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1.  Adrenocortical stress responses influence an invasive vertebrate's fitness in an extreme environment 
Continued range expansion into physiologically challenging environments requires invasive species to maintain adaptive phenotypic performance. The adrenocortical stress response, governed in part by glucocorticoid hormones, influences physiological and behavioural responses of vertebrates to environmental stressors. However, any adaptive role of this response in invasive populations that are expanding into extreme environments is currently unclear. We experimentally manipulated the adrenocortical stress response of invasive cane toads (Rhinella marina) to investigate its effect on phenotypic performance and fitness at the species' range front in the Tanami Desert, Australia. Here, toads are vulnerable to overheating and dehydration during the annual hot–dry season and display elevated plasma corticosterone levels indicative of severe environmental stress. By comparing unmanipulated control toads with toads whose adrenocortical stress response was manipulated to increase acute physiological stress responsiveness, we found that control toads had significantly reduced daily evaporative water loss and higher survival relative to the experimental animals. The adrenocortical stress response hence appears essential in facilitating complex phenotypic performance and setting fitness trajectories of individuals from invasive species during range expansion.
PMCID: PMC3757975  PMID: 23945686
extreme environments; survival; glucocorticoid hormones; acute stress response; adaptive phenotypic performance; fitness
2.  Movements and Habitat Use of an Endangered Snake, Hoplocephalus bungaroides (Elapidae): Implications for Conservation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61711.
A detailed understanding of how extensively animals move through the landscape, and the habitat features upon which they rely, can identify conservation priorities and thus inform management planning. For many endangered species, information on habitat use either is sparse, or is based upon studies from a small part of the species’ range. The broad-headed snake (Hoplocephalus bungaroides) is restricted to a specialized habitat (sandstone outcrops and nearby forests) within a small geographic range in south-eastern Australia. Previous research on this endangered taxon was done at a single site in the extreme south of the species’ geographic range. We captured and radio-tracked 9 adult broad-headed snakes at sites in the northern part of the species’ distribution, to evaluate the generality of results from prior studies, and to identify critical habitat components for this northern population. Snakes spent most of winter beneath sun-warmed rocks then shifted to tree hollows in summer. Thermal regimes within retreat-sites support the hypothesis that this shift is thermally driven. Intervals between successive displacements were longer than in the southern snakes but dispersal distances per move and home ranges were similar. Our snakes showed non-random preferences both in terms of macrohabitat (e.g., avoidance of some vegetation types) and microhabitat (e.g., frequent use of hollow-bearing trees). Despite many consistencies, the ecology of this species differs enough between southern and northern extremes of its range that managers need to incorporate information on local features to most effectively conserve this threatened reptile.
PMCID: PMC3632570  PMID: 23613912
3.  Excluding access to invasion hubs can contain the spread of an invasive vertebrate 
Many biological invasions do not occur as a gradual expansion along a continuous front, but result from the expansion of satellite populations that become established at ‘invasion hubs’. Although theoretical studies indicate that targeting control efforts at invasion hubs can effectively contain the spread of invasions, few studies have demonstrated this in practice. In arid landscapes worldwide, humans have increased the availability of surface water by creating artificial water points (AWPs) such as troughs and dams for livestock. By experimentally excluding invasive cane toads (Bufo marinus) from AWP, we show that AWP provide a resource subsidy for non-arid-adapted toads and serve as dry season refuges and thus invasion hubs for cane toads in arid Australia. Using data on the distribution of permanent water in arid Australia and the dispersal potential of toads, we predict that systematically excluding toads from AWP would reduce the area of arid Australia across which toads are predicted to disperse and colonize under average climatic conditions by 38 per cent from 2 242 000 to 1 385 000 km2. Our study shows how human modification of hydrological regimes can create a network of invasion hubs that facilitates a biological invasion, and confirms that targeted control at invasion hubs can reduce landscape connectivity to contain the spread of an invasive vertebrate.
