Les hommes ont oublié cette vérité. Mais tu ne dois pas l'oublier, dit le renard. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.
Le Petit Prince, chap. 21

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Research, conservation and urban cat management in NZ

Kikillus, K. H., Chambers, G. K., Farnworth, M. J., & Hare, K. M. 2106. Research challenges and conservation implications for urban cat management in New Zealand. Pacific Conservation Biology.

Over the past 20 years, conservation efforts in New Zealand have moved from being concentrated in rural and isolated island locations, where exotic mammalian predators are often controlled, to begin to bring native fauna back to major cities. However, human–wildlife conflicts arise when conservation occurs in close proximity to cities. These are particularly intense when companion animals are involved either as potential predators or prey of high-value conservation animals. Within New Zealand, this conflict is particularly fraught around domestic cats (Felis catus) in the urban environment. Cats in New Zealand are recognised as major introduced predators of native fauna, but they also prey on small introduced predatory mammals. This dynamic causes much conflict between people with different attitudes towards animals; however, as yet, few studies have explored the role(s), either negative or positive, of urban cats in New Zealand. Here, we review current knowledge on domestic cats in urban New Zealand, identify gaps in knowledge and make suggestions for future research, which includes further social science research, citizen science-based research programs, market research, investigation into cat-management legislation, and more in-depth studies of cat diseases and zoonoses. These data are vital for informing the public and improving the management of urban cat populations, including mitigating conservation impacts. Urban ecologists will need to be versatile in the way they design and conduct experiments, exploiting multiple disciplines to both ensure scientific robustness, but also community and government support for uptake of results into management and legislation.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Proposed management plan for cats and black rats on Christmas Island.

Algar, D., & Johnston, M. (2010). Proposed management plan for cats and black rats on Christmas Island. Government of Western Australia Department of Environment and Conservation.

Proposed management plan for cats and black rats on Christmas Island 1Report outline The impact of cats on the biodiversity of Christmas Island is of concern to land management agencies and the broader  community.  Domestic  and  stray  cats  reside  in  the  residential,  commercial  and  light industrial  area while a population of feral cats exists across the rest of the island (i.e. mining lease, national park and other  Crown  land).  Concern  has  been  raised  regarding  the  threat  that  all ‘classes’  of  cats  present  to  the  viability  of  a  number  of  endangered  fauna  populations. Additionally,  previous  research  has  demonstrated  that  the  cats  on  the  island  also  have  a  very high  prevalence  of  Toxoplasmosis, a  parasite  that  can  lead  to  serious  human  health complications.The  management  of  cats  on  the  island  is  a  complex  task  as reduction/eradication in cat numbers alone could lead to changes in the abundance of other exotic species populations, especially  the  introduced  black  rat  which  then  may  threaten  wildlife  species  and  also  have disease implications.  
Land  management  agencies  on  Christmas  Island  have  commissioned  this report  which  describes  the  rationale and development of a long-term cat and black rat management and eradication plan to mitigate the environmental  and  social  impacts  of  cats  and  black  rats across  all  land  tenures  (shire-managed  lands,  Crown land including mine leases and Christmas Island National Park).   
The  report  provides  a  background  to  the  threats  and  impacts  of  cats and  black  rats  on  the  island’s  natural  and  social  environment,  including  wildlife  predation  and disease  threats  to  wildlife  and  human  health.  It  documents  previous  reports  in  relation  to impact  and  management  of  cats  and  black  rats  on  Christmas  Island.  The  current  local  cat management  laws  (Shire  of  Christmas  Island  Local  Law  for  the  Keeping  and  Control of Cats 2004) under the Local Government Act 1995 (WA) (CI) are evaluated (see Appendix 1) with the aim of limiting domestic and stray cat impact on the iconic native fauna of Christmas Island, promoting responsible cat ownership, compliance and enforcement of cat management laws and measures required to implement a ‘last cat policy’ for the Island.  
Cat  and  rodent  eradication  programs  and strategies  developed  and/or  implemented  by other conservation  agencies and local governments, particularly for islands are evaluated for their utility on Christmas Island. A strategy  is recommended that  provides  a staged approach  to  cat  and black  rat  management and  control  leading to eradication of one or both target species. Techniques, actions and priorities are described as are recommendations   of   where   additional   research   is   required.   A   monitoring   program   to   measure   the   effectiveness  of  the  strategy  is  reported which  enables  investigation  of  the potential  relationships  between  cats  and  their  invasive species  prey,  including  rodents  and centipedes,  and  strategies  to  address  any  negative environmental or social impacts of cat control. Monitoring requirements to maintain a cat and black rat free status including quarantine requirements to prevent, detect and quickly manage, new incursions are also discussed. 
Timelines and resource requirements to undertake this program are provided in Appendix 2. 

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Feral cats overlap with prey and competitors in primary and altered habitats

Bogdan, V., Jůnek, T., & Vymyslická, P. J. (2016). Temporal overlaps of feral cats with prey and competitors in primary and human-altered habitats on Bohol Island, Philippines. PeerJ, 4, e2288.

The vertebrate fauna of the Philippines, known for its diversity and high proportion of endemic species, comprises mainly small- to medium-sized forms with a few large exceptions. As with other tropical ecosystems, the major threats to wildlife are habitat loss, hunting and invasive species, of which the feral cat (Felis catus) is considered the most damaging. Our camera-trapping study focused on a terrestrial vertebrate species inventory on Bohol Island and tempo-spatial co-occurrences of feral cats with their prey and competitors. The survey took place in the Rajah Sikatuna Protected Landscape, and we examined the primary rainforest, its border with agricultural land, and rural areas in the vicinity of villages. Altogether, over 2,885 trap days we captured 30 species of vertebrates–10 mammals (including Sus philippensis), 19 birds and one reptile, Varanus cumingi. We trapped 81.8% of expected vertebrates. Based on the number of events, the most frequent native species was the barred rail (Gallirallus torquatus). The highest overlap in diel activity between cats and potential prey was recorded with rodents in rural areas (Δ = 0.62); the lowest was in the same habitat with ground-dwelling birds (Δ = 0.40). Cat activity was not recorded inside the rainforest; in other habitats their diel activity pattern differed. The cats’ activity declined in daylight in the proximity of humans, while it peaked at the transition zone between rainforest and fields. Both rodents and ground-dwelling birds exhibited a shift in activity levels between sites where cats were present or absent. Rodents tend to become active by day in cat-free habitats. No cats’ temporal response to co-occurrences of civets (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus and Viverra tangalunga) was found but cats in diel activity avoided domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). Our first insight into the ecology of this invasive predator in the Philippines revealed an avoidance of homogeneous primary rainforest and a tendency to forage close to human settlements in heterogeneous habitats. A detailed further investigation of the composition of the cat’s diet, as well as ranging pattern, is still needed.

Stray dogs den close to humans

Majumder, S. S., Paul, M., Sau, S., & Bhadra, A. (2016). Denning habits of free-ranging dogs reveal preference for human proximity. Scientific Reports, 6, 32014.

Dens are crucial in the early development of many mammals, making den site selection an important component of parental care in such species. Resource availability and shelter from predators primarily govern den selection. Species inhabiting human-dominated landscapes typically den away from human disturbance, often shifting dens to avoid humans during the early life of their young. Domesticated dogs have evolved in human proximity over centuries, being bred and reared in human homes for generations. While pets rely on their owners for shelter and care, free-ranging dogs roam uncared, and typically whelp in dens. We conducted a study on 148 free-ranging dog dens in India to understand their denning habits. Distance from resources influenced den choice, but anthropogenic disturbance did not. Dens were found in areas of high human activity, and begging from humans was preferred over scavenging. A study on 15 pregnant females revealed that females actively searched for denning sites, rejecting several intermediate ones before selecting the final den. We propose that the obvious preference of dogs for denning close to humans is a behavioural adaptation that helps them to survive in the urban landscape, in spite of the high human induced mortality during the early life of pups.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Importance of CDV infection in free-ranging Iberian lynxes

Meli, M. L., Simmler, P., Cattori, V., Martínez, F., Vargas, A., Palomares, F., ... & Hofmann-Lehmann, R. (2010). Importance of canine distemper virus (CDV) infection in free-ranging Iberian lynxes (Lynx pardinus). Veterinary microbiology, 146(1), 132-137.

