1 Tahrcountry Musings: July 2016

Friday, July 29, 2016

Taking a break

Hi Guys,
              I am taking a break for 15 days. There wont't be any updates during this period

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Adult female ungulates: The importance getting to know about lambing habitat: Parturition, nursery, and predation sites.

Desert bighorn sheep lambing habitat: Parturition, nursery, and predation sites
Rebekah C. Karsch,James W. Cain,Eric M. Rominger and Elise J. Goldstein
The Journal of Wildlife Management,Volume 80Issue 6pages 1069–1080August 2016

Fitness of female ungulates is determined by neonate survival and lifetime reproductive success. Therefore, adult female ungulates should adopt behaviors and habitat selection patterns that enhance survival of neonates during parturition and lactation. Parturition site location may play an important role in neonatal mortality of desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis mexicana) when lambs are especially vulnerable to predation, but parturition sites are rarely documented for this species. The objectives of the researchers were to assess environmental characteristics at desert bighorn parturition, lamb nursery, and predation sites and to assess differences in habitat characteristics between parturition sites and nursery group sites, and predation sites and nursery group sites. They used vaginal implant transmitters (VITs) to identify parturition sites and capture neonates. We then compared elevation, slope, terrain ruggedness, and visibility at parturition, nursery, and lamb predation sites with paired random sites and compared characteristics of parturition sites and lamb predation sites to those of nursery sites. When compared to random sites, odds of a site being a parturition site were highest at intermediate slopes and decreased with increasing female visibility. Odds of a site being a predation site increased with decreasing visibility. When compared to nursery group sites, odds of a site being a parturition site had a quadratic relationship with elevation and slope, with odds being highest at intermediate elevations and intermediate slopes. When the researchers compared predation sites to nursery sites, odds of a site being a predation were highest at low elevation areas with high visibility and high elevation areas with low visibility likely because of differences in hunting strategies of coyote (Canis latrans) and puma (Puma concolor). Parturition sites were lower in elevation and slope than nursery sites. The researchers signs off stating that understanding selection of parturition sites by adult females and how habitat characteristics at these sites differ from those at predation and nursery sites can provide insight into strategies employed by female desert bighorn sheep and other species during and after parturition to promote neonate survival. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Getting to know how the spatial configuration of residential development affects the foraging behavior and prey habits of top predators

Spatial characteristics of residential development shift large carnivore prey habits
Justine A. Smith,Yiwei Wan and Christopher C. Wilmers
The Journal of Wildlife ManagementVolume 80Issue 6pages 1040–1048August 2016

Understanding how anthropogenic development affects food webs is essential to implementing sustainable growth measures, but we have very little knowledge about how the spatial configuration of residential development affects the foraging behavior and prey habits of top predators. The researchers examined the influence of the spatial characteristics of residential development on prey composition in the puma (Puma concolor). They located the prey remains of kills from 32 pumas fitted with global positioning system (GPS) satellite collars to determine the housing characteristics most influencing prey size and species composition. They examined how differences in housing density, proximity, and clustering influenced puma prey size and diversity. They found that at both local (150 m) and regional (1 km) spatial scales surrounding puma kill sites, housing density (but not the clustering of housing) was the greatest contributor to puma consumption of small prey,which primarily comprised human commensals or pets. The species-specific relationships between housing density and prey occupancy and detection rates assessed using camera traps were not always similar to those between housing density and proportions of diet, suggesting that pumas may exercise some diet selectivity. The influence of development on puma diet may affect puma disease risk, energetics, and demographics because of altered species interactions and prey-specific profiles of energetic gain and cost. The researchers say their results can help guide future land-use planners seeking to minimize the impacts of development on wild species interactions and community dynamics.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Want protection from malaria? Here is an unlikely recipe. Sleep with a chicken next to your bed

A study by Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Addis Ababa University, reported in the open access Malaria Journal, has shown that malaria-transmitting mosquitoes actively avoid feeding on certain animal species such as chickens, using their sense of smell. The scientists say odours emitted by species such as chickens could provide protection for humans at risk of mosquito-transmitted diseases.

