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“.
Cheetahs are categorised as vulnerable species, partly because they have been considered to be prone to diseases due to their supposed weak immune system. However, they are hardly ever sick in the wild. A research team from the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) recently discovered that cheetahs have developed a very efficient innate “first line of defence” immunity to compensate potential deficiencies in other components of their immune system. The scientists have published their results in the open access journal “Scientific Reports” of the Nature Publishing Group.
In early March, Dvůr Králové Zoo, Czech Republic, hosted a meeting of the European Northern White Rhino Working Group. The international experts aim at saving the northern white rhino from the brink of extinction. With the three last individuals incapable of natural breeding, it is the most endangered mammal at present. The meeting in Dvůr Králové proved that collection of eggs, known as ovum pick-up (OPU), from the last two females can be conducted in the foreseeable future. The advanced OPU technique was developed for these large (two tons) creatures in the past two years in the closely related southern white rhino. Gamete collection was combined with advanced in-vitro egg maturation and fertilisation protocols.
Female rhinoceros often suffer from vaginal or uterus tumors, which complicate the production of offspring. For the first time, scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) in Berlin and the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna succeeded in stopping the growth and regeneration of innocuous tumors via vaccination. The treatment was successfully conducted in southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum) and greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis). Injecting the serum “Improvac“ influences the release of sexual hormones, which causes the female oestrous cycle to cease and thereby reduces hormone-dependent tumors. These results have been published in the scientific open access journal PLOS ONE.
Since the year 2000, the Eurasian grey wolf, Canis lupus lupus, has spread across Germany. For Ines Lesniak, doctoral student at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), and her colleagues, a good reason to have a closer look at the small “occupants” of this returnee and to ask the question whether the number and species of parasites change with an increasing wolf population. This was the case, because the number of parasite species per individual wolf increased as the wolf population expanded. Furthermore, cubs had a higher diversity of parasite species than older animals. The good news: wolf parasites do not pose a threat to human health. The results of this study were published in the scientific online journal “Scientific Reports” of the Nature Publishing Group.
Southeast Asia is home to numerous felids, including the Asian golden cat and the bay cat. The two cat species are closely related sister species which split from each other 3.16 million years ago. Yet, their more recent history was quite different.
Females of the greater sac-winged bat select their mating partner by smell and unerringly choose a male which differs from them the most in genetic terms. Females with more variants of olfactory receptors of the TAAR-group have an advantage over other females. The results of this study have been released by the Nature Publishing Group in their open access journal “Scientific Reports“.
The Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) has translated the results of its research into a comic. It tells a story about wild guinea pigs and teaches us that genes are not everything: environmental conditions and individual experiences can influence which sections of the genetic code are used. The Leibniz-IZW-comic "Epigenetics - bridge between genome and environment" is published by Jaja-Verlag.