Canine distemper virus (CDV) is a morbillivirus that is the etiological agent of one of the most important viral diseases affecting canids and an expanding range of other carnivores. Using real-time RT-PCR, CDV RNA was detected in organs of an Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) found dead in the Doñana National Park, Southwestern Andalusia, Spain. This finding may be of great importance for the conservation of the species; at present the Iberian lynx is the most critically endangered wild felid. The aim of the present study was to elucidate the significance of CDV for the Iberian lynx population. High viral loads were evident in the dead lynx, suggesting an etiological involvement of CDV in its death. When carnivores from the same region were analyzed by CDV RT-PCR, a stone marten (Martes foina) was positive. Phylogenetic analyses demonstrated high identity of the two detected CDVs and a close relationship to the European dog lineage of CDV. Antibodies to CDV were detected in 14.8% of 88 tested free-ranging Iberian lynxes. The sample seroprevalence was significantly higher in lynxes from the Doñana Natural Space (22.9%) than Sierra Morena (5%). The stone marten and a red fox (Vulpes vulpes) also tested seropositive. In conclusion, CDV is present in the Iberian lynx population, especially in the Doñana region, with sporadic cases of disease. To reduce the infectious pressure of CDV on this endangered population, a mass dog vaccination should be considered.

Human-cat relationship in an oceanic biosphere reserve

Medina, F. M., Nogales, M., Farnworth, M. J., & Bonnaud, E. (2016). Human-cat relationship in an oceanic biosphere reserve: The case of La Palma Island, Canary archipelago. Journal for Nature Conservation.

Removal of feral cats from island environments is a useful mechanism by which their ecological impact on endangered species can be reduced or ended. Nevertheless, because cats are anthropogenic in their origins, social perceptions of management practices play a large role in their implementation. Four-hundred questionnaires were delivered (386 were returned) with 100 going to each of the following: local residents; environmental workers; tourists; and, hunters. Questions explored respondents’ knowledge about island biodiversity and invasive species as well as attitudes towards cat population management methods. Habitat destruction and introduction of invasive species were considered the main threats for the conservation of island biodiversity. Most respondents considered cats to have a negative impact on biodiversity and sterilization campaigns were considered most appropriate for cat population control. Several free sterilization campaigns have been conducted in La Palma Island Biosphere Reserve in order to reduce free-ranging cats and were well received by local people. This research, which combined concepts of management, ecology and social sciences, provides valuable insights which may to be applicable on several other islands where cats and people are present and in conflict with conservation priorities.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Preliminary data on the distribution of free-ranging dogs in a Bulgarian National Park

Doykin, N., Popova, E., Zlatanov, V., Petrov, P., & Zlatanova, D. 2016. Preliminary data on the distribution of free-ranging dogs (Canis familiaris L.) in NP Vitosha, Bulgaria. Annuaire de l’Université de Sofia “St. Kliment Ohridski” Faculte de Biologie 2016, volume 101, livre 4, pp. 11-22. Youth Scientific Conference “Kliment’s Days”, Sofia 2015

Free-ranging dogs often leave the urbanized areas and stray into nearby mountainous habitats, even entering protected areas. This causes problems for the wildlife due to either direct predation or disturbance. Our camera trap survey (July 2013 - November 2014) in NP Vitosha, Bulgaria resulted in a total of 199 independent registrations of free-ranging dogs in 81 locations. In this preliminary study, we present the distribution, habitat selection, and distance from settlements and activity of free ranging dogs in Vitosha NP. The free-ranging dogs in Vitosha are predominantly diurnal, and show preference towards coniferous and mixed forests, mostly closed. Their distribution and activity patterns are influenced by human presence, which is due to the fact that they at least partially rely on human-sourced food. Some data for observations of wild animals influenced by dogs is also discussed. 

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Analysis of six Latin American cat populations through coat genes and molecular microsatellite markers

Ruiz-García, M., & Alvarez, D. (2003). Análisis de seis poblaciones latinoamericanas de gatos mediante genes del pelaje y marcadores microsatélites. Acta zoológica mexicana, (89), 261-286. (Analysis of six Latin American cat populations through coat genes and molecular microsatellite markers)

Six Latin American cat populations (La Havana, San Jose, Bogotá, Asunción, Buenos Aires and Santiago) have been studied from a population genetics standpoint by using different morphological coat and molecular microsatellite markers (FCA43, FCA45, FCA96 and FCA126). The main aims of the current work are as follows: (1) To determine whether the type and intensity of the genetic differences found for diverse morphological loci among the current British cat populations and those from the British oversea colonies (USA, Canada and Australia) agree with the differences among the current Spanish cat populations and those from Latin America and (2) to determine if the genetic relationships among some of these Latin American cat populations are in agreement by using independently morphological and molecular microsatellite markers. The different results obtained were as follows: (A) All populations analyzed were in Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium at the O, S and at the four microsatellite loci studied with the exception of La Havana at the S locus. (B) The trees obtained showed that the relationships of the six cat populations studied regard to the Spanish populations, in particular, and with the European populations, in general, were extremely heterogeneous. Therefore, for instance, Asuncion was genetically identical to some Catalonian populations meanwhile Santiago (Chile) revealed more resemblance with the cat populations of presumed British origin in the Eastern Coast of the United States by means of the coat color genes. The striking genetic heterogeneity among some of these Latin American cat populations could be explained by the existence of different geographic, or temporal, migrations from Spain and/or that diverse gene drift degrees were present in the foundation of the diverse populations studied. Finally, the molecular results were similar to those obtained with the gross morphological genes. Therefore, the overall evolution of these morphological markers is controlled more probably by neutral stochastic forces than by selective ones.

Seis poblaciones latinoamericanas de gatos (La Habana, San José, Bogotá, Asunción, Buenos Aires y Santiago) han sido estudiadas desde una perspectiva genético poblacional con marcadores que codifican características morfológicas del pelaje y marcadores moleculares nucleares microsatélites (FCA43, FCA45, FCA96, FCA126). A partir de las frecuencias alélicas de ambos tipos de marcadores genéticos se investigó: (1) si el tipo y la intensidad de las diferencias genéticas encontradas para diversos loci morfológicos entre las poblaciones de gatos en Gran Bretaña y en sus ex-colonias transmarítimas (EU, Canadá, Australia) se dio también entre las poblaciones de gatos actuales en España y en Latinoamérica y (2) si las relaciones genéticas de esos caracteres morfológicos entre algunas de esas poblaciones latinoamericanas de gatos fue paralela a las relaciones encontradas con marcadores moleculares microsatélites. Los resultados obtenidos fueron: (A) Todas las poblaciones analizadas estuvieron en equilibrio Hardy-Weinberg para los loci O, S y para los cuatro loci microsatélites estudiados, con la excepción de la población de La Habana para el locus S. (B) Los fenogramas obtenidos mostraron que las relaciones de las seis poblaciones latinoamericanas de gatos respecto a las poblaciones españolas y europeas fueron muy heterogéneas. Por ejemplo, la población de Asunción (Paraguay) fue genéticamente indistinguible de algunas poblaciones de gatos analizadas en Cataluña, tanto con los genes morfológicos como con los microsatélites, mientras que Santiago presentó más semejanzas con las poblaciones de gatos de presunto origen británico en la costa Este de los Estados Unidos cuando se utilizaron los genes del pelaje. La fuerte heterogeneidad genética entre algunas de las poblaciones latinoamericanas estudiadas hace pensar en que diversas migraciones geográficas, o temporales, se dieron desde España, o que diversos grados de deriva genética se dieron en la fundación de las diferentes poblaciones latinoamericanas estudiadas. Finalmente, los resultados moleculares son similares a los obtenidos con los genes de codificación morfológica por lo que la evolución global de éstos parece más modulada por fuerzas neutrales que selectivas.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Spatial ecology and population genetics of cats living in or near conservation-sensitive areas

Cross, C. (2016). Spatial ecology and population genetics of cats (Felis catus) living in or near conservation-sensitive areas (Doctoral dissertation, University of Otago).

Human-mediated dispersal of organisms across the world has resulted in species introductions into many vulnerable ecosystems. Invasive mammalian predators have had detrimental impacts on native island biota, leading to declines and extinctions of many endemic prey species. Humans have transported cats (Felis catus) across the world as mousers on ships and as companion animals. The role cats (especially feral) have played in the decline and extinction of several island species is clear; however, different types of cats classified by their associations with humans has an influence on the public perception of cat impacts on wildlife and acceptance of appropriate management strategies.
I studied the spatial ecology of two different types of cats in two different conservation-sensitive areas (Te Anau Basin and Canterbury/North Otago) in the South Island of New Zealand. I conducted this research to gain an insight into companion cat spatial ecology and feral cat population genetics. Specifically, to investigate individual cat movement patterns and population level movements to discover putative geographic barriers to movement. Additionally, I intended to aid formulation and reinforcement of appropriate and current management strategies with respect to conservation-sensitive areas that support high levels of native biodiversity.
Cat capture rates in the Tasman Valley from March 2005 toFebruary 2013 (included as 2012).