To find out which species the mosquitoes prefer, the research team collected data on the population of human and domestic animals in three Ethiopian villages. They also collected blood-fed mosquitoes to test for the source of the blood that the mosquitoes had fed on. People living in the areas in which the research was conducted share their living quarters with their livestock. The researchers found that while Anopheles arabiensis strongly prefers human over animal blood when seeking hosts indoors, it randomly feeds on cattle, goats and sheep when outdoors, but avoids chickens in both settings, despite their relatively high abundance.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Scientists urge replacement of animals in antibody production

The global antibody industry is worth 80 billion dollars and relies heavily on animals to produce the antibodies that are used to detect the vast range of molecules indicative of state of health, safety or the environment.Scientists from the Universities of Nottingham, Toronto, Utrecht and Lund in Sweden say millions of animals are still being authorised for routine scientific procedures when there is a tried and tested alternative. They add that the use of animals in consumer society is effectively 'hidden' and products assumed to be 'animal-friendly' are mere ruse. Animal friendly antibody production technique using bacteriophage viruses instead of live animals is being overlooked.
The scientists are proposing a seven point EU led action plan by the wider scientific community and biotechnology industry.
• The replacement of animal immunisation methods for antibody production, including the import of antibodies and antibody-containing products unless it can be demonstrated on a case-by-case basis that Animal Friendly affinity reagents (AFAs) cannot be applied.
• An expert working group should be established to set up a roadmap for moving away from animal immunisation-based techniques for antibody production, in light of the scientific feasibility and commercial availability of AFAs.
• Implementation programmes should be set up to facilitate the transfer of establishments to the new technology. These should include centres of excellence for training in AFA-based technologies to ensure that antibody producers are fully supported.
• Measures should be taken to ensure that animal-derived antibodies manufactured outside the EU adhere to European standards to avoid ethics dumping in regions where animal welfare is less well regulated.
• The European Union Reference Laboratory for alternatives to animal testing (EURL ECVAM) should extend its field of activities with its international collaborative partners to include the production of AFAs and their subsequent use.
• EU and national agencies who are committed to the 3Rs and who execute EU regulations at an operational level for the commercial production of cosmetics, medicines, household products, and food or to safeguard our health or the environment should reinforce this action and no longer permit the import or use of animal-derived antibodies and antibody-containing products aimed to monitor, detect, diagnose, or extract targets of interest.
• Subsequent reports from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the statistics on the number of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes should include data on the use of animals for antibody production as an independent category.

Details appear in the latest issue of journal Trends in Biotechnology. Read it HERE

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Urban pigeons might come in handy to detect lead and other toxic compounds in cities

 A new study of pigeons by Fayme Cai and Rebecca Calisi in New York City shows that levels of lead in the birds track with neighborhoods where children show high levels of lead exposure. In their study the researchers used feral pigeon (Columba livia) as a lead bioindicator in New York City. They collected blood lead level records from 825 visibly ill or abnormally behaving pigeons from various NYC neighborhoods between 2010 and 2015. They found that blood lead levels were significantly higher during the summer, an effect reported in children. Even miniscule amounts of lead are extremely detrimental to child health. 
The researchers provide support for the use of the feral pigeon as a bioindicator of environmental lead contamination for the first time in the U.S. and for the first time anywhere in association with rates of elevated blood lead levels in children. They say this information has the potential to enable measures to assess, strategize, and potentially circumvent the negative impacts of lead and other environmental contaminants on human and wildlife communities. The research provide a powerful example of how monitoring pigeon biology may help us to better understand the location and prevalence of lead, with the aim of providing greater awareness and devising prevention measures.

Details appear in the latest edition of journal Chemosphere

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Using an incentive-based strategy as a complement to command-and-control, community- and norm-based strategies may help achieve greater conservation effectiveness

Effects of payments for ecosystem services on wildlife habitat recovery
Mao-Ning Tuanmu,Andrés Viña,Wu Yang,Xiaodong ChenAshton M. Shortridge and Jianguo Liu
Conservation Biology, Volume 30, Issue 4, pages 827–835, August 2016