PMCID: PMC3151714  PMID: 21345870
artificial water; biological invasion; Bufo marinus; arid; control strategy; hydrological regime
4.  Habitat Selection in a Rocky Landscape: Experimentally Decoupling the Influence of Retreat Site Attributes from That of Landscape Features 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e37982.
Organisms selecting retreat sites may evaluate not only the quality of the specific shelter, but also the proximity of that site to resources in the surrounding area. Distinguishing between habitat selection at these two spatial scales is complicated by co-variation among microhabitat factors (i.e., the attributes of individual retreat sites often correlate with their proximity to landscape features). Disentangling this co-variation may facilitate the restoration or conservation of threatened systems. To experimentally examine the role of landscape attributes in determining retreat-site quality for saxicolous ectotherms, we deployed 198 identical artificial rocks in open (sun-exposed) sites on sandstone outcrops in southeastern Australia, and recorded faunal usage of those retreat sites over the next 29 months. Several landscape-scale attributes were associated with occupancy of experimental rocks, but different features were important for different species. For example, endangered broad-headed snakes (Hoplocephalus bungaroides) preferred retreat sites close to cliff edges, flat rock spiders (Hemicloea major) preferred small outcrops, and velvet geckos (Oedura lesueurii) preferred rocks close to the cliff edge with higher-than-average sun exposure. Standardized retreat sites can provide robust experimental data on the effects of landscape-scale attributes on retreat site selection, revealing interspecific divergences among sympatric taxa that use similar habitats.
PMCID: PMC3373508  PMID: 22701592
5.  Advancing the Mechanistic Understanding of an Enantioselective Palladium-Catalyzed Alkene Difunctionalization Reaction 
Journal of the American Chemical Society  2010;132(49):17471-17482.
The mechanism of an enantioselective palladium-catalyzed alkene difunctionalization reaction has been investigated. Kinetic analysis provides evidence of turnover limiting attack of a proposed quinone methide intermediate with MeOH and suggests that Cu is involved in productive product formation, not just catalyst turnover. Through examination of substrate electronic effects, a Jaffé relationship was observed correlating rate to electronic perturbation at two positions of the substrate. Ligand effects were evaluated to provide evidence of rapid ligand exchange between palladium and copper as well as a correlation between ligand electronic nature and enantioselectivity.
PMCID: PMC3066298  PMID: 21082845
6.  Phylogeography and dispersal in the velvet gecko (Oedura lesueurii), and potential implications for conservation of an endangered snake (Hoplocephalus bungaroides) 
To conserve critically endangered predators, we also need to conserve the prey species upon which they depend. Velvet geckos (Oedura lesueurii) are a primary prey for the endangered broad-headed snake (Hoplocephalus bungaroides), which is restricted to sandstone habitats in southeastern Australia. We sequenced the ND2 gene from 179 velvet geckos, to clarify the lizards’ phylogeographic history and landscape genetics. We also analysed 260 records from a longterm (3-year) capture-mark-recapture program at three sites, to evaluate dispersal rates of geckos as a function of locality, sex and body size.
The genetic analyses revealed three ancient lineages in the north, south and centre of the species’ current range. Estimates of gene flow suggest low dispersal rates, constrained by the availability of contiguous rocky habitat. Mark-recapture records confirm that these lizards are highly sedentary, with most animals moving < 30 m from their original capture site even over multi-year periods.
The low vagility of these lizards suggests that they will be slow to colonise vacant habitat patches; and hence, efforts to restore degraded habitats for broad-headed snakes may need to include translocation of lizards.
PMCID: PMC3494511  PMID: 22583676
Australia; Phylogeography; Dispersal; Reptile; Landscape genetics; Conservation
7.  Determinants of Habitat Selection by Hatchling Australian Freshwater Crocodiles 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28533.