In the Te Anau Basin, the township of Te Anau lies on the edge of Lake Te Anau, directly adjacent to Fiordland National Park. The Kepler Mire conservation area, also situated in the Te Anau Basin, is a nearby wetland that supports a diverse range of fauna. I GPS tracked 32 local companion cats (11F:21M) for a maximum of 10 to 14 days over the austral spring/summer. I recorded a total of 19,157 locations prior to filtering data for erroneous locations. Home range and habitat analysis were performed on a filtered dataset of 13,241 locations using 100% minimum convex polygons (MCP) and Objective-Restricted-Edge Polygons (OREP). Dispersal barriers might be acting to prevent movement of tracked cats into Fiordland National Park, but not the Kepler Mire conservation area. I found males (mean MCP: 22.13 ha, OREP: 1.05 ha) exhibited larger movements (home range and distance travelled from home) than females (mean MCP: 8.83 ha, OREP: 0.45 ha) and rural-living cats (mean MCP: 32.54 ha, OREP 1.33 ha) exhibited larger movements than urban-living cats (mean MCP: 5.90 ha, OREP: 0.46 ha).  Cats showed a tendency to preferentially select Built, Cover and Sealed habitat features.  Although there was great individual variation in the ranging behaviour, there was no sex or age-related difference observed in the cats’ resource selection.
To infer population movements, I used 10 microsatellite loci and a sexidentification marker, in a multiplex framework, to infer population structure of 157 feral cats in the upper Waitaki Basin (Tasman Valley, Ohau River and Ahuriri Valley) and Macraes Flat. I found some evidence of population connectivity between the sites based on migration rates and low FST values, indicating features in the landscape that act to facilitate dispersal. Bayesian clustering analysis noted the presence of three separate clusters; however, assignment rates were low for the Ohau River, Tasman Valley and Macraes Flat sites. Spatial autocorrelation and Mantel tests indicated rough terrain (i.e. mountain ranges) might limit dispersal. Macraes Flat and Ohau River might function as man-made sinks due to lower relatedness scores. Lower relatedness, genetic differentiation scores, and proximity to human habituation suggested there might be genetic input from nearby stray and companion cat populations. Due to large movements exhibited by feral cats in these areas, reinvasion into trapped areas seems likely; however, the Tasman Valley might be able to be managed as an eradication unit, if movement out of the Ohau River and surrounding area is reduced. Continued genetic monitoring of
these sites and sampling of local stray and companion cats might help to identify if there is connectivity between different types of cats (i.e. companion, stray and feral). Additionally, continued genetic monitoring might be able to determine if genetic differentiation increases between each site in response to trapping operations.
Tighter regulations regarding companion cat management might aid New Zealand conservation efforts by reducing and restricting movement and cat interactions with native wildlife. Stricter companion and stray cat regulations might also benefit feral cat control efforts; however, this aspect requires further analysis. 

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Ancient wolf genome reveals an early divergence of domestic dog ancestors and admixture into high-latitude breeds

Skoglund, P., Ersmark, E., Palkopoulou, E., & Dalén, L. (2015). Ancient wolf genome reveals an early divergence of domestic dog ancestors and admixture into high-latitude breeds. Current Biology, 25(11), 1515-1519.

The origin of domestic dogs is poorly understood, with suggested evidence of dog-like features in fossils that predate the Last Glacial Maximum  conflicting with genetic estimates of a more recent divergence between dogs and worldwide wolf populations. Here, we present a draft genome sequence from a 35,000-year-old wolf from the Taimyr Peninsula in northern Siberia. We find that this individual belonged to a population that diverged from the common ancestor of present-day wolves and dogs very close in time to the appearance of the domestic dog lineage. We use the directly dated ancient wolf genome to recalibrate the molecular timescale of wolves and dogs and find that the mutation rate is substantially slower than assumed by most previous studies, suggesting that the ancestors of dogs were separated from present-day wolves before the Last Glacial Maximum. We also find evidence of introgression from the archaic Taimyr wolf lineage into present-day dog breeds from northeast Siberia and Greenland, contributing between 1.4% and 27.3% of their ancestry. This demonstrates that the ancestry of present-day dogs is derived from multiple regional wolf populations.
A model of population history (admixture graph) fitted to the data

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Exposure of Free-Ranging Wild Carnivores and Domestic Dogs to CDV and Parvovirus in Central Brazil

Furtado, M. M., Hayashi, E. M. K., Allendorf, S. D., Coelho, C. J., de Almeida Jácomo, A. T., Megid, J., ... & Neto, J. S. F. Exposure of Free-Ranging Wild Carnivores and Domestic Dogs to Canine Distemper Virus and Parvovirus in the Cerrado of Central Brazil. EcoHealth, 1-9.

Human population growth around protected areas increases the contact between wild and domestic animals, promoting disease transmission between them. This study investigates the exposure of free-ranging wild carnivores and domestic dogs to canine distemper virus (CDV) and parvovirus in Emas National Park (ENP) in the Cerrado savanna of central Brazil. Serum samples were collected from 169 wild carnivores, including the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), crab-eating fox (Cerdocyon thous), hoary fox (Pseudalopex vetulus), puma (Puma concolor), ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), pampas cat (Leopardus colocolo), jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi), striped hog-nosed skunk (Conepatus semistriatus) and coati (Nasua nasua), and from 35 domestic dogs living on rural properties bordering ENP. Serological tests showed that 10.6% of wild carnivores (maned wolves, crab-eating foxes and ocelots) and 71.4% of domestic dogs were exposed to CDV, and 56.8% of wild carnivores, including all species sampled except coatis, and 57.1% of domestic dogs were exposed to parvovirus. This report is the first to indicate that the free-ranging pampas cat, jaguarundi and striped hog-nosed skunk are exposed to parvovirus. CDV and parvovirus deserve attention in ENP, and it is extremely important to monitor the health of carnivore populations and perform molecular diagnosis of the viruses to determine the possible involvement of the domestic dog in their transmission.

Home range of feral cats on Rota Is.

Leo, B. T., Anderson, J. J., Brand Phillips, R., & Ha, R. R. (2016). Home range estimates of feral cats (Felis catus) on Rota Island and determining asymptotic convergence 1. Pacific Science, 70(3), 323-331.

Feral cats (Felis catus) have been shown to be a main contributor to species decline throughout the world and are especially threatening to insular species that lack appropriate defense characteristics. To mitigate the impact of feral cats on threatened species, space-use data are commonly used to design control strategies. In this article we report on the performance of GPS datalogging collars and provide baseline information on daily space use and home ranges of feral cats that threaten an endangered species on Rota Island in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Using 100% Minimum Convex Polygon (MCP), average adult male home range was 1.32 km2(n = 2) and average adult female home range was 0.22 km2(n = 3). Home ranges were deemed fully revealed if asymptotes were approached using incremental analysis. Currently, there is no objective method for assessing where an asymptote is approached. Here, we describe a methodology to do so with the application of a Michaelis-Menten model to incremental data. We conclude that GPS datalogging collars are a viable tool for feral cat location data collection on Rota Island and that the Michaelis-Menten model is useful for determining asymptotic convergence of incremental location data.

Epidemiological survey of zoonotic helminths in feral cats in Gran Canaria

Rodríguez-Ponce, E., González, J. F., de Felipe, M. C., Hernández, J. N., & Raduan Jaber, J. (2016). Epidemiological survey of zoonotic helminths in feral cats in Gran Canaria island (Macaronesian archipelago-Spain). Acta Parasitologica, 61(3), 443-450.

The presence of zoonotic parasites in feral cats have been widely considered all over the world. In Gran Canaria (Macaronesian archipelago, Canary Islands, Spain) the number of feral cats has grown out of control in urban and rural areas. 48 of Felis catus captured in different Gran Canaria areas were studied. Animals were necropsied and several organs were systematically examined in order to collect and identify macroscopic parasites. In addition, coprological tests were done in 28 cats. There were no statistically significant differences in the prevalence rate among sex, age or capture area, showing an overall prevalence of helminths of 77.1%. The most common tapeworms were Dipylidium caninum (64.6%) and Taenia taeniaeformis (31.3%), followed by the nematodes Toxocara cati (20.8%), Ancylostoma tubaeforme (18.8%), Aelurostrongylus abstrusus (10.4%) and Trichuris vulpis (2.08%). We also find several eggs of Alaria alata in the small intestine of one cat (2.08%), being the first description of this trematode in cats in the Canary Islands. Aproximatelly, 40% of the studied cats harboured more than one parasite. High rates of zoonotic species found in these animals suggest the need of controling parasitic infections and preventive measures against them.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

3D morphometric analysis of fossil canid skulls contradicts the suggested domestication of dogs during the late Paleolithic

Drake, A. G., Coquerelle, M., & Colombeau, G. (2015). 3D morphometric analysis of fossil canid skulls contradicts the suggested domestication of dogs during the late Paleolithic. Scientific reports, 5.

