The Leibniz-IZW is an internationally renowned German research institute. It is part of the Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. and a member of the Leibniz Association. Our goal is to understand the adaptability of wildlife in the context of global change and to contribute to the enhancement of the survival of viable wildlife populations. For this purpose, we investigate the diversity of life histories, the mechanisms of evolutionary adaptations and their limits, including diseases, as well as the interrelations of wildlife with their environment and people. We use expertise from biology and veterinary medicine in an interdisciplinary approach to conduct fundamental and applied research – from the molecular to the landscape level – in close dialogue with the public and stakeholders. Additionally, we are committed to unique and high-quality services for the scientific community.
Scientists in collaboration with Borneo‘s forestry authorities want to turn palm oil plantations into rainforests. Lessons learned from this project can then be used as a blueprint for future reforestation projects. The pilot project will be led by the Rhino and Forest Fund (RFF). At the Heart-of-Borneo- Conference, the RFF will receive an award from the Malaysian government of Sabah for its achievements to date.
Given the importance and wide distribution of Influenza A viruses, it is surprising how little is known about infections of wild mammals. A new study led by Alex D. Greenwood and Gábor Á. Czirják of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) in Berlin sheds light on which species are commonly infected and why. The scientists detected virus exposure among wild African mammals in Namibia and demonstrated that the most important factor for influenza A virus diversity and prevalence is a diet containing birds. Species relationship or sociality play surprisingly small roles. The results have been published in “The Journal of Infectious Diseases”.
As cultural successors, hedgehogs reside in close proximity to humans. Close contacts, however, are not only beneficial but also bear risks for animals and humans. Road traffic, lawn mowers and infectious agents threaten the prickly insect eaters. Some infectious agents can be transmitted to humans. Considerate treatment of wildlife and appropriate hygiene measures minimize the risk of infection, though. A recent study, initiated by the National Consiliary Laboratory for Diphtheria (CL-Diphtheria) in Germany and conducted in close collaboration of five federal state laboratories and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), identified Corynebacterium ulcerans - a close relative of the diphtheria causing bacterium - in hedgehogs. The study is published in „Emerging Microbes & Infections“.
Protecting and expanding suitable habitats for wildlife is key to the conservation of endangered species, but owing to climate and land use change the ideal habitats of today may not be fitting in 30 or 50 years. An international team of scientists therefore predicted range shifts of Asian elephants in India and Nepal using species distribution models based on distribution data for the elephants and climate projections. While a few regions in the north and northeast of the subcontinent may provide more suitable habitats in the future, overall a heavy loss is probable in all scenarios. The complex effects of environmental change on the distribution of the elephants is elucidated in a paper published in the Journal „Diversity and Distributions”.
Aerial migration is the fastest, yet most energetically demanding way of seasonal movements between habitats. A new study led by scientists at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) investigated the energy requirements and travel speeds of migrating Nathusius’ bats (Pipistrellus nathusii). Using a wind tunnel experiment to determine the exact energy demands of different flying speeds and a field study to record actual travel speeds of migrating bats, the scientists demonstrated that bats travel at the speed where their range reaches a maximum, enabling them to cover long distances with a minimum amount of energy. How the researchers tracked down this cruise control is published in the “Journal of Experimental Biology”.
Species are often involved in complex interactions with other species, which can affect their occurrence, abundance, feeding habits and disease transmission. Observing and studying species interactions can be difficult. To circumvent this problem, ecologists increasingly rely on remote devices such as camera traps. In a recent study carried out by researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo- and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) in Germany and University of California, Davis, USA, the scientists explored to what extent camera trap data are suitable to assess subtle species interactions such as avoidance in space and time. The study is published in the international journal Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation.
Adaptations to environmental change are the most important asset for the persistence of any plant or animal species. This is usually achieved through genetic mutation and selection, a slow process driven by chance. Faster and more targeted are so called epigenetic modifications. They do not alter the genetic code but promote specialisations during cell maturation. A new study carried out by scientists from the Leibniz-IZW in Germany shows for wild guinea pigs that epigenetic modifications specific to individual environmental factors are passed on to the next generation. The study is published in the scientific journal “Genes”.
Every year trillions of animals migrate for thousands of kilometres between their summer and winter areas. Among them are several species of bats whose journeys in the dark of the night unfold largely unnoticed by humans and have only partially been investigated by science. A reconstruction of individual migration patterns of the common noctule (Nyctalus noctula) in Central Europe has now revealed that travelling distances vary largely among individuals, yet overall females cover longer distances than males. Local bat populations, which remain separate when females rear their offspring in summer, strongly mix in their hibernacula, the roost where they hibernate in winter. Additionally the study showed that individuals rarely change their migration habits – a behaviour that could prove problematic when bats are forced to adjust to rapidly changing ecosystems. The study was published in the „Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences“.