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1.  Evaluating Group Housing Strategies for the Ex-Situ Conservation of Harlequin Frogs (Atelopus spp.) Using Behavioral and Physiological Indicators 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e90218.
We have established ex situ assurance colonies of two endangered Panamanian harlequin frogs, Atelopus certus and Atelopus glyphus, but observed that males fought with each other when housed as a group. Housing frogs individually eliminated this problem, but created space constraints. To evaluate the potential stress effects from aggressive interactions when grouping frogs, we housed male frogs in replicated groups of one, two, and eight. We measured aggressive behavioral interactions and fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (GC) concentrations as indicators of stress in each tank. In both small and large groups, frogs initially interacted aggressively, but aggressive interactions and fecal GCs declined significantly after the first 2 weeks of being housed together, reaching the lowest levels by week 4. We conclude that aggressive interactions in same-sex groups of captive Atelopus may initially cause stress, but the frogs become habituated within a few weeks and they can safely be housed in same-sex groups for longer periods of time.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0090218
PMCID: PMC3934986  PMID: 24587290
2.  Stability of Microbiota Facilitated by Host Immune Regulation: Informing Probiotic Strategies to Manage Amphibian Disease 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e87101.
Microbial communities can augment host immune responses and probiotic therapies are under development to prevent or treat diseases of humans, crops, livestock, and wildlife including an emerging fungal disease of amphibians, chytridiomycosis. However, little is known about the stability of host-associated microbiota, or how the microbiota is structured by innate immune factors including antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) abundant in the skin secretions of many amphibians. Thus, conservation medicine including therapies targeting the skin will benefit from investigations of amphibian microbial ecology that provide a model for vertebrate host-symbiont interactions on mucosal surfaces. Here, we tested whether the cutaneous microbiota of Panamanian rocket frogs, Colostethus panamansis, was resistant to colonization or altered by treatment. Under semi-natural outdoor mesocosm conditions in Panama, we exposed frogs to one of three treatments including: (1) probiotic - the potentially beneficial bacterium Lysinibacillus fusiformis, (2) transplant – skin washes from the chytridiomycosis-resistant glass frog Espadarana prosoblepon, and (3) control – sterile water. Microbial assemblages were analyzed by a culture-independent T-RFLP analysis. We found that skin microbiota of C. panamansis was resistant to colonization and did not differ among treatments, but shifted through time in the mesocosms. We describe regulation of host AMPs that may function to maintain microbial community stability. Colonization resistance was metabolically costly and microbe-treated frogs lost 7–12% of body mass. The discovery of strong colonization resistance of skin microbiota suggests a well-regulated, rather than dynamic, host-symbiont relationship, and suggests that probiotic therapies aiming to enhance host immunity may require an approach that circumvents host mechanisms maintaining equilibrium in microbial communities.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087101
PMCID: PMC3906108  PMID: 24489847
3.  Attitudes Toward Consumption and Conservation of Tigers in China 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(7):e2544.
A heated debate has recently emerged between tiger farmers and conservationists about the potential consequences of lifting the ban on trade in farmed tiger products in China. This debate has caused unfounded speculation about the extent of the potential market for tiger products. To fill this knowledge gap, we surveyed 1880 residents from a total of six Chinese cities to understand Urban Chinese tiger consumption behavior, knowledge of trade issues and attitudes towards tiger conservation. We found that 43% of respondents had consumed some product alleged to contain tiger parts. Within this user-group, 71% said that they preferred wild products over farmed ones. The two predominant products used were tiger bone plasters (38%) and tiger bone wine (6.4%). 88% of respondents knew that it was illegal to buy or sell tiger products, and 93% agreed that a ban in trade of tiger parts was necessary to conserve wild tigers. These results indicate that while Urban Chinese people are generally supportive of tiger conservation, there is a huge residual demand for tiger products that could resurge if the ban on trade in tiger parts is lifted in China. We suspect that the current supply of the market is predominantly met by fakes or substitutes branded as tiger medicines, but not listing tiger as an ingredient. We suggest that the Traditional Chinese Medicine community should consider re-branding these products as bone-healing medicines in order to reduce the residual demand for real tiger parts over the long-term. The lifting of the current ban on trade in farmed tiger parts may cause a surge in demand for wild tiger parts that consumers say are better. Because of the low input costs associated with poaching, wild-sourced parts would consistently undercut the prices of farmed tigers that could easily be laundered on a legal market. We therefore recommend that the Chinese authorities maintain the ban on trade in tiger parts, and work to improve the enforcement of the existing ban.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002544
PMCID: PMC2435601  PMID: 18596926

Results 1-3 (3)