Whether dogs were domesticated during the Pleistocene, when humans were hunter-gatherers, or during the Neolithic, when humans began to form permanent settlements and engage in agriculture, remains controversial. Recently discovered Paleolithic fossil skulls, Goyet dated 31,680 +/− 250 YBP and Eliseevichi MAE 447/5298 dated 13,905 +/− 55 YBP, were previously identified as dogs. However, new genetic studies contradict the identification of these specimens as dogs, questioning the validity of traditional measurements used to morphologically identify canid fossil skulls. We employ 3D geometric morphometric analyses to compare the cranial morphology of Goyet and Eliseevichi MAE to that of ancient and modern dogs and wolves. We demonstrate that these Paleolithic canids are definitively wolves and not dogs. Compared to mesaticephalic (wolf-like breeds) dog skulls, Goyet and Eliseevichi MAE, do not have cranial flexion and the dorsal surface of their muzzles has no concavity near the orbits. Morphologically, these early fossil canids resemble wolves, and thus no longer support the establishment of dog domestication in the Paleolithic.

(a) 3D plot of PC1, PC2 and PC3, (b) 3D morphs of extremes along PC 1, PC 2 and PC 3. 95% Confidence interval ellipsoids of modern dogs, Alaskan wolves, and European wolves are outlined. Unclassified specimens are labelled separately in this and other figures. A 3D version of this figure is available as Supplementary Figure S1.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Domestic dogs as nest predators of Wilson’s plover in northeastern Brazil

Diniz, C. G., de Morais Magalhães, N. G., Guerreiro, D., Diniz, P. D. C. P., Paulo, D. C., Renato, F., ... & Diniz, C. W. P. (2016). Cães domésticos predadores de ninho de batuíra bicuda (Charadrius wilsonia) no nordeste brasileiro. Revista da Biologia, 16(1), 24-27. 

Although Wilson´s plovers (Charadrius wilsonia) are migratory, a resident population breeds in coastal northeastern Brazil and there population trend is described as decreasing by the IUCN Red List. Domestic dogs are a major predator of Wilson’s plover nests on an island in northeastern Brazil where dogs are kept to guard fishing equipment. Local fishermen, however, are motivated to protect the nests of shorebirds and when shown video recordings documenting nest predation acted quickly to remove dogs. We found that providing local residents with evidence about the causes of nest
predation could play an effective role in protecting bird populations.

Live-capture of feral cats using different methods

McGregor, H. W., Hampton, J. O., Lisle, D., & Legge, S. (2016). Live-capture of feral cats using tracking dogs and darting, with comparisons to leg-hold trapping. Wildlife Research, 43(4), 313-322.

Context: Predation by feral cats is a key threatening process to many species of native Australian wildlife. Unfortunately, cats are difficult to capture using standard trapping techniques, limiting the potential to conduct research on their ecology and impacts.

Aims: We present an alternative capture method: remote chemical immobilisation after tracking with trained dogs. We also compare capture rates to a concurrent soft-jaw leg-hold trapping program.

Methods: We used dogs to capture cats detected by spotlighting at night, and also recaptured cats fitted with telemetry collars during the day. Cats were either bailed on the ground or treed and then hand-netted, or chemically immobilised using darts shot from a CO2-powered dart rifle, loaded with tiletamine–zolazepam at ~6 mg kg–1. Factors affecting the success rate of capturing cats using dogs were assessed. Efficiency in terms of cats captured per person-hours of fieldwork were compared using trained dogs versus leg-hold trapping.

Key results: We attempted 160 cat captures using the tracking dogs with 114 of those being successful. There were no mortalities or debilitating physical injuries associated with chemical immobilisation; however, sedated cats had prolonged recoveries (>4 h). Capture success with the tracking dogs increased as the dogs gained experience. Capture success rates per person-hour of fieldwork were four times greater using spotlighting with tracking dogs than using leg-hold traps. The success rate of recaptures using dogs was 97%.

Conclusions: The use of trained tracking dogs proved an effective method for capturing feral cats. The method had a much higher success rate than live-trapping with leg-hold traps, took less effort (in terms of person-hours) and caused less physical injuries than did leg-hold traps. However, substantial setup costs and time are required, which are discussed.

Implications: Using these methods could improve efficiency and outcomes when catching feral cats, and enable more data per individual cat to be collected than otherwise.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Implications for human-wolf conflict due to free-roaming domestic dogs predation on deer in southern Spain:

Duarte, J., García, F. J., & Fa, J. E. (2016). Depredatory impact of free-roaming domestic dogs on Mediterranean deer in southern Spain: implications for human-wolf conflict. Folia Zoologica, 65(2).

Feral domestic dogs are efficient wild ungulate hunters in many parts of the world. This has not been confirmed in Mediterranean ecosystems. However, if feral dogs can predate upon wild Mediterranean ungulates, they can also do so upon livestock. Therefore, to more realistically understand human-wolf conflict in areas where wolves and feral dogs overlap, the possible role of the latter taking domestic prey should be considered. During a 6-month study period, we carried out daily observations of a pack of mediumsized dogs, where they were the only large-bodied carnivore capable of killing ungulates in a fenced estate in southern Spain. The estate contained sizeable populations of red deer, fallow deer and mouflons, but no livestock. We described feral dog predation patterns and depredatory impact. We found that dogs predated upon a total of 57 ungulates; fallow deer (47 %), red deer (37 %), and mouflon (16 %). Red deer adults were the least frequent prey, but dogs killed significantly more females and fawns of red and fallow deer. Mouflons were attacked indistinctly. Our results suggest that dogs in our study exhibited a kill pattern similar to Iberian wolves. Therefore, in areas where wolves and feral dogs coexist, a significant proportion of livestock predation could be falsely attributed to the wild canid. In addition, the presence of feral dogs may be a cause of risk in big game hunting estates.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

CDV in wild endangered Amur tigers

Seimon, T. A., Miquelle, D. G., Chang, T. Y., Newton, A. L., Korotkova, I., Ivanchuk, G., ... & McAloose, D. (2013). Canine distemper virus: an emerging disease in wild endangered Amur tigers (Panthera tigris altaica). MBio, 4(4), e00410-13.

Fewer than 500 Amur tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) remain in the wild. Due to low numbers and their solitary and reclusive nature, tiger sightings across their range in the Russian Far East and China are rare; sightings of sick tigers are rarer still. Serious neurologic disease observed in several wild tigers since 2001 suggested disease emergence in this endangered species. To investigate this possibility, histology, immunohistochemistry (IHC), in situ hybridization (ISH), and reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) were performed on tissues from 5 affected tigers that died or were destroyed in 2001, 2004, or 2010. Our results reveal canine distemper virus (CDV) infection as the cause of neurologic disease in two tigers and definitively establish infection in a third. Nonsuppurative encephalitis with demyelination, eosinophilic nuclear viral inclusions, and positive immunolabeling for CDV by IHC and ISH were present in the two tigers with available brain tissue. CDV phosphoprotein (P) and hemagglutinin (H) gene products were obtained from brains of these two tigers by RT-PCR, and a short fragment of CDV P gene sequence was detected in lymph node tissue of a third tiger. Phylogenetically, Amur tiger CDV groups with an Arctic-like strain in Baikal seals (Phoca siberica). Our results, which include mapping the location of positive tigers and recognition of a cluster of cases in 2010, coupled with a lack of reported CDV antibodies in Amur tigers prior to 2000 suggest wide geographic distribution of CDV across the tiger range and recent emergence of CDV as a significant infectious disease threat to endangered Amur tigers in the Russian Far East.

IMPORTANCE Recognition of disease emergence in wildlife is a rare occurrence. Here, for the first time, we identify and characterize a canine distemper virus (CDV), the second most common cause of infectious disease death in domestic dogs and a viral disease of global importance in common and endangered carnivores, as the etiology of neurologic disease and fatal encephalitis in wild, endangered Amur tigers. We establish that in 2010 CDV directly or indirectly killed ~1% of Amur tigers. Location of positive cases over an expansive geographic area suggests that CDV is widely distributed across the tiger range. Interspecies interactions are increasing as human populations grow and expand into wildlife habitats. Identifying animal reservoirs for CDV and identifying the CDV strains that are transmissible to and among wildlife species, including Amur tigers and sympatric critically endangered Amur leopards (Panthera pardus orientalis), is essential for guiding conservation and mitigation efforts.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

TNR and TVHR as methods to control nuisance from feral cats

Ireland, T., & Neilan, R. M. (2016). A spatial agent-based model of feral cats and analysis of population and nuisance controls. Ecological Modelling, 337, 123-136.

