• 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.
    • Furred and feathered friends: How attached are zookeepers to the animals in their care?

      Melfi, Vicky; Skyner, Lindsay; Birke, Lynda; Ward, Samantha J; Shaw, Wendy S; Hosey, Geoff (2021-10-18)
      Keeper-animal relationships (KARs) appear to be important in zoos, since they can enhance the well-being of both the animals and the keepers, can make animal husbandry easier, but conversely might risk inappropriate habituation of animals and possible risks to the safety of keepers. It is, therefore, important to know more about the variables involved in relationship formation. Here we use a modified version of the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS) to measure the strength of KARs between keepers and animals in their care, both in the zoo and in the home. LAPS questionnaires were completed by 187 keepers in 19 different collections across three countries. LAPS scores for attachment to zoo animals (ZA) were significantly lower than for pet animals (PA). There was no significant difference in ZA scores between different taxa, but there were significant taxon differences between PA scores. There were significant differences in both ZA and PA scores between different collections. Female respondents scored more highly than males for both ZA and PA. Multiple regression revealed that location, gender, and time spent with animals were significant predictors for ZA, while only gender and taxon were significant predictors for PA. It was concluded that PA scores were comparable with those for the general public, and reflected strong attachment of keepers to their pets, while ZA scores, although also reflecting attachment, were influenced by differences in institutional culture. [Abstract copyright: © 2021 Wiley Periodicals LLC.]
    • Mapping differences in mammalian distributions and diversity using environmental DNA from rivers.

      Broadhurst, Holly A.; Gregory, Luke M.; Bleakley, Emma K.; Perkins, Joseph C.; Lavin, Jenna V.; Bolton, Polly; Browett, Samuel S.; Howe, Claire V.; Singleton, Natalie; Tansley, Darren; et al. (2021-08-18)
      Finding more efficient ways to monitor and estimate the diversity of mammalian communities is a major step towards their management and conservation. Environmental DNA (eDNA) from river water has recently been shown to be a viable method for biomonitoring mammalian communities. Most of the studies to date have focused on the potential for eDNA to detect individual species, with little focus on describing patterns of community diversity and structure. Here, we first focus on the sampling effort required to reliably map the diversity and distribution of semi-aquatic and terrestrial mammals and allow inferences of community structure surrounding two rivers in southeastern England. Community diversity and composition was then assessed based on species richness and β-diversity, with differences between communities partitioned into nestedness and turnover, and the sampling effort required to rapidly detect semi-aquatic and terrestrial species was evaluated based on species accumulation curves and occupancy modelling. eDNA metabarcoding detected 25 wild mammal species from five orders, representing the vast majority (82%) of the species expected in the area. The required sampling effort varied between orders, with common species (generally rodents, deer and lagomorphs) more readily detected, with carnivores detected less frequently. Measures of species richness differed between rivers (both overall and within each mammalian order) and patterns of β-diversity revealed the importance of species replacement in sites within each river, against a pattern of species loss between the two rivers. eDNA metabarcoding demonstrated its capability to rapidly detect mammal species, allowing inferences of community composition that will better inform future sampling strategies for this Class. Importantly, this study highlights the potential use of eDNA data for investigating mammalian community dynamics over different spatial scales. [Abstract copyright: Copyright © 2021 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.]
    • Phylogenetic analyses of ray-finned fishes (Actinopterygii) using collagen type I protein sequences

      Harvey, Virginia L.; Keating, Joseph N.; Buckley, Michael; University of Manchester; University of Bristol (The Royal Society, 2021-08-11)
      Ray-finned fishes (Actinopterygii) are the largest and most diverse group of vertebrates, comprising over half of all living vertebrate species. Phylogenetic relationships between ray-finned fishes have historically pivoted on the study of morphology, which has notoriously failed to resolve higher order relationships, such as within the percomorphs. More recently, comprehensive genomic analyses have provided further resolution of actinopterygian phylogeny, including higher order relationships. Such analyses are rightfully regarded as the ‘gold standard’ for phylogenetics. However, DNA retrieval requires modern or well-preserved tissue and is less likely to be preserved in archaeological or fossil specimens. By contrast, some proteins, such as collagen, are phylogenetically informative and can survive into deep time. Here, we test the utility of collagen type I amino acid sequences for phylogenetic estimation of ray-finned fishes. We estimate topology using Bayesian approaches and compare the congruence of our estimated trees with published genomic phylogenies. Furthermore, we apply a Bayesian molecular clock approach and compare estimated divergence dates with previously published genomic clock analyses. Our collagen-derived trees exhibit 77% of node positions as congruent with recent genomic-derived trees, with the majority of discrepancies occurring in higher order node positions, almost exclusively within the Percomorpha. Our molecular clock trees present divergence times that are fairly comparable with genomic-based phylogenetic analyses. We estimate the mean node age of Actinopteri at ∼293 million years (Ma), the base of Teleostei at ∼211 Ma and the radiation of percomorphs beginning at ∼141 Ma (∼350 Ma, ∼250–283 Ma and ∼120–133 Ma in genomic trees, respectively). Finally, we show that the average rate of collagen (I) sequence evolution is 0.9 amino acid substitutions for every million years of divergence, with the α3 (I) sequence evolving the fastest, followed by the α2 (I) chain. This is the quickest rate known for any vertebrate group. We demonstrate that phylogenetic analyses using collagen type I amino acid sequences generate tangible signals for actinopterygians that are highly congruent with recent genomic-level studies. However, there is limited congruence within percomorphs, perhaps due to clade-specific functional constraints acting upon collagen sequences. Our results provide important insights for future phylogenetic analyses incorporating extinct actinopterygian species via collagen (I) sequencing.
    • 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; Geary, Matthew; 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.
    • Zooarchaeology through the lens of collagen fingerprinting at Denisova Cave

