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Leibniz-IZW condemns Russia's attack on Ukraine

The Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research strongly condemns Russia's attack on Ukraine. The Leibniz-IZW employs Ukrainian scientists, is very concerned about our scientific colleagues in Ukraine and will support scientists in Ukraine to the best of our ability.

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.

+++ Current information on African swine fever: The Leibniz-IZW conducts research on the population dynamics, on models of disease outbreaks in wild boars and on the ecology and human-wildlife interaction in urban areas. African swine fever is a reportable disease in domestic swine and therefor is the purview of the respective federal state laboratories and the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (Federal Research Institute for Animal Health) FLI. +++


Spotted hyena with Maasai pastoralist and cattle in Ngorongoro Crater (Photo: Oliver Höner)
Spotted hyena with Maasai pastoralist and cattle in Ngorongoro Crater (Photo: Oliver Höner)

Pastoralists herding their livestock through the territories of spotted hyena clans along dedicated paths during daytime do not reduce the reproductive performance of hyena clans, nor elevate the physiological ‘stress’ of spotted hyenas. This is the result of a new study led by scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA). The scientists analysed 24 years of demographic and physiological data from eight spotted hyena clans – two of which were exposed to activities by pastoralists. The activities of pastoralists were predictable, diurnal and did not disrupt important behaviours in the mostly nocturnal hyenas. This may have allowed the population to perform well, the scientists suggest. The open access paper is published in the scientific journal “Journal of Animal Ecology”.

Morganucodon, one of the oldest known mammal-like species (Source: FunkMonk (Michael B. H.), CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
Morganucodon, one of the oldest known mammal-like species (Source: FunkMonk (Michael B. H.), CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

An international team has reconstructed the genome organization of the earliest common ancestor of all mammals. The reconstructed ancestral genome could help in understanding the evolution of mammals and in conservation of modern animals. The earliest mammal ancestor likely looked like the fossil animal “Morganucodon” which lived about 200 million years ago. The work is published the scientific journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”.

Logo of the Biodiversity Genomics Europe consortium (source: BGE)
Logo of the Biodiversity Genomics Europe consortium (source: BGE)

European genomic researchers gather to launch an unprecedented project that will tackle the biodiversity crisis using DNA data. The comprehensive application of genomic science to biodiversity research will fundamentally change conservation science and policy – with impacts predicted to be on a scale similar to those of the Human Genome Project in medicine. The new pan-European Biodiversity Genomics Europe (BGE) consortium, launched today, is leading the way. BGE is integrated with the European Reference Genome Atlas (ERGA), the pan-European scientific community of experts in genome sequencing, which coordinates the generation of reference-quality genomes for all eukaryotic European species.

Spotted hyena female with offspring (photo: Oliver Höner/Leibniz-IZW)
Spotted hyena female with offspring (photo: Oliver Höner/Leibniz-IZW)

The motivation to help conspecifics differs from species to species – and also between males and females. An international team of scientists with the participation of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) now showed for seven group-living animal species that the degree of kinship of an animal to the other group members can change over its lifetime and that this change follows systematic patterns – in spotted hyena females, for example, it decreases over the course of life, whereas it increases in hyena males. These “kinship dynamics” profoundly influence the incentive of an animal to help its groupmates. The results are published in the journal "Nature Ecology & Evolution" and contribute to a better understanding of social behaviour and the emergence of different social systems.

Red squirrel in Berlin (Photo: Stephanie Kramer-Schadt)
Red squirrel in Berlin (Photo: Stephanie Kramer-Schadt)

Red squirrels are among the most commonly sighted wildlife in European big cities such as Berlin. However, their habitats are more reminiscent of a patchwork quilt full of challenges, a team of scientists led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) found out, with the help of computer models and red squirrel sightings by citizen scientists. The models link sightings to numerous environmental parameters and thus become important tools for urban planning, as they identify areas where ecological corridors are missing that could connect fragmented habitats. The work is published in the scientific journal “Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution”. In a follow-up project, the team aims to fill knowledge gaps on survival, dispersal potential, diet and health of Berlin’s red squirrels.

Maiden flight of the GAIA tag system (Photo: Jan Zwilling)
Maiden flight of the GAIA tag system (Photo: Jan Zwilling)

How can a vulture in a Berlin Zoo help its conspecifics and their habitats in Namibia? As a model and patron for a new generation of animal tags: The prototype of an innovative animal tag system developed by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (Fraunhofer IIS) completed its maiden flight on a vulture at Tierpark Berlin today. The tags will be equipped with sensor-based artificial intelligence (AI), a camera, energy-efficient electronics and satellite-based communication technology. This will allow for entirely new insights into the world of animals and their habitats: The tags detect and transmit animal behaviour in real time and are thus an early warning system for ecological changes.

BioRescue (Photo: Jan Zwilling)
BioRescue (Photo: Jan Zwilling)

Three years after starting its ambitious programme to save the northern white rhino from extinction through advanced assisted reproduction technologies, the BioRescue consortium draws a positive interim conclusion: Following the 10thevent of harvesting immature egg cells (oocytes) in the northern white rhino female Fatu, the international team produced 5 additional embryos – bringing the total to 22 sired by two bulls. This nourishes the hope to eventually succeed in producing new offspring and give a keystone grazer of Central Africa a new future. At the same time, the consortium places the highest value on respecting the life and welfare of the individual animals involved. Regular veterinary and ethical assessments of oocyte collection procedures show that Fatu handles the procedures well and shows no signs of detrimental health effects. BioRescue is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Spotted hyenas (Photo: Sonja Metzger/Leibniz-IZW)
Spotted hyenas (Photo: Sonja Metzger/Leibniz-IZW)

Scientific analyses indicate that in humans several factors such as traumatic experiences during childhood have long-term effects on health and life expectancy. A team from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) has now demonstrated the important influence of maternal, social and ecological factors during early life on survival, longevity and reproductive performance of female adult spotted hyenas: For example, the social status of the mother had a significant, positive effect on the reproduction of the following generation. On the other hand, being born to an elder mother or growing up during a period of increased rainfall reduced survival and longevity. The authors suggest in their paper, published in the scientific journal “Journal of Animal Ecology”, that the combination of specific conditions during early life may matter more than the simple accumulation of either beneficial or adverse conditions to predict life prospects in wildlife populations.

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