Free-roaming feral cats are common in areas of concentrated human habitation, and can pose considerable threats of nuisance and damage to native ecosystems. Trap-neuter-return (TNR) and trap-vasectomy-hysterectomy-return (TVHR) are two humane methods for the reproductive control of feral cat populations. Both TNR and TVHR render a cat infertile, but cats that have undergone TVHR continue to produce hormones that drive mating behaviors. We built a stochastic agent-based computational model for simulating the survival, reproduction, and movement of individual feral cats and the use of TNR and TVHR to modify cats’ reproductive abilities and behaviors. Daily movement of cats between colonies is implemented based on the distance between colonies and landscape properties (e.g. rural, urban). Spatially targeted TNR and TVHR policies are evaluated using two management goals: (1) reduce total population size and (2) reduce nuisance attributed to feral cats. Nuisance includes spraying and noise, both of which are associated with un-neutered males, as well as population abundance. Results indicate that both TNR and TVHR have the potential to greatly reduce population size. Effectiveness of each control depends on the capture rate, number of colonies targeted, size of each colony, and movement of individual cats between colonies. Results show that on average TVHR performs moderately better than TNR at reducing population size, but TNR substantially outperforms TVHR in reducing multiple nuisance measures.

Cross-species transmission of CDV

Beineke, A., Baumgärtner, W. & Wohlsein, P. 2015. Cross-species transmission of canine distemper virus-an update. One Health 1, 49–59.

Canine distemper virus (CDV) is a pantropic morbillivirus with a worldwide distribution, which causes fatal disease in dogs. Affected animals develop dyspnea, diarrhea, neurological signs and profound immunosuppression. Systemic CDV infection, resembling distemper in domestic dogs, can be found also in wild canids (e.g. wolves, foxes), procyonids (e.g. raccoons, kinkajous), ailurids (e.g. red pandas), ursids (e.g. black bears, giant pandas), mustelids (e.g. ferrets, minks), viverrids (e.g. civets, genets), hyaenids (e.g. spotted hyenas), and large felids (e.g. lions, tigers). Furthermore, besides infection with the closely related phocine distemper virus, seals can become infected by CDV. In some CDV outbreaks including the mass mortalities among Baikal and Caspian seals and large felids in the Serengeti Park, terrestrial carnivores including dogs and wolves have been suspected as vectors for the infectious agent. In addition, lethal infections have been described in non-carnivore species such as peccaries and non-human primates demonstrating the remarkable ability of the pathogen to cross species barriers. Mutations affecting the CDV H protein required for virus attachment to host-cell receptors are associated with virulence and disease emergence in novel host species. The broad and expanding host range of CDV and its maintenance within wildlife reservoir hosts considerably hampers disease eradication.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Genetic traces of historical human‐mediated dispersal of feral cats

Endemic species on islands are highly susceptible to local extinction, in particular if they are exposed to invasive species. Invasive predators, such as feral cats, have been introduced to islands around the world, causing major losses in local biodiversity. In order to control and manage invasive species successfully, information about source populations and level of gene flow is essential. Here, we investigate the origin of feral cats of Hawaiian and Australian islands to verify their European ancestry and a potential pattern of isolation by distance. We analyzed the genetic structure and diversity of feral cats from eleven islands as well as samples from Malaysia and Europe using mitochondrial DNA (ND5 and ND6 regions) and microsatellite DNA data. Our results suggest an overall European origin of Hawaiian cats with no pattern of isolation by distance between Australian, Malaysian, and Hawaiian populations. Instead, we found low levels of genetic differentiation between samples from Tasman Island, Lana'i, Kaho'olawe, Cocos (Keeling) Island, and Asia. As these populations are separated by up to 10,000 kilometers, we assume an extensive passive dispersal event along global maritime trade routes in the beginning of the 19th century, connecting Australian, Asian, and Hawaiian islands. Thus, islands populations, which are characterized by low levels of current gene flow, represent valuable sources of information on historical, human-mediated global dispersal patterns of feral cats.

Map of the world representing the main route (Golden Round) used by maritime fur trade (black lines). Boxes show sampling locations in Australia, Hawaii, and South-East Asia with bars indicating graphical output from STRUCTURE analysis for K = 5. Each individual cat is represented by a single vertical line in population's subset plots, which were assigned to their place of origin.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Zoonoses in pets of homeless

Edwards, M. P. (2016). GI Zoonoses in Companion Pets of the Homeless: The Effects of Environment, Behavior and Veterinarians on the Prevalence of GI Parasites. Bachelor of Science in

Veterinarians are the front-line in the world of pet-health and zoonoses, which in turn means they also are at the front-line of human health and have an important role of educating clients on behaviors that would both reduce the risk of human and pet contracting a disease. In this study we collected 85 canine stool samples at at a charitable veterinary clinic for homeless and low-income individuals in Portland, Oregon. Prevalence of parasites was found to be 27.1%, including 2.4% Ancylostoma sp., 4.7% Cryptosporidium sp., 7.1% Isopora sp., 9.4% Taenia sp., 2.4% Giardia sp., and 2.4% Toxocara sp. In addition to sampling, a questionnaire surveyed owner and animal demographics, risk behaviors, owner risk perception and owner education surrounding zoonoses and deworming protocols. Of the risk factors surveyed, socialization with dogs, living environment (unstable and transitional), and pet gender (male) all were associated with increased parasite prevalence. In contrast, dog park use had a negative correlation with prevalence, suggesting exposure elsewhere despite dog park environmental contamination. Notably, individuals who dewormed their pet on a symptomatic basis had similar prevalence to those who never deworm; deworming as little as annually reduced the risk of pet infection by 75%. Furthermore, over 20% of asymptomatic pets were parasitized, over double the expected (5-10%). Lastly, the majority of the population surveyed (67.2%) had little knowledge of zoonoses or the potential for animal to human transmission. Pet owners indicated they were well informed by veterinarians about deworming frequencies, but not about zoonoses. Veterinarians have a duty to educate clients on the importance of regular screening and deworming regardless of symptoms, particularly in light of the zoonotic potential of many parasites.

Characterizing clinics involved in controlling stray cats

D'Ávila, A. M. E. D. (2016). Caracterização dos Centros de Atendimento Médico-Veterinários no Concelho de Lisboa que participam no controlo da população de gatos errantes e assilvestrados. Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias. Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária

The presence of stray and feral cats in urban areas often leads to situations of overpopulation whereby the control of reproduction has proven to be a priority element in solving this problem. The primary goal of this study was to characterize the clinics in the Lisbon area in controlling the population of stray cats and to determine their impact on reducing the number of animals. To accomplish this, it has been developed a questionnaire submitted to clinical directors. Of the 44 participants, it was found that 52% participates in population control programs. The secondary goals were to evaluate protocols applied in relation to neutering and it was verified that most procedures performed in these cases follow the recommendations made by the specialized agencies, including the type of surgery (95,6% neuter and 100% spay), preanesthetic protocols, performing surgeries in pregnant cats (91,3% perform against 8,7% that does not perform), the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (91% use them against 9% that does not use them), the use of fluidtherapy (65% use it against 35% that does not use it), the location of the postoperative period, the FIV-FeLV testing (78,26% does not test against 21,74% that does test) and the practice of left ear-cutting (86,96% cut against 13,04% that does not cut). On the contrary, performing sterilization on pre-pubertal cats is not followed (only 21,7% on males and 34,8% on females neuter before 6 months of age) and the use of antibiotics by the clinical staff is considered excessive (91% use them against 9% that does not use them) to the recommended parameters. In addition, using likelihood ratios established in the literature, it was also determined that the 2538 surgeries performed annually by this sample, prevent the birth of 6396 kittens and the wandering of 1599 cats, demonstrating the important role of clinics in fighting overpopulation of stray cats in Lisbon.

Urban cat ecology in Barcelona

Guerra, I. D. C. L. (2016). Ecologia urbana do gato doméstico Felis silvestris catus na cidade de Barcelona (Doctoral dissertation, Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias).

