnston and Ethel Skeat. Margaret Crosfield epitomizes the educated, amateur, independent woman who wanted to be recognized for her work, especially fieldwork, at a time when female contributions, especially in the field sciences, were not always acknowledged or even appreciated.
    • Mangrove or mudflat: Prioritising fish habitat for conservation in a turbid tropical estuary

      Marley, Guy; Deacon, Amy; Philip, Dawn; Lawrence, Andrew; University of the West Indies, University of the West Indies, University of the West Indies, University of Chester (Elsevier, 2020-04-26)
      Mangrove habitats are typically the focus of conservation efforts in tropical estuaries because their structural complexity is thought to support greater biodiversity and nursery function than unvegetated habitats. However, evidence for this paradigm has been equivocal in turbid tropical estuaries where unvegetated mudflats are also highly productive. The present study compared the community composition, biodiversity, nursery-role and commercial fish biomass in two mangrove habitats and one mudflat habitat in the Gulf of Paria, Trinidad. A total of 12 705 fishes, comprising 63 species from 26 families, were sampled in mangrove creeks, seaward mangrove fringe and the subtidal margin of an intertidal mudflat from June 2014 to June 2015. The composition of the creek and mudflat communities were distinct, while the community of the mangrove fringe more closely resembled the mudflat than the mangrove creeks. Mean species richness (MSR), total species richness (TSR) extrapolated from species accumulation curves, and juvenile species richness (JSR) were significantly greater in the mudflat (MSR = 11.4 ± 1.0; TSR = 75 ± 14; JSR = 9.1 ± 0.8) than mangrove creeks (MSR = 9.0 ± 0.5; TSR = 49 ± 3; JSR = 6.1 ± 0.4) and the seaward mangrove fringe (MSR = 6.4 ± 0.7; TSR = 58 ± 14; JSR = 5.2 ± 0.4). Meanwhile, Shannon Weiner diversity, juvenile fish abundance and commercial fish biomass were comparable between habitats. These findings caution against the generalisation that mangroves are the most important habitat for fishes in turbid tropical estuaries. There is now a growing body of evidence that mudflats warrant consideration as important repositories of biodiversity and nursery function for juvenile fishes.
    • Distribution, status and recent population dynamics of Alpine ibex Capra ibex in Europe

      Brambillla, Alice; von Hardenberg, Achaz; Nelli, Luca; Bassano, Bruno; University of Zurich, University of Chester, University of Glasgow, Gran Paradiso National PArk (Wiley, 2020-04-20)
      1. Despite its recent successful and well-documented reintroduction history, a comprehensive and current update of the distribution and status of the Alpine ibex Capra ibex is lacking. As some concerns persist about its conservation, a status update appears essential for future conservation and management strategies on a large scale. 2. We provide an exhaustive update of the geographic range of the species, alongside estimates of its current abundance and population trends from 2004 to 2015. 3. We gathered census and distribution data for all the Alpine ibex colonies from management authorities and research groups that monitor them in different countries, and from the literature and publicly available reports. We produced a distribution map, reported the number of individuals observed in the most recent censuses, and estimated global, national, and local population trends using Bayesian hierarchical models. 4. Our model estimated that there were a total of 55297 Alpine ibex in the Alps in 2015 (lower 95% Credible Interval [CrI]: 51157; upper 95% CrI: 62710). The total number of individuals appears to have increased slightly over the last 10 years from the 47000-51000 estimated in previous reports. Positive population trends were observed in Switzerland and Italy, while no trend was apparent in France. For Austria, Germany, and Slovenia, there were insufficient data to estimate a trend. The slopes of the colonies’ trends were positively correlated with the year of colony foundation. 5. The geographic range of the Alpine ibex does not seem to have increased in size in recent years, although the accuracy of the spatial data varies among countries. 6. The periodic and standardised collection of census data for all colonies and a common policy of data-sharing at a European level appear essential for monitoring the global trend of this species and for planning balanced conservation and management actions.
    • Current strength, temperature, and bodyscape modulate cleaning services for giant manta rays

      Murie, Calum; Spencer, Matthew; Oliver, Simon; University of Chester (Springer, 2020-04-07)
      The cleaner-client system among reef teleosts has received considerable attention in both wild and captive environments, but the spatially and taxonomically diverse associations between cleaner fish and elasmobranchs are less understood. Using remote video, we investigated interactions between giant manta rays (Mobula birostris) and cleaner wrasse at a seamount in the Philippines. Cleaning events occurred between 11:00 and 16:00 hours on a seasonal basis and were constrained by current strengths and ambient water temperatures. The frequency with which giant manta rays interacted with cleaner fish varied on an individual basis. Blue streaked cleaner wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus) and moon wrasse (Thalassoma lunare) selectively foraged on manta rays’ gills and pelvis, with L. dimidiatus also demonstrating slight preferences for the pectoral fins. Cleaners’ foraging preferences may indicate ectoparasitic infections in specific areas of a manta ray’s body. The exclusivity with which giant manta rays visited a particular cleaning station on the seamount may be a response to the quality of services that cleaners provide there. Giant mantas’ fidelity to this site may also be attributed to localised concentrations of food that are available nearby. The seamount provides habitat that appears to be important to the life history strategies of the region’s giant manta rays.