Animals almost always use habitats non-randomly, but the costs and benefits of using specific habitat types remain unknown for many types of organisms. In a large lake in northwestern Australia (Lake Argyle), most hatchling (<12-month-old) freshwater crocodiles (Crocodylus johnstoni) are found in floating vegetation mats or grassy banks rather than the more widely available open banks. Mean body sizes of young crocodiles did not differ among the three habitat types. We tested four potential explanations for non-random habitat selection: proximity to nesting sites, thermal conditions, food availability, and exposure to predation. The three alternative habitat types did not differ in proximity to nesting sites, or in thermal conditions. Habitats with higher food availability harboured more hatchlings, and feeding rates (obtained by stomach-flushing of recently-captured crocodiles) were highest in such areas. Predation risk may also differ among habitats: we were twice as likely to capture a crocodile after seeing it in open-bank sites than in the other two habitat types. Thus, habitat selection of hatchling crocodiles in this system may be driven both by prey availability and by predation risk.
PMCID: PMC3233590  PMID: 22163308
8.  Genetic Connectivity among Populations of an Endangered Snake Species from Southeastern Australia (Hoplocephalus bungaroides, Elapidae) 
Ecology and Evolution  2011;1(2):218-227.
For endangered species that persist as apparently isolated populations within a previously more extensive range, the degree of genetic exchange between those populations is critical to conservation and management. A lack of gene flow can exacerbate impacts of threatening processes and delay or prevent colonization of sites after local extirpation. The broad-headed snake, Hoplocephalus bungaroides, is a small venomous species restricted to a handful of disjunct reserves near Sydney, Australia. Mark-recapture studies have indicated low vagility for this ambush predator, suggesting that gene flow also may be low. However, our analyses of 11 microsatellite loci from 163 snakes collected in Morton National Park, from six sites within a 10-km diameter, suggest relatively high rates of gene flow among sites. Most populations exchange genes with each other, with one large population serving as a source area and smaller populations apparently acting as sinks. About half of the juvenile snakes, for which we could reliably infer parentage, were collected from populations other than those in which we collected their putative parents. As expected from the snakes’ reliance on rocky outcrops during cooler months of the year, most gene flow appears to be along sandstone plateaux rather than across the densely forested valleys that separate plateaux. The unexpectedly high rates of gene flow on a landscape scale are encouraging for future conservation of this endangered taxon. For example, wildlife managers could conserve broad-headed snakes by restoring habitats near extant source populations in areas predicted to be least affected by future climate change.
PMCID: PMC3287295  PMID: 22393497
Australia; conservation genetics; parentage analyses; reptile; Elapidae; microsatellite loci
9.  Flat lizard female mimics use sexual deception in visual but not chemical signals 
Understanding what constrains signalling and maintains signal honesty is a central theme in animal communication. Clear cases of dishonest signalling, and the conditions under which they are used, represent an important avenue for improved understanding of animal communication systems. Female mimicry, when certain males take on the appearance of females, is most commonly a male alternative reproductive tactic that is condition-dependent. A number of adaptive explanations for female mimicry have been proposed including avoiding the costs of aggression, gaining an advantage in combat, sneaking copulations with females on the territories of other males, gaining physiological benefits and minimizing the risk of predation. Previous studies of female mimicry have focused on a single mode of communication, although most animals communicate using multiple signals. Male Augrabies flat lizards adopt alternative reproductive tactics in which some males (she-males) mimic the visual appearance of females. We experimentally tested in a wild population whether she-males are able to mimic females using both visual and chemical signals. We tested chemical recognition in the field by removing scent and relabelling females and she-males with either male or female scent. At a distance, typical males (he-males) could not distinguish she-males from females using visual signals, but during close encounters, he-males correctly determined the gender of she-males using chemical signals. She-males are therefore able to deceive he-males using visual but not chemical signals. To effectively deceive he-males, she-males avoid close contact with he-males during which chemical cues would reveal their deceit. This strategy is probably adaptive, because he-males are aggressive and territorial; by mimicking females, she-males are able to move about freely and gain access to females on the territories of resident males.