Free life cats (Felis silvestris catus) are now common in urban areas and organize themselves in colonies associated with human presence and food availability. In Barcelona, there is a project of trap-neuter-return (TNR) of these cats.
From the 2013 data, a retrospective study, of the transverse observational type, was done of the free life cats and the ones with an owner. There is a direct relationship between the number of cats and the number of colonies (p = 0,004). The number of colonies is associated with the number of people (p = 0,004). Green areas, which can offer environmental resources, are directly related to the number of cats (p = 0,022) and to large colonies (p = 0,006). On the other hand, the area of the road network, which leads to habitat fragmentation, is directly associated with the number of colonies (p = 0,043) and also with small colonies (p = 0,023). Medium-sized colonies have a direct association with green areas (p = 0,035) and number of people (p = 0,026). The district area has a direct association with average-sized (p = 0,008) and large colonies (p = 0,043) as well as the number of cats (p = 0,005).

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Potential transmision of dog pathogens to wild carnivores in India

Chaudhary, V. (2016). Threats of Disease Spillover from Domestic Dogs to Wild Carnivores in the Kanha Tiger Reserve, India. MSc disertation  Graduate School of Clemson University.

Many mammalian carnivore species persist in small, isolated populations as a result of habitat destruction, fragmentation, poaching, and human conflict. Their small numbers, limited genetic variability, and increased exposure to domestic animals such as dogs place them at risk of further losses due to infectious diseases. In India, dogs ranging from domestic to feral are associated with villages in and around protected areas, and may serve as reservoirs and vectors of pathogens to the carnivores within. India’s Kanha Tiger Reserve (KTR) is home to a number of threatened and endangered mammalian carnivores including tigers (Panthera tigris), leopards (Panthera pardus), wolves (Canis lupus), and dhole (Cuon alpinus). It also contains hundreds of small villages with associated dog populations, and my goal was to determine whether these dogs pose a disease threat to KTR’s wild carnivores. In the summer of 2014 and again in the winter of 2015 I estimated the density of dogs in villages of varying sizes and distances from KTR’s core zone, and the exposure of these dogs to four pathogens that could threaten wild carnivores: rabies, canine parvovirus (CPV), canine distemper (CDV), and canine adenovirus (CAV). Dog population densities ranged from 3.7 to 23.7/km2(14 to 45 dogs/village), and showed no systematic variation with village area or human population size. These dog populations grew in all villages between the summer of 2014 and winter of 2015, primarily through reproduction. No dog tested positive for rabies but I found high levels of seroprevalence to the other three pathogens: CPV (83.6% in summer 2014,
68.4% in winter 2015), CDV (50.7% in summer 2014, 30.4% in winter 2015) and CAV (41.8% in summer 2014, 30.9% in winter 2015). The declines in seroprevalence between summer and winter were primarily due to births in the population, of animals not exposed to the viruses. I opportunistically documented interactions between the dogs and wild carnivores that might allow disease transmission. I measured these interactions as the presence of wild carnivores in surveyed villages. In this study I document the existence of a large population of unvaccinated dogs in and around KTR, with high levels of seroprevalence to pathogens with broad host ranges. These dogs also have frequent contact with wild carnivores. I conclude that these dogs pose a high risk of disease spillover to wild carnivores in the region.
I also tested for CPV and CDV in wild carnivore samples obtained from the KTR Forest Department from 2010 to 2015. While one tiger blood sample was seropositive for CPV antibodies, the reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction found no evidence of CPV in tissue samples from five tigers, one leopard and one palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), and no CPV or CDV in the three blood samples of tigers. Despite these results, I argue for continued surveillance in KTR, given the ubiquity of village dogs in the area with high seroprevalence of CDV and CPV and the contact between dogs and endangered carnivores in KTR. 

Ecological impact of free-ranging dogs in Poland

Wierzbowska, I. A., Hędrzak, M., Popczyk, B., Okarma, H., & Crooks, K. R. (2016). Predation of wildlife by free-ranging domestic dogs in Polish hunting grounds and potential competition with the grey wolf. Biological Conservation, 201, 1-9.

Although the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) is a ubiquitous exotic predator that can detrimentally affect natural environments, studies on their ecological impact are relatively scarce, particularly at a national scale. We exploited data derived from Polish Hunting Association reports to provide a national evaluation of rural free-ranging dogs in Poland. Our results demonstrate that free-ranging dogs are widespread and abundant, frequently killing wildlife and livestock in Poland and likely exerting intraguild competition with native carnivores such as grey wolves (Canis lupus). On average, hunting club records estimate that over 138,000 rural free-ranging dogs occurred annually in hunting grounds. In addition, nearly 3000 free-ranging greyhounds and their mixed breeds occurred annually on hunting grounds, although greyhound hunting has been banned in Poland and they are legally required to be restrained within fencing. On average, over 33,000 wild animals and 280 livestock were killed by free-ranging dogs on Polish hunting grounds annually. The number of both wild animals and livestock killed by dogs were strongly and positively correlated with the numbers of rural free-ranging dogs recorded on hunting grounds, reflective of their predation pressure. Also, the number of wild animals killed by dogs was positively correlated with estimates of population sizes and harvest levels of wildlife, reflective of prey availability. Dog predation, in conjunction with harvest by humans, may cause unsustainable off-take rates of some game species. Grey wolves, documented within 39 of the 49 Hunting Districts, ate similar prey as dogs, including ungulates and livestock, and killed dogs on hunting grounds, suggesting both resource and interference competition between these sympatric canids. This comprehensive analysis provides important information about the ecological impact of free-ranging dogs and recommendations for alternative legislative and management measures to control their impacts.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Archeozoology of dogs in fort-village complex at Vindolanda in northern England

Bennett, D., Campbell, G., & Timm, R. M. (2016). The dogs of Roman Vindolanda: Morphometric techniques in differentiating domestic and wild canids. Archaeofauna 25: 79-106

 The Roman-era fort-village complex at Vindolanda in northern England, occupied from about A.D. 50 to A.D. 415, has yielded extensive well-preserved remains of the domestic dog, Canis familiaris. Herein, utilizing a novel combination of biostatistical techniques to identify parameters that best differentiate canids, we test the hypothesis that the inhabitants of Vindolanda selectively bred dogs. We also differentiate dog remains from wolves and foxes, similarly-sized canids that occur throughout Eurasia. The Vindolanda dogs are less morphologically diverse than modern dogs but much more diverse than dogs of the British Neolithic and Iron Age. They are as morphologically diverse as dogs excavated from other Romano–British sites, and only slightly less diverse than the whole known population of Roman-era dogs sampled from across Europe and North Africa. Vindolanda dogs thus underwent greater directional selection than expected from natural environmental forces, suggesting that selective breeding rather than random panmixis maintained diversity. The Vindolanda dog sample will make an ideal subject for DNA analysis, since it contains dogs undergoing incipient diversification from dingo-like ancestors.

Bennett, D., & Timm, R. M. (2016). The dogs of Roman Vindolanda, Part II: Time-stratigraphic occurrence, ethnographic comparisons, and biotype reconstruction. Archaeofauna 25:  107-126

The Roman fort-village complex at Vindolanda in northern England has yielded extensive well-preserved remains of domestic dogs, Canis familiaris. Herein, we pose the questions—did the Romans breed for distinctive dog morphotypes, or were dogs breeding panmictically; and if dogs were bred, was it for functionality.
Biotype reconstructions of the eight dog morphotypes known from Roman Vindolanda
We address these questions utilizing remains that are correlated to age and context; morphometric analysis; dental wear stage; bone pathology; pawprints impressed in tiles, and contemporary written records and artwork. All age classes of dogs are represented. There is no evidence that dogs were butchered for food; survivorship curves suggest the typical U-shaped distribution found in populations at equilibrium. Small, medium-sized, and large dogs are represented with frequency changing over time and corresponding to change in the region of origin of the resident military cohort. Husbandry is confirmed on an individual with healed wounds and with the discovery of a beehive-shaped wattle doghouse. Dogs were used extensively in hunting wild game and bred for that activity. By integrating many diverse kinds of data we are able reconstruct biotypes of Roman dogs, greatly facilitating the interpretation of their functionality.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Domestic dogs are the only population essential for persistence of rabies in Serengeti

Lembo, T., Hampson, K., Haydon, D. T., Craft, M., Dobson, A., Dushoff, J., ... & Mentzel, C. (2008). Exploring reservoir dynamics: a case study of rabies in the Serengeti ecosystem. Journal of Applied Ecology, 45(4), 1246-1257.