Serous debates on policies that might simultaneously promote sustainable management of protected areas and improve the living conditions of local people have been going on round the world. This has been engendered by conflicts between local people's livelihoods and conservation that has stymied many well intended conservation measures. The authors of this paper say, few empirical assessments of the effectiveness of government-sponsored payments-for-ecosystem-services (PES) schemes have been conducted, and even fewer assessments have directly measured their effects on ecosystem services. Here the researchers conducted an empirical and spatially explicit assessment of the conservation effectiveness of one of the world's largest PES programs through the use of a long-term empirical data set, a satellite-based habitat model, and spatial autoregressive analyses on direct measures of change in an ecosystem service (i.e., the provision of wildlife species habitat). Giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) habitat improved in Wolong Nature Reserve of China after the implementation of the Natural Forest Conservation Program. The improvement was more pronounced in areas monitored by local residents than those monitored by the local government, but only when a higher payment was provided. The results suggest that the effectiveness of a PES program depends on who receives the payment and on whether the payment provides sufficient incentives. As engagement of local residents has not been incorporated in many conservation strategies elsewhere in China or around the world, the results also suggest that using an incentive-based strategy as a complement to command-and-control, community- and norm-based strategies may help achieve greater conservation effectiveness and provide a potential solution for the park versus people conflict.

Friday, July 15, 2016

American black bears may be able to recognize from photographs things they know in real life

 Many animals show what is called “picture-object recognition”, in which they respond to pictures and their corresponding real-life objects in similar ways .A study which involved a black bear (Ursus americanus),   called Migwan and a computer screen has come up with the finding that American black bears may be able to recognize things they know in real life, such as pieces of food or humans, when looking at a photograph of the same thing. The study was led by Zoe Johnson-Ulrich and Jennifer Vonk of Oakland University in the US.
Migwan was first presented with two sets of objects new to her. Her ability to recognize these later, when presented with photographs including the items she had learned, was then assessed. In a reverse task, she was also trained on the photographs of two different sets of objects and tested on the transfer to real objects. Migwan was able to recognize, on a photograph, the visual features of objects or natural stimuli she already knew. It is an ability that bears share with hens, rhesus monkeys, pigeons, tortoises and horses.
Johnson-Ulrich and Vonk however caution that the ability of bears to recognize features of real objects within 2D-images does not necessarily mean they understand the representational nature of photographs. It is also still uncertain how well bears are able to recognize tangible objects which they first saw on a photograph before being introduced to the real thing. Further research using other bears is therefore needed to verify if the animals can transfer information from pictures to objects, too.

Details appear in the latest edition of journal Animal Cognition.

The above post is prepared from materials provided by Springer. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The role of behavioral ecology in improving wildlife conservation and management

A systematic survey of the integration of animal behavior into conservation
Oded Berger-Tal,Daniel T. Blumstein,Scott Carroll,Robert N. Fisher,Sarah L. Mesnick,Megan A. Owen,David Saltz,Colleen Cassady St. Claire and Ronald R. Swaisgood
Conservation Biology,Volume 30, Issue 4, pages 744–753, August 2016

The role of behavioral ecology in improving wildlife conservation and management has been the subject of lot of discussions in recent years. Here the researchers sought to answer 2 foundational questions about the current use of behavioral knowledge in conservation: To what extent is behavioral knowledge used in wildlife conservation and management, and how does the use of animal behavior differ among conservation fields in both frequency and types of use? They searched the literature for intersections between key fields of animal behavior and conservation and created a systematic heat map (i.e., graphical representation of data where values are represented as colors) to visualize relative efforts. Some behaviors, such as dispersal and foraging, were commonly considered (mean [SE] of 1147.38 [353.11] and 439.44 [108.85] papers per cell, respectively). In contrast, other behaviors, such as learning, social, and anti-predatory behaviors were rarely considered (mean [SE] of 33.88 [7.62], 44.81 [10.65], and 22.69 [6.37] papers per cell, respectively). In many cases, awareness of the importance of behavior did not translate into applicable management tools. Their results challenge previous suggestions that there is little association between the fields of behavioral ecology and conservation and reveals tremendous variation in the use of different behaviors in conservation. They recommend that researchers focus on examining underutilized intersections of behavior and conservation themes for which preliminary work shows a potential for improving conservation and management, translating behavioral theory into applicable and testable predictions, and creating systematic reviews to summarize the behavioral evidence within the behavior-conservation intersections for which many studies exist.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Latest Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) analysis

Latest Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) analysis, prepared by TRAFFIC on behalf of Parties to CITES is now available