      Brown, Samantha; Wang, Naihui; Oertle, Annette; Kozlikin, Maxim B.; Shunkov, Michael V.; Derevianko, Anatoly P.; Comeskey, Daniel; Jope-Street, Blair; Harvey, Virginia L.; Chowdhury, Manasij Pal; et al. (Nature Research, 2021-07-29)
      Denisova Cave, a Pleistocene site in the Altai Mountains of Russian Siberia, has yielded significant fossil and lithic evidence for the Pleistocene in Northern Asia. Abundant animal and human bones have been discovered at the site, however, these tend to be highly fragmented, necessitating new approaches to identifying important hominin and faunal fossils. Here we report the results for 8253 bone fragments using ZooMS. Through the integration of this new ZooMS-based data with the previously published macroscopically-identified fauna we aim to create a holistic picture of the zooarchaeological record of the site. We identify trends associated with climate variability throughout the Middle and Upper Pleistocene as well as patterns explaining the process of bone fragmentation. Where morphological analysis of bones from the site have identified a high proportion of carnivore bones (30.2%), we find that these account for only 7.6% of the ZooMS assemblage, with large mammals between 3 and 5 more abundant overall. Our analysis suggests a cyclical pattern in fragmentation of bones which sees initial fragmentation by hominins using percussive tools and secondary carnivore action, such as gnawing and digestion, likely furthering the initial human-induced fragmentation.
    • Sex and age-specific survival and life expectancy in a free ranging population of Indri indri (Gmelin, 1788).

      Rolle, Francesca; Torti, Valeria; Valente, Daria; De Gregorio, Chiara; Giacoma, Cristina; von Hardenberg, Achaz; University of Turin; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2021-07-22)
      The critically endangered indri (Indri indri) is the largest extant lemur species and its population size is projected to decline over the next three generations due to habitat loss, hunting and climate change. Accurate information on the demographic parameters driving the population dynamics of indri is urgently needed to help decision-making regarding the conservation of this iconic species. We monitored and followed the life histories of 68 individually recognizable indris in 10 family groups in the Maromizaha New Protected Area (Madagascar) for 12 years. We estimated age and sex-specific survival trajectories using a Bayesian hierarchical survival model and found that the survival curves for male and female indris show a similar pattern, consistent with what found typically in primates; i.e., a high infant mortality rate which declines with age in the juvenile phase and increases again for adults. Also, life expectancies at 2 years of age (e2), were found to be similar between the sexes (e2 females = 7.8 years; e2 males = 7.5 years). We suggest that the lack of strong differences in the survival patterns for male and female indris are related to the strictly monogamous mating system and the lack of sexual dimorphism in this species. Our study provides, for the first time, robust estimates for demographic parameters of indris and one of the very few datasets on survival trajectories available for primates.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Social network analysis of small social groups: Application of a hurdle GLMM approach in the Alpine marmot ( Marmota marmota )

      editor: Ebensperger, Luis; Panaccio, Matteo; orcid: 0000-0002-1903-154X; email: matteo.panaccio01@universitadipavia.it; Ferrari, Caterina; Bassano, Bruno; Stanley, Christina R.; orcid: 0000-0002-5053-4831; von Hardenberg, Achaz; orcid: 0000-0002-9899-1687; email: a.vonhardenberg@chester.ac.uk (2021-03-24)
      Abstract: Social network analysis (SNA) has recently emerged as a fundamental tool to study animal behavior. While many studies have analyzed the relationship between environmental factors and behavior across large, complex animal populations, few have focused on species living in small groups due to limitations of the statistical methods currently employed. Some of the difficulties are often in comparing social structure across different sized groups and accounting for zero‐inflation generated by analyzing small social units. Here, we use a case study to highlight how Generalized Linear Mixed Models (GLMMs) and hurdle models can overcome the issues inherent to study of social network metrics of groups that are small and variable in size. We applied this approach to study aggressive behavior in the Alpine marmot (Marmota marmota) using an eight‐year long dataset of behavioral interactions across 17 small family groups (7.4 ± 3.3 individuals). We analyzed the effect of individual and group‐level factors on aggression, including predictors frequently inferred in species with larger groups, as the closely related yellow‐bellied marmot (Marmota flaviventris). Our approach included the use of hurdle GLMMs to analyze the zero‐inflated metrics that are typical of aggressive networks of small social groups. Additionally, our results confirmed previously reported effects of dominance and social status on aggression levels, thus supporting the efficacy of our approach. We found differences between males and females in terms of levels of aggression and on the roles occupied by each in agonistic networks that were not predicted in a socially monogamous species. Finally, we provide some perspectives on social network analysis as applied to small social groups to inform subsequent studies.
    • Proteome Variation with Collagen Yield in Ancient Bone