  1. Knowledge of infection reservoir dynamics is critical for effective disease control, but identifying reservoirs of multi-host pathogens is challenging. Here, we synthesize several lines of evidence to investigate rabies reservoirs in complex carnivore communities of the Serengeti ecological region in northwest Tanzania, where the disease has been confirmed in 12 carnivore species.
  2. Long-term monitoring data suggest that rabies persists in high-density domestic dog Canis familiaris populations (> 11 dogs/km2) and occurs less frequently in lower-density (< 5 dogs /km2) populations and only sporadically in wild carnivores.
  3. Genetic data show that a single rabies virus variant belonging to the group of southern Africa canid-associated viruses (Africa 1b) circulates among a range of species, with no evidence of species-specific virus–host associations.
  4. Within-species transmission was more frequently inferred from high-resolution epidemiological data than between-species transmission. Incidence patterns indicate that spill-over of rabies from domestic dog populations sometimes initiates short-lived chains of transmission in other carnivores.
  5. Synthesis and applications. The balance of evidence suggests that the reservoir of rabies in the Serengeti ecosystem is a complex multi-host community where domestic dogs are the only population essential for persistence, although other carnivores contribute to the reservoir as non-maintenance populations. Control programmes that target domestic dog populations should therefore have the greatest impact on reducing the risk of infection in all other species including humans, livestock and endangered wildlife populations, but transmission in other species may increase the level of vaccination coverage in domestic dog populations necessary to eliminate rabies.

Vulture declines and increased dog scavenging

Ogada, D. L., Torchin, M. E., Kinnaird, M. F., & Ezenwa, V. O. (2012). Effects of vulture declines on facultative scavengers and potential implications for mammalian disease transmission. Conservation Biology, 26(3), 453-460.

Vultures (Accipitridae and Cathartidae) are the only known obligate scavengers. They feed on rotting carcasses and are the most threatened avian functional group in the world. Possible effects of vulture declines include longer persistence of carcasses and increasing abundance of and contact between facultative scavengers at these carcasses. These changes could increase rates of transmission of infectious diseases, with carcasses serving as hubs of infection. To evaluate these possibilities, we conducted a series of observations and experimental tests of the effects of vulture extirpation on decomposition rates of livestock carcasses and mammalian scavengers in Kenya. We examined whether the absence of vultures changed carcass decomposition time, number of mammalian scavengers visiting carcasses, time spent by mammals at carcasses, and potential for disease transmission at carcasses (measured by changes in intraspecific contact rates). In the absence of vultures, mean carcass decomposition rates nearly tripled. Furthermore, the mean number of mammals at carcasses increased 3-fold (from 1.5 to 4.4 individuals/carcass), and the average time spent by mammals at carcasses increased almost 3-fold (from 55 min to 143 min). There was a nearly 3-fold increase in the mean number of contacts between mammalian scavengers at carcasses without vultures. These results highlight the role of vultures in carcass decomposition and level of contact among mammalian scavengers. In combination, our findings lead us to hypothesize that changes in vulture abundance may affect patterns of disease transmission among mammalian carnivores.


Los buitres (Accipitridae y Cathartidae) son los únicos carroñeros obligados que se conocen. Se alimentan de cadáveres en descomposición y son el grupo funcional de aves más amenazado del mundo. Los efectos posibles de las declinaciones de buitres incluyen una mayor persistencia de cadáveres y el incremento de la abundancia de y contacto entre carroñeros facultativos en esos cadáveres. Estos cambios podrían incrementar las tasas de transmisión de enfermedades infecciosas, con los cadáveres funcionando como focos de infección. Para evaluar estas posibilidades, realizamos una serie de observaciones y pruebas experimentales de los efectos de la extirpación de buitres sobre las tasas de descomposición de cadáveres de ganado y mamíferos carroñeros en Kenia. Examinamos sí la ausencia de buitres cambiaba el tiempo de descomposición de cadáveres, el número de mamíferos carroñeros visitando los cadáveres, el tiempo utilizado por mamíferos en los cadáveres y la potencial transmisión de enfermedades en los cadáveres (medida por cambios en las tasas de contacto interespecífico). En ausencia de buitres, las tasas medias de descomposición de cadáveres incrementaron 3 veces (de 1.5 a 4.4 individuos/cadáver), y el tiempo promedio invertido por mamíferos en los cadáveres incrementó casi 3 veces (de 55 min a 143 min). Hubo un aumento de casi tres veces en el número promedio de contactos entre mamíferos carroñeros en cadáveres sin buitres. Estos resultados resaltan el papel de los buitres en la descomposición de cadáveres y del nivel de contacto entre mamíferos carroñeros. En combinación, nuestros resultados nos llevaron a plantear la hipótesis de que cambios en la abundancia de buitre pueden afectar los patrones de transmisión de enfermedades entre mamíferos carnívoros.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Fatal canine distemper virus infection of giant pandas in China

Feng, N., Yu, Y., Wang, T., Wilker, P., Wang, J., Li, Y., ... & Xia, X. (2016). Fatal canine distemper virus infection of giant pandas in China. Scientific Reports, 6, 27518.

We report an outbreak of canine distemper virus (CDV) infection among endangered giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). Five of six CDV infected giant pandas died. The surviving giant panda was previously vaccinated against CDV. Genomic sequencing of CDV isolated from one of the infected pandas (giant panda/SX/2014) suggests it belongs to the Asia-1 cluster. The hemagglutinin protein of the isolated virus and virus sequenced from lung samples originating from deceased giant pandas all possessed the substitutions V26M, T213A, K281R, S300N, P340Q, and Y549H. The presence of the Y549H substitution is notable as it is found at the signaling lymphocytic activation molecule (SLAM) receptor-binding site and has been implicated in the emergence of highly pathogenic CDV and host switching. These findings demonstrate that giant pandas are susceptible to CDV and suggest that surveillance and vaccination among all captive giant pandas are warranted to support conservation efforts for this endangered species.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Pathogens of domestic carnivores around a National Park

Fiorello, C. V., Deem, S. L., Gompper, M. E., & Dubovi, E. J. (2004). Seroprevalence of pathogens in domestic carnivores on the border of Madidi National Park, Bolivia. Animal Conservation, 7(1), 45-54.

The importance of diseases of domestic animals in the conservation of wildlife is increasingly being recognised. Wild carnivores are susceptible to many of the pathogens carried by domestic dogs and cats and some of these pathogens have caused disease outbreaks and severe population declines in threatened species. The risk of disease spillover from domestic to wild carnivores in South America has not been extensively investigated. This study examined the disease exposure of domestic carnivores living near a protected area in Bolivia. Forty dogs and 14 cats living in three towns on the eastern border of Madidi National Park were sampled. High levels of exposure to canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus, Sarcoptes scabiei and Toxoplasma gondii were found among domestic dogs, with similarly high levels of exposure to feline parvovirus, feline calicivirus and T. gondii being found among domestic cats. If contact occurs between domestic and wild carnivores, disease spillover may represent an important risk for the persistence of wild carnivores in the region. Additional research is therefore necessary to determine if wild carnivores living in proximity to these domestic carnivore populations are being exposed to these pathogens.

Pathogens in domestic dogs around National Park

Bronson, E., Emmons, L. H., Murray, S., Dubovi, E. J., & Deem, S. L. (2008). Serosurvey of pathogens in domestic dogs on the border of Noel Kempff Mercado National Park, Bolivia. Journal of zoo and wildlife medicine, 39(1), 28-36.

The threat of disease transmission from domestic animals to wildlife has become recognized as an increasing concern within the wildlife community in recent years. Domestic dogs pose a significant risk as reservoirs for infectious diseases, especially for wild canids. As part of a multifaceted ecologic study of maned wolves and other canids in the large, remote Noël Kempff Mercado National Park (NKMNP) in northeastern Bolivia, 40 domestic dogs in two villages and at two smaller settlements bordering the national park were sampled for exposure to canine diseases. High levels of exposure were found to canine distemper virus and canine parvovirus, both of which are known to cause mortality in maned wolves and other carnivores. Moderate to high levels of exposure were found to rabies virus, Ehrlichia canis, and Toxoplasma gondii, as well as significant levels of infection with Dirofilaria immitis. This study reports evidence of exposure to several diseases in the domestic dogs bordering the park. Contact between wild carnivores and dogs has been documented in the sampled villages, therefore dogs likely pose a substantial risk to the carnivores within and near NKMNP. Further measures should be undertaken to decrease the risk of spillover infection from domestic animals into the wild species of this region.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

First evidence of canine distemper in Brazilian free-ranging felids

Nava, A. F. D., Cullen Jr, L., Sana, D. A., Nardi, M. S., Ramos Filho, J. D., Lima, T. F., ... & Ferreira, F. (2008). First evidence of canine distemper in Brazilian free-ranging felids. Ecohealth, 5(4), 513-518.

