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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. +++

News

Sumatran rhino Kertam in Malaysia (photo: Ben Jastram/Leibniz-IZW)
Sumatran rhino Kertam in Malaysia (photo: Ben Jastram/Leibniz-IZW)

Malaysia’s last male Sumatran rhino, Kertam, died in 2019. Now, a team from the Max Delbrück Center in Berlin has successfully grown stem cells and mini-brains from his skin cells. As the scientists explain in the journal “iScience”, their next goal is to create sperm cells that may help to save the endangered species from extinction. The Max Delbrück Center develops stem cell associated techniques (SCAT) as part of the BioRescue project, a collaborative effort led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) to develop and apply technologies to save the even more endangered northern white rhinoceros.

In female-dominated species such as spotted hyenas, animals of both sexes rely less often on aggression and more often on submissive signals and gestures (photo: Oliver Höner)
In female-dominated species such as spotted hyenas, animals of both sexes rely less often on aggression and more often on submissive signals and gestures (photo: Oliver Höner)

The stronger and more aggressive sex dominates the weaker sex. This simplistic view of male-female dominance relationships is common but falls short of the complexity of how dominance hierarchies are established in animal societies. A team of scientists with participation of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin (Leibniz-IZW) now compared intersexual dominance hierarchies of nine group-living mammals using a set of standardised methods and behaviours. They found that the species ranged from being strictly male to strictly female dominated, and that hierarchies were robust with respect to the method applied to construct them. They also found that in female-dominated societies, animals mostly relied on submissive signals and gestures to establish and maintain dominance, whereas in male-dominated societies, they mostly used aggressive behaviours. The results were published in the open access journal “Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution”.

Dorsal and ventral "fingers" in African elephant's trunk and facial motor nucleus (Figure: Kaufmann et al, Science Advances)
Dorsal and ventral "fingers" in African elephant's trunk and facial motor nucleus (Figure: Kaufmann et al, Science Advances)

Elephants have an amazing arsenal of face, ear and trunk movements. The trunk consists of far more muscles than the entire human body and can perform both powerful and very delicate movements. A team of scientists from the Humboldt University of Berlin and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) now examined the facial motor nucleus of African and Asian elephants, the brain structure that controls the facial muscles of these animals. This nucleus contains more facial motor neurons than in any other terrestrial mammal, the scientists show in a paper published in the journal “Science Advances”. African elephants in particular have particularly prominent neuron clusters for the control of the trunk “fingers”.

Rangers in the rain forest. Photo: globalwildlife
Rangers in the rain forest. Photo: globalwildlife

Ahead of the global meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Montréal, Canada, which decides new targets for nature, the first-ever study of its kind outlines an urgent need for larger numbers and better-supported protected area staff to ensure the health of life on Earth. In a new scientific paper published today in the journal “Nature Sustainability”, an international team of scientists – including two members of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) in Berlin – argue that there are not enough rangers and other staff to manage even the current protected areas around the world. The authors urge governments, donors, private landowners and NGOs to increase the numbers of rangers and other staff five-fold in order to meet global biodiversity conservation goals that have economic, cultural and ecosystem benefits.

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.