Night time light pollution is rapidly increasing across the world. Nocturnal animals are likely to be especially affected but how they respond to artificial light is still largely unknown. In a new study, scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) in Berlin, Germany, tested the response of European bats to red and white light sources during their seasonal migration. Soprano pipistrelles (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) and, to a lesser degree, Nathusius’ pipistrelles (Pipistrellus nathusii) were recorded more frequently near red LED light, indicating that the animals might be attracted to red light during their migration. In contrast, the scientists did not observe such behaviour near white LED lights.
Humans have captured wild Asian elephants for different purposes for more than 3,000 years. This still continues today despite the fact that the populations are declining. An international team of researchers has now analysed records of timber elephants in Myanmar to understand the effects of capture on the survival of the animals. The study shows that even years after capture, the mortality rate of wild-caught elephants remains increased, and their average life expectancy is several years shorter than that of captive-born animals. This increases the pressure on free-ranging populations, if captures from the wild continue, and thus could be unsustainable in the long run. Possible differences between captive-born and wild-captured elephants, as revealed by this study, have important implications but are rarely considered in research and conservation programmes. The results have now been published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
Most vertebrate genomes contain a surprisingly large number of viral gene sequences – about eight percent in humans. And yet how do exogenous viruses – apparently having invaded from outside – manage to become integrated into the host genome? Answers to this question are provided in a study by an international team of researchers led by Alex Greenwood of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) in Berlin. Working with the example of koalas, the researchers have now identified key stages in the process, called “endogenization”, by which a host is invaded by exogenous retroviruses. The scientists also uncovered a process by which the host genome mounts a defense against the invaders. The results have now been published in the scientific journal PNAS.
A new mixture of cryoprotectives allows for an unprecedented high motility of frozen rhinoceros sperm after thawing, report scientists from the Institute for Zoo and Wildlife research (IZW) in Berlin, Germany. These new cryoprotectives can increase the prospects of utilising assisted reproduction techniques for many endangered wildlife species. The study, based on three rhinoceros species, has been published on 11th July2018 in the journal PLOS ONE.
Northern White Rhinos (NWR) are functionally extinct, as only two females of this species are left on the planet. An international team of scientists has now successfully created hybrid embryos from Southern White Rhino (SWR) eggs and NWR sperm using assisted reproduction techniques (ART). This is the first, ever reported, generation of blastocysts (a pre-implantation embryos) of rhinos in a test tube. Additionally, the international team established stem cell lines from blastocysts of the SWR with typical features of embryonic stem cells. This breakthrough is published in Nature Communications today.
Scientists of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz IZW) in Berlin analysed the spatial behaviour of cheetahs. They showed that male cheetahs operate two space use tactics which are associated with different life-history stages. This long-term study on movement data of over 160 free-ranging cheetahs in Namibia has now been published in the scientific journal ECOSPHERE.
In water-limited landscapes sick animals can have increased contact with healthy individuals, which can facilitate disease transmission. Scientists from the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) present these findings in the British Ecological Society journal Functional Ecology.
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.