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.
The Berlin Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) support researchers from dangerous regions of the world. Now, the Philipp Schwartz Initiative provided the Leibniz-IZW with an opportunity to award a two years fellowship to a researcher from Syria.
The long-running debate about why just one of several canine distemper virus (CDV) outbreaks in the Serengeti in Tanzania during the past 25 years was fatal for lions and spotted hyenas has been resolved. An international team of scientists, led by researchers at the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), conducted genetic analyses of CDV strains obtained from a range of carnivores between 1993 and 2012 and discovered that lethal CDV infections in lions and hyenas during the 1993/1994 epidemic was caused by a rare and genetically distinct CDV strain with three rare mutations not present in any other Serengeti strain isolated from domestic dogs or wild canids. Two of these rare mutations were found to increase the ability of CDV to invade lion cells.
Human preferences for horse coat colours have changed greatly over time and across cultures. Spotted and diluted horses were more frequent from the beginning of domestication until the end of the Roman Empire, whereas solid colours (bay, black and chestnut) were predominant in the Middle Ages. These are the findings of an international research team under the direction of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW). The results have just been published in the open access journal “Scientific Reports”.
A new study challenges the tenet of herpes viruses being strictly host-specific. Scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) in Germany have discovered that gammaherpesviruses switch their hosts more frequently than previously thought. In fact, bats and primates appear to be responsible for the transfer of these viruses to other mammals in many cases. The findings were published in the scientific journal “mBio”.
Sabah-Rhino Project“ of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) was awarded as an official project of the UN-Decade for Biodiversity. This tribute is given to projects, which remarkably campaign for the preservation of biodiversity.
When animals choose their mates, how discriminate they are varies a great deal. For some male Mormon crickets, any female will do; in contrast, blue peahens rarely fall for the first cock courting them. Across nature, all kinds of situations seem to occur (albeit with different frequencies): indiscriminate males and females, only choosy females, only choosy males, very choosy everybody, as well as any situation in between. In a recent study, Alexandre Courtiol from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin (Germany) and his collaborators from the Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution in Montpellier (France) conclude that how choosy animals are is something that emerges predictably from the biology of each species and sex. This finding matters because—by impacting on who mixes their genes with whom—choosiness is a key factor shaping the biodiversity of species. This, in turn, has implications for conservation.
Berlin’s urban forests harbour isolated wild boar populations, whereas urban wild boars from built-up areas originate from neighbouring rural areas. This is the surprising result of a scientific study by the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), the „Landeslabor Berlin Brandenburg“ and the Natural History Museum in Luxemburg which used techniques from molecular genetics to analyse the structure and origins of the wild boar populations. The study was part of a doctoral dissertation funded by the IZW and financially supported by National Geographic and the Foundation for Nature Conservation Berlin (“Stiftung Naturschutz Berlin”). The results are published in the scientific journal “Journal of Applied Ecology”.
Sapoviruses are an emerging group of viruses of the group of caliciviruses and well known agents of gastric enteritis, but very little is currently known about their role in wildlife ecology or the genetic strains that infect wildlife. Research findings by a group of scientists led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) describe for the first time, sapovirus infection in African wild carnivores in the Serengeti ecosystem, including the spotted hyena, the African lion and the bat-eared fox. The results from two decades of monitoring revealed several sapovirus outbreaks of infection in spotted hyenas and, counter-intuitively, that the risk of infection declined as group sizes increased. These findings were published in the scientific magazine “PLOS ONE”.
The widespread replacement of conventional bulbs in street lighting by energy-saving light-emitting diodes (LEDs) has considerable influence on bats as urban nocturnal hunters. Opportunistic bats lose hunting opportunities whereas light sensitive species benefit. This was shown in a recent study by Christian Voigt and Daniel Lewanzik from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW).
The gibbon ape leukemia virus (GALV) is a medically important tool in cancer therapies. GALV is a retrovirus pathogenic to its host species, the southeast Asian lar gibbon (Hylobates lar) and thought to have originated from a cross-species transmission and may not originally be a primate virus at all. An international research team headed by the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) screened a wide range of rodents from southeast Asia for GALV-like sequences. The discovery of a new GALV in the grassland melomys (Melomys burtoni) from Indonesian New Guinea supports the hypothesis that this host species, and potentially related rodent lineages in Australia and Papua New Guinea, may have played a key role in the spread of GALV-like viruses. The findings were published in the scientific journal “Journal of Virology”.
Some horses have special gaits, which are more comfortable for the rider than walk, trot or gallop. Now, a study by an international research team under the direction of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) in Berlin revealed that these gaited horses most likely originated in the 9th century medieval England. From there they were brought to Iceland by the Vikings and later spread all over Europe and Asia. These findings were published in the current issue of the journal “Current Biology”.
Wind turbines attract bats. They seem to appear particularly appealing to female noctule bats in early summer. In a pilot study, researchers of the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin noticed this when they tracked the flight paths of noctule bats, Nyctalus noctula, using the latest GPS tracking devices . The bats managed to take even seasoned experts by surprise.
Females of low social status often have limited access to food resources. As a result, their offspring are nursed infrequently and may experience long fasting periods that can seriously compromise their growth and survival. In particular when they have to share their milk intake with a littermate, milk shortage can be very detrimental. Yet researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) and the former Max Planck Institute for Behavioral Physiology in Germany found that low-ranking spotted hyenas were able to compensate to some extent for their low nursing frequency. This they do by transferring more milk of superior nutritional quality to their offspring than high-ranking mothers during nursing bouts. The results also reveal that the socially dominant offspring in twin litters efficiently uses aggression against its subordinate littermate to skew milk transfer in its favour. The study has been published in the scientific journal “Behavioural Ecology”.