Serum samples from 19 jaguars (Panthera onca), nine pumas (Puma concolor), and two ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) were collected between January 1999 and March of 2005 and tested for presence of canine distemper virus (CDV). All cats were free-ranging animals living in two protected areas in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. In addition, 111 domestic dogs from nearby areas were sampled for CDV. Our results show the first evidence of CDV exposure in Brazilian free-ranging felids. From the 30 samples analyzed, six jaguars and one puma were tested seropositive for CDV. All seropositive large felids were from Ivinhema State Park, resulting in 31.5% of the sampled jaguars or 60% of the total jaguar population in Ivinhema State Park, and 11.28% of the sampled pumas. From the total 111 domestic dogs sampled, 45 were tested seropositive for CDV. At Morro do Diabo State Park, 34.6% of the dogs sampled were positive for CDV, and 100% at Ivinhema State Park. Canine distemper virus in wild felids seems to be related with home range use and in close association with domestic dogs living in nearby areas.

Leishmaniasis in dogs living around Atlantic Forest fragments

de Almeida Curi, N. H., de Oliveira Paschoal, A. M., Massara, R. L., Marcelino, A. P., Ribeiro, A. A., Passamani, M., ... & Chiarello, A. G. (2014). Factors associated with the seroprevalence of leishmaniasis in dogs living around Atlantic Forest fragments. PloS one, 9(8), e104003.

Canine visceral leishmaniasis is an important zoonosis in Brazil. However, infection patterns are unknown in some scenarios such as rural settlements around Atlantic Forest fragments. Additionally, controversy remains over risk factors, and most identified patterns of infection in dogs have been found in urban areas. We conducted a cross-sectional epidemiological survey to assess the prevalence of leishmaniasis in dogs through three different serological tests, and interviews with owners to assess features of dogs and households around five Atlantic Forest remnants in southeastern Brazil. We used Generalized Linear Mixed Models and Chi-square tests to detect associations between prevalence and variables that might influence Leishmania infection, and a nearest neighbor dispersion analysis to assess clustering in the spatial distribution of seropositive dogs. Our findings showed an average prevalence of 20% (ranging from 10 to 32%) in dogs. Nearly 40% (ranging from 22 to 55%) of households had at least one seropositive dog. Some individual traits of dogs (height, sterilization, long fur, age class) were found to positively influence the prevalence, while some had negative influence (weight, body score, presence of ectoparasites). Environmental and management features (number of cats in the households, dogs with free-ranging behavior) also entered models as negative associations with seropositivity. Strong and consistent negative (protective) influences of the presence of chickens and pigs in dog seropositivity were detected. Spatial clustering of cases was detected in only one of the five study sites. The results showed that different risk factors than those found in urban areas may drive the prevalence of canine leishmaniasis in farm/forest interfaces, and that humans and wildlife risk infection in these areas. Domestic dog population limitation by gonadectomy, legal restriction of dog numbers per household and owner education are of the greatest importance for the control of visceral leishmaniasis in rural zones near forest fragments.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Dogs vs camera traps: a comparison of techniques for detecting feral cats

Glen, A. S., Anderson, D., Veltman, C. J., Garvey, P. M., & Nichols, M. (2016). Wildlife detector dogs and camera traps: a comparison of techniques for detecting feral cats. New Zealand Journal of Zoology, 1-11.

A major challenge in controlling overabundant wildlife is monitoring their populations, particularly as they decline to very low density. Camera traps and wildlife detector dogs are increasingly being used for this purpose. We compared the costeffectiveness of these two approaches for detecting feral cats (Felis catus) on two pastoral properties in Hawke’s Bay, North Island, New Zealand. One property was subject to intensive pest removal, while the other had no recent history of pest control. Camera traps and wildlife detector dogs detected cats at similar rates at both sites. The operating costs of each method were also comparable. We identify a number of advantages and disadvantages of each technique, and suggest priorities for further research.

An Ecological and Evolutionary Framework for Commensalism in Anthropogenic Environments

Hulme-Beaman, A., Dobney, K., Cucchi, T., & Searle, J. B. (2016). An Ecological and Evolutionary Framework for Commensalism in Anthropogenic Environments. Trends in Ecology & Evolution.

Commensalism within anthropogenic environments has not been extensively discussed, despite its impact on humans, and there is no formal framework for assessing this ecological relationship in its varied forms. Here, we examine commensalism in anthropogenic environments in detail, considering both ecological and evolutionary drivers. The many assumptions about commensalism and the nature of anthropogenic environments are discussed and we highlight dependency as a key attribute of anthropogenic commensals (anthrodependent taxa). We primarily focus on mammalian species in the anthropogenic-commensal niche, but the traits described and selective pressures presented are likely fundamental to many species engaged in intense commensal relationships with humans. Furthermore, we demonstrate that this largely understudied interaction represents an important opportunity to investigate evolutionary processes in rapidly changing environments.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Distemper outbreak and its effect on African wild dog conservation

Fatal canine distemper infection in a pack of African wild dogs in the Serengeti

Goller, K. V., Fyumagwa, R. D., Nikolin, V., East, M. L., Kilewo, M., Speck, S., ... & Wibbelt, G. (2010). Fatal canine distemper infection in a pack of African wild dogs in the Serengeti ecosystem, Tanzania. Veterinary microbiology, 146(3), 245-252.

In 2007, disease related mortality occurred in one African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) pack close to the north-eastern boundary of the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Histopathological examination of tissues from six animals revealed that the main pathologic changes comprised interstitial pneumonia and suppurative to necrotizing bronchopneumonia. Respiratory epithelial cells contained numerous eosinophilic intracytoplasmic inclusion bodies and multiple syncytial cells were found throughout the parenchymal tissue, both reacting clearly positive with antibodies against canine distemper virus (CDV) antigen. Phylogenetic analysis based on a 388 nucleotide (nt) fragment of the CDV phosphoprotein (P) gene revealed that the pack was infected with a CDV variant most closely related to Tanzanian variants, including those obtained in 1994 during a CDV epidemic in the Serengeti National Park and from captive African wild dogs in the Mkomazi Game Reserve in 2000. Phylogenetic analysis of a 335-nt fragment of the fusion (F) gene confirmed that the pack in 2007 was infected with a variant most closely related to one variant from 1994 during the epidemic in the Serengeti National Park from which a comparable fragment is available. Screening of tissue samples for concurrent infections revealed evidence of canine parvovirus, Streptococcus equi subsp. ruminatorum and Hepatozoon sp. No evidence of infection with Babesia sp. or rabies virus was found. Possible implications of concurrent infections are discussed. This is the first molecular characterisation of CDV in free-ranging African wild dogs and only the third confirmed case of fatal CDV infection in a free-ranging pack.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Epidemiology, pathology, and genetic analysis of a canine distemper epidemic in Namibia

Gowtage-Sequeira, S., Banyard, A. C., Barrett, T., Buczkowski, H., Funk, S. M., & Cleaveland, S. (2009). Epidemiology, pathology, and genetic analysis of a canine distemper epidemic in Namibia. Journal of wildlife diseases, 45(4), 1008-1020.

Severe population declines have resulted from the spillover of canine distemper virus (CDV) into susceptible wildlife, with both domestic and wild canids being involved in the maintenance and transmission of the virus. This study (March 2001 to October 2003) collated case data, serologic, pathologic, and molecular data to describe the spillover of CDV from domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) to black-backed jackals (Canis mesomelas) during an epidemic on the Namibian coast. Antibody prevalence in jackals peaked at 74.1%, and the clinical signs and histopathologic observations closely resembled those observed in domestic dog cases. Viral RNA was isolated from the brain of a domestic dog from the outbreak area. Sequence data from the phosphoprotein (P) gene and the hemagglutinin (H) genes were used for phylogenetic analyses. The P gene sequence from the domestic dog shared 98% identity with the sequence data available for other CDV isolates of African carnivores. For the H gene, the two sequences available from the outbreak that decimated the lion population in Tanzania in 1994 were the closest match with the Namibian sample, being 94% identical across 1,122 base pairs (bp). Phylogenetic analyses based on this region clustered the Namibian sample with the CDV that is within the morbilliviruses. This is the first description of an epidemic involving black-backed jackals in Namibia, demonstrating that this species has the capacity for rapid and large-scale dissemination of CDV. This work highlights the threat posed to endangered wildlife in Namibia by the spillover of CDV from domestic dog populations. Very few sequence data are currently available for CDV isolates from African carnivores, and this work provides the first sequence data from a Namibian CDV isolate.
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