ETIS is a comprehensive information system to track illegal trade in ivory and other elephant products. It shares the same objectives as those set out for MIKE in Resolution Conf. 10.10 (Rev. CoP16), with the difference that its aim is to record and analyse levels and trends in illegal trade, rather than the illegal killing of elephants. The central component of ETIS is a database on seizures of elephant specimens that have occurred anywhere in the world since 1989. The seizure database is supported by a series of subsidiary database components that assess law enforcement effort and efficiency, rates of reporting, domestic ivory markets and background economic variables. These database components are time-based and country-specific and are used to mitigate factors that cause bias in the data and might otherwise distort the analytical results. The subsidiary database components also assist in interpreting and understanding the results of the ETIS analyses. Since its inception, ETIS has been managed by TRAFFIC on behalf of the CITES Parties and is currently housed at the TRAFFIC East/Southern Africa office in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Read the report HERE

Friday, July 08, 2016

‘Coexistence with wildlife'

As the population of human being burgeons most species of large carnivores and large herbivores depend on being able to occupy human-dominated landscapes for survival. This invariably leads to conflicts between humans and wildlife. Researchers  Neil Carter, assistant professor in the Human-Environment Systems Research Center in the College of Innovation and Design at Boise State, and John Linnell, a senior research scientist at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, say, there is a need to develop a more nuanced and realistic understanding of what this state looks like. They have recently published a paper titled “Co-Adaptation Is Key to Coexisting with Large Carnivores” in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution.  The paper is based on real life situations in North America, Europe and Asia on species such as wolves, tigers, leopards, lynx and bears. 
The researchers note that large carnivores need larger ranges than many protected areas afford. This means that carnivores often come in contact with human populations that are sometimes less than welcoming. They suggest that mutual adaptations is the key to success, implying that not only do wild animals have to behaviourally adapt to the presence of humans, but humans also have to adapt their behavior to the presence of wild animals.
Studies conducted by the authors and their colleagues have shown that many species of large carnivores show an incredible ability to occupy heavily modified human-dominated landscapes. Many human societies also show a wide range of adaptations to the proximity of large carnivores. This includes changes to the way they keep livestock and the adoption of cultural or religious practices to "negotiate" their relationship with their wild neighbours. However, in many areas these adaptations have been lost, either due to a temporary absence of large carnivores or in the face of changing social-economic situations. The result is often severe conflicts of both an economic and social nature.The necessity of adaptation by both humans and the carnivores is a key first step towards transforming conflict to coexistence. Conservation efforts that fail to focus on both halves of the equation are doomed to fail.
A factor for success has to do with realising that a state of coexistence does not involve an idealized absence of conflict. Rather than trying to eliminate all risk, which can mean eliminating a species, the authors explore ways to keep risks below tolerable levels. That involves understanding what factors influence tolerance. While some communities may not tolerate any risks from carnivores, others may tolerate high risks because they attribute carnivores with ecological and cultural benefits that exceed those risks. In many communities, the priorities of various stakeholder groups are still sometimes at odds, and there is a reduced trust in authorities. Interventions such as new policies must take into account local concerns, the authors say, such as the adoption of novel decision-making strategies that give voice to varying viewpoints.
The researchers believe that the challenges are surmountable through the help of community leaders, conservation organizations, and state or federal agencies. Insights from studies on coexistence "can help reconcile debates about carnivore conservation in shared landscapes and advance broader discourses in conservation," they wrote, "such as those related to rewilding, novel ecosystems, and land-sharing vs. land-sparing."
"In many ways large carnivores represent the ultimate test for human willingness to make space for wildlife on a shared planet. If it is possible to find ways to coexist with these species, it should be possible to coexist with any species", says John Linnell, co-author on the study.

A major chunk of the post is reprinted from materials provided by Norwegian Institute for Nature Research

Thursday, July 07, 2016

To crack the meaning of monkey calls linguists team up with primatologists

Linguists teaming up with primatologists have brought the general methods of contemporary linguistics to bear on monkey morphology (pertaining to the structure of calls), syntax (how the calls are put together into sequences), and semantics (what calls and call sequences mean), building on several earlier studies conducted within primatology.
The research was headed by DR Philip Schlenker a senior researcher at Institut Jean-Nicod within France's National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and a Global Distinguished Professor at New York University, associating with Emmanuel Chemla, a research scientist at France's National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), and Klaus Zuberbühler, a professor at Switzerland's University of Neuchâtel, appears 

Philippe Schlenker, says “We can now study the form and meaning of monkey calls using methods from theoretical titi monkeys’ linguistics. Using this approach, we can compare one monkey species to another and see, for instance, that some of their calls have been preserved over three million years."

