Quang Nam – 21st May, 2018 - In November 2017 - under a biodiversity monitoring and assessment activity supported by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) - scientists and conservationists of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and WWF-Vietnam captured photographs of one of the rarest and most threatened mammal species of Southeast Asia, the large-antlered muntjac (Muntiacus vuquangensis), in Quang Nam province, central Vietnam. Prior to this milestone, this species had only been camera trapped in three protected areas in all of Vietnam since the year 2000. The new records from Quang Nam - which include photographs of both a male and a female - provide new hope for the continued survival of a species that is on the brink of extinction.
The transition to modernity – largely driven by the Industrial Revolution – provided us with easier access to food and clean water, with antibiotics, vaccines, and modern medicine. Yet modernity did not just bring fewer infectious diseases and longer life: it also created an environment radically different from the one we evolved in. Genes helpful in our evolutionary past may now predispose us to chronic disease – such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer – in old ages. In a paper published in the journal Nature Review Genetics an international team of five scientists collate the evidence for this mismatch between past evolutionary adaptation and our modern lives. They also ask whether natural selection linked to modernization might reduce globally the burden of some chronic diseases.
Numerous bat species hunt and migrate at great altitudes. Yet the open sky had, until recently, not been on the radar of conservation scientists as a habitat relevant to a large variety of species. Christian Voigt and colleagues from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) in Berlin have collated the current scientific knowledge on potential hazards to one group of animals flying at high altitudes, bats. In their recent article published in BioScience the authors synthesise threats facing bats in troposphere and provide recommendations for potential protective measures to ensure persistence of bats and other high-flying animals.
Przewalski’s horses were thought to be the last wild species of horse. A recent international study led by Professor Ludovic Orlando, involving the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), has upended that theory. The study, published in the journal “Science“, changes our point of view about domestic horse origins. Based on their archaeological and genetic investigations, the researchers were able to prove that Przewalski’s horse is descended from once-domesticated stock. Some of the horses from the domesticated herds escaped and became the ancestors of all present-day Przewalski’s horse populations. A second horse species existing at that time replaced Przewalski’s horses as domestic horses, establishing the lineage from which all modern domestic horses descend.
Reliability of data and motivation of citizens are the factors of success
The involvement of citizens in research projects is booming. Citizen scientists allow professional scientists to work with much larger data sets than in the past and thus help in achieving better research results. However, for a successful collaboration it is critical that the quality of submitted data is ensured and the motivation of citizens is maintained over a long time period. This is the conclusion of an international team of scientists with the participation of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin and the lead of the Konrad Lorenz Forschungsstelle for Behaviour and Cognition of the University of Vienna. The team presents four case studies in the field of wildlife biology in the scientific journal “Ethology”.
What happens when an animal species goes extinct? Is it due to the natural path of evolution, or the thoughtless actions of humankind? Less than a century ago, hundreds of thousands of northern white rhinos roamed the landscape of Central Africa. Today, there are only three individuals left. Prof. Hildebrandt has made it his mission to save the most endangered mammal species on Earth. Together with his team, he travels around the world to perform incredible work in the area of conservation science, which sometimes requires extreme and dangerous procedures when dealing with animals like rhinos and elephants.
Spotted hyena cubs of high-ranking mothers have a lower probability of infection with and are less likely to die from canine distemper virus (CDV) than cubs of low-ranking mothers. In subadults and adults, the picture is reversed – high-ranking females exhibit a higher infection probability than low-ranking females whereas mortality was similar for both groups. These are the surprising and interesting results of a long-term study conducted by scientists at the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) who investigated how social status and age influence the risk of infection with CDV and its consequences for survival. They have just been published in the scientific journal “Functional Ecology”.
Vampire bats feed exclusively on blood, a mode of feeding unique amongst mammals. It has therefore been long suspected that vampire bats have highly specific evolutionary adaptations, which would be documented in their genome, and most likely also have an unusual microbiome, the community of micro-organisms assembled in their digestive tract which may help with the digestion of blood. An international group of scientists including several from the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) analysed the genome of vampire bats and the microorganisms that live in their gut and asked the question how much the viruses contained in the blood may affect the vampire bats. The results demonstrate that the microbiome plays an essential part in tackling nutritional and non-nutritional challenges posed by blood meals and improving resistance to viral infections. Because vampire bats carry rabies, they are often considered as a threat to livestock. As it turns out, vampire bats carry fewer infectious viruses than previously thought. These findings have now been published in “Nature Ecology & Evolution” and “EcoHealth”.
Grey wolves, as all wild animals, are hosts to a variety of parasites. The presence of grey wolves in German forests has little influence on the parasite burden of hunting dogs. This reassuring conclusion is the result of a new study at the Berlin-based Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife-Research (IZW). The study examined the faeces of 78 hunting dogs over several months in an area without wolves and in one that had been recolonised. The results have been published in the open access scientific journal “International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife”.
A comprehensive assessment of cheetah populations in southern Africa reveals the critical state of one of the planet’s most iconic wild cats. An international group of scientists presents evidence that realistic population estimates of cheetah in southern Africa are lower than previously recognised and that their population decline support a call to list the cheetah as “Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The study is published in the open-access journal PeerJ.
Giving females an opportunity to choose the male they mate with leads to the evolution of better performing males, according to new research into the behaviour of fruit flies performed by University of Sheffield, University of St Andrews and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, Germany.
The saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), a primitive wild cattle endemic to the Annamite mountain range in Vietnam and Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), is in immediate danger of extinction. The primary threat to its survival is intensive commercial snaring to supply the thriving wild meat trade in Indochina. In order to save the saola it is essential to establish a conservation breeding programme. In a letter published in Science, a group of conservationists and conservation scientists, including members of the IUCN Saola Working Group and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research Berlin, have voiced their concern about the future of the species and stressed the importance of urgent ex situ management.
A previously unknown poxvirus causes severe disease in European red squirrels from Germany. Molecular genetic investigations revealed a new virus species in the family of Poxviridae. Results of the study are published in the scientific journal „Emerging Infectious Diseases“.
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led bythe Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
A new study challenges the tenet that herpes viruses, like most enveloped viruses, are relatively unstable outside their host. Under a variety of conditions equine herpesvirus remained stable and infectious over a three week period. This suggests that untreated water could be a source of infection by some herpesviruses. The results are reported in the scientific journal “Scientific Reports”.
Different than expected, wild boars do not come to Berlin in order to use garbage or other anthropogenic food resources. In fact, also in the city they predominantly consume natural resources. This is the surprising result of a study conducted by the Leibniz-Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), financially supported by National Geographic and the „Stiftung Naturschutz Berlin“. The researchers analysed the stomachs of 247 wild boars from Berlin and the surrounding countryside. The results have been published in the scientific journal „PLOS ONE“.