      Harvey, Virginia L.; Procopio, Noemi; Hopkins, Rachel J. A.; Buckley, Michael; Northumbria University; University of Manchester; University of New Mexico (American Chemical Society, 2021-02-02)
      Isotope analyses are some of the most common analytical methods applied to ancient bone, aiding the interpretation of past diets and chronology. For this, the evaluation of “collagen yield” (as defined in radiocarbon dating and stable isotope research) is a routine step that allows for the selection of specimens that are deemed adequate for subsequent analyses, with samples containing less than ∼1% “collagen yield” normally being used for isotopic analysis but discounted for radiocarbon dating. The aims of this study were to use proteomic methods of MALDI–TOF (matrix assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry) and LC−ESI−MS/MS (liquid chromatography electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry) to investigate the endogeneity of the dominant proteinaceous biomolecules within samples that are typically considered to contain poorly preserved protein. Taking 29 archaeological samples, we evaluated the proteome variability between different acid-soluble fractions removed prior to protein gelatinization and considered waste as part of the radiocarbon dating process. We then correlated these proteomes against the commonly used “collagen yield” proxy for preservation. We found that these waste fractions contained a significant amount of both collagenous and noncollagenous proteins (NCPs) but that the abundance of these was not correlated with the acquired “collagen yield”. Rather than a depleted protein load as would be expected from a low “collagen yield”, the variety of the extracted NCPs was comparable with that commonly obtained from ancient samples and included informative proteins useful for species identification, phylogenetic studies, and potentially even for isotopic analyses, given further method developments. Additionally, we did not observe any correlation between “collagen yield” and peptide mass fingerprint success or between the different fractions taken from the same sample but at different radiocarbon pretreatment stages. Overall, these findings highlight the value in retaining and analyzing sample fractions that are otherwise discarded as waste during the radiocarbon dating process but more importantly, that low “collagen yield” specimens that are often misinterpreted by archaeologists as being devoid of protein can still yield useful molecular sequence-based information.
    • Experimental taphonomy of fish bone from warm and cold water species: Testing the effects of amino acid composition on collagen breakdown in modern fish bone using thermal maturation experiments

      Harvey, Virginia L.; Wogelius, Roy A.; Manning, Phillip L.; Buckley, Michael; University of Manchester (Elsevier, 2021-01-12)
      Decay experiments have the potential to provide useful analogues in the interpretation of archaeological remains. Previous studies have focused on how physical properties or processing methods can influence fish bone distributions within archaeological sites. However, the means by which intrinsic chemical properties of fish bone, such as baseline collagen type I [‘collagen (I)’] chemistry, may affect both biomolecule and whole bone degradation has not been the focus of any prior study. The variation of facies and resulting impact on taphonomy is not a new concept, but an understanding of the discrete relationship between temperature and the breakdown of collagen (I) in bone material has not been well explored. Here, modern fish bone powder is subjected to differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), thermogravimetric analysis (TGA) and water-immersed heat experiments. This is to test whether taxa with less thermally stable collagen (I) configurations, such as cold-water species with reduced proline and hydroxyproline concentrations (Pro+Hyp), will generate collagen breakdown products (TOC and TN) more rapidly than those with more thermally stable arrangements, such as warm-water fish with typically increased Pro+Hyp. Our results show that bone collagen (I) in the cold-water fish species in this study (cod and herring with lower Pro+Hyp concentrations) display significantly increased decomposition rates than collagen (I) from the warm-water fishes in this study (amberjack and tilapia with higher Pro+Hyp concentrations), given the same experimental conditions (heating in water at 75 °C for up to eight days). Initial reaction rate estimates, based on TOC and TN product concentrations, suggest that cod bone (15.6% Pro+Hyp) reacts ~9 times faster than tilapia bone (20.3% Pro+Hyp). We suggest that the primary influencer of collagen (I) stability in bone is the concentration of Pro+Hyp residues and not a function of physical bone structure. Our results suggest that a reduction in collagen (I) stability is likely to lead to a decrease in whole bone stability following deposition, due to the intimate association between organic and inorganic phases of bone. Therefore, species composition based upon bone remains may vary in archaeological and palaeontological sites, as a function of the thermal stability of collagen (I).
    • 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.
    • Seascape genomics reveals population isolation in the reef-building honeycomb worm, Sabellaria alveolata (L.)

      Muir, Anna P.; orcid: 0000-0002-6896-6915; email: a.muir@chester.ac.uk; Dubois, Stanislas F.; Ross, Rebecca E.; Firth, Louise B.; Knights, Antony M.; Lima, Fernando P.; Seabra, Rui; Corre, Erwan; Le Corguillé, Gildas; Nunes, Flavia L. D. (BioMed Central, 2020-08-10)
      Abstract: 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.