Details appear in the latest issues of journals Natural Language & Linguistic Theory, Lingua and Theoretical Linguistics

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Snow leopards may be more common than previously thought

Snow leopard (Panthera uncia), is the world’s, most mysterious and the least studied big cat. New studies are now breaking fresh ground bringing encouraging results about their numbers. New estimates focused on areas described as 'Snow Leopard Conservation Units,' covering only 44 percent of the snow leopard's extensive range (which extends over roughly 3 million km2 or 1,158,306 square miles) suggests that there may be between 4,678 and 8,745 snow leopards just in these units. Previous estimates were only between 3,920 and 7,500. Satellite telemetry and camera traps gave an impetus to the new studies.
Despite the good news about the numbers of snow leopard, the species still faces multiple pressures. They are still regularly poached for their beautiful fur and killed in retaliation for taking herder's livestock.

Details appear in Snow Leopards, published by Elsevier Press and edited by Dr. Tom McCarthy and Dr. David Mallon. 

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Frigate birds: Airborne for months at a time

A telemetric study of the trajectory and flight strategy of frigate birds(Fregata minor), led by Henri Weimerskirch of the Centre d'études biologiques de Chizé (CNRS/Université de La Rochelle) in partnership with colleagues based in La Réunion, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany has revealed that they can remain airborne for over two months. This happens during their transoceanic migrations. Frigate birds make their transoceanic flights between Africa and Indonesia. The birds have extraordinary ability to glide and climb in updrafts without beating its wings. They track the edge of the doldrums to take advantage of favorable winds and strong convection.Locally, they use a roller-coaster flight, relying on thermals and wind to soar within a 50- to 600-meter altitude band under cumulus clouds and then glide over kilometers at low energy costs. To deal with the local scarcity of clouds and gain longer gliding distances, birds regularly soar inside cumulus clouds to use their strong updraft, and they can reach altitudes of 4000 meters, where freezing conditions occur.

Details appear in the latest issue of journal Science.

Monday, July 04, 2016

New tarantula species named after Gabriel García Márquez

A new tarantula genus and species, formally called Kankuamo marquezi, has been discovered in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia. The genus’ name honors an indigenous people from the Caribbean coast region, while its species' name pays tribute to Nobel laureate and renowned Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez. An international research team, led by Carlos Perafán, University of the Republic, Uruguay, made the discovery.
Here are the conclusions of the researchers
Kankuamo gen. n. fits the diagnostic characters of Theraphosinae, but also shows a very divergent palpal bulb morphology and the presence of a new abdominal urticating setae type. These setae are unique, and here are proposed to be the only contact released urticating setae yet known within the Theraphosinae, although this release mechanism was previously well known only for Aviculariinae. Also, the supernumerary keels on the male palpal bulb clearly distinguish it from all known theraphosid species. Kankuamo gen. n. was resolved as the sister group of Metriopelma on our preferred phylogeny of Theraphosinae.

Details of the research appears in the open access journal ZooKeys

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Following the Wild Bees: The Craft and Science of Bee Hunting

I just finished reading this delightful book by Thomas D. Seeley.  Thomas Seeley, a world authority on honey bees, vividly describes the history and science of wild bees. Seeley weaves a beautiful pattern of informative discussions of the biology of wild honey bees with delightful historical anecdotes, personal insights, and beautiful photos. The icing on the cake is quotes of historical accounts by Henry David Thoreau in the book. It is depiction of scientific natural history at its very best.
Simon Ings in his review in New Scientist writes “"Anyone deeply interested in natural history will ignore this mad little volume at their peril."
Edward O. Wilson writes “Following the Wild Bees is scientific natural history at its very best: original, authentic, and exciting. It is at the same time science, science history, adventure, sport, and treasure hunting."

Thomas D. Seeley is the Horace White Professor in Biology at Cornell University. He is the author of Honeybee Democracy and Honeybee Ecology (both Princeton) and The Wisdom of the Hive. He lives in Ithaca, New York

Following the Wild Bees:The Craft and Science of Bee Hunting
Thomas D. Seeley
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Hardcover | 2016 | $22.95 | £17.95 | ISBN: 9780691170268
184 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | 50 color illus.
eBook | ISBN: 9781400880331