PMCID: PMC2660994  PMID: 19324828
female mimicry; multiple signals; lizard; chemical signal; visual signal; signal deception
10.  Surgeon Perceptions of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery 
SAS journal  2008;2(3):145.
Interest in minimally invasive surgery (MIS) of the spine has driven the development of new and innovative techniques to treat an ever wider range of spinal disorders. Despite these new advances, spine surgeons have been slow in adopting MIS into their clinical practice. This study aims to provide a better understanding of the factors that have led to limited incorporation of these procedures into their practices.
Eighty-seven spine surgeons completed a questionnaire related to their perceptions of MIS. Respondents were asked to comment on their perceptions regarding the limitations and advantages of minimally invasive spine surgery. Survey results were then analyzed for both overall opinions and opinions based on the amount of MIS utilization in the respondents’ current practices.
The top 3 identified limitations of MIS of the spine were technical difficulty, lack of convenient training opportunities, and radiation exposure. Of these respondents, spine surgeons experienced in MIS were concerned more with radiation exposure than the lack of training opportunities. In contrast, spine surgeons with little MIS experience cited the lack of training opportunities as the most significant limitation. There was little concern related to the limited proven clinical efficacy of MIS of the spine.
Technical factors, training opportunities, and radiation exposure appear to be the major obstacles to MIS of the spine. Most spine surgeons believe that MIS leads to faster return to daily activities, better long-term function, and decreased hospitalization. This may explain why most surgeons did not cite a lack of proven efficacy as a major limitation to MIS.
These findings indicate that the widespread adoption of MIS of the spine will likely be driven through relatively simple means, such as improved training programs that strive to decrease the technical difficulty and limit radiation exposure of these procedures. It is unlikely that extensive clinical data alone, without such improved training programs, will be sufficient to drive widespread use of minimally invasive spine surgery.
PMCID: PMC2817980  PMID: 20148184
Surgeon perceptions; minimally invasive spine surgery; survey; limitations
11.  Spatial genetic analysis and long-term mark–recapture data demonstrate male-biased dispersal in a snake 
Biology Letters  2006;3(1):33-35.
Dispersal is an important life-history trait, but it is notoriously difficult to study. The most powerful approach is to attack the problem with multiple independent sources of data. We integrated information from a 14-year demographic study with molecular data from five polymorphic microsatellite loci to test the prediction of male-biased dispersal in a common elapid species from eastern Australia, the small-eyed snake Rhinoplocephalus nigrescens. These snakes have a polygynous mating system in which males fight for access to females. Our demographic data demonstrate that males move farther than females (about twice as far on average, and about three times for maximum distances). This sex bias in adult dispersal was evident also in the genetic data, which showed a strong and significant genetic signature of male-biased dispersal. Together, the genetic and demographic data suggest that gene flow is largely mediated by males in this species.
PMCID: PMC2373818  PMID: 17443959
sex-biased dispersal; mating system; movement patterns; spatial autocorrelation
12.  Letters and Notes in Orthopaedic Surgery 
Accurate written communication is essential in orthopaedic surgery. Incomplete and poorly structured letters can lead to poor knowledge of a patient's diagnosis.
Structured and traditional letter formats were compared for speed of reading and preference by general practitioners (GPs), consultants, registrars and out-patient nursing staff. In addition, out-patient clinic letters and notes were analysed and compared for speed of reading and ease of assimilating information and content.
There was overwhelming preference for the structured letter format. This style of letter could be read significantly more quickly with information better assimilated and relevant data included more frequently. However, only 26% of letters generated contained a complete set of information sought by GPs and hospital staff.
Structured letters are better in orthopaedics because it is easier to access the contents. The structured format disciplines medical staff to address essential information. Even with a structured format the majority of letters omitted essential information. Training in letter writing is necessary. A structured letter format next to dictating machines might improve the quality of letters generated.
PMCID: PMC1963690  PMID: 16786610
Communication; Orthopaedic surgery; Education

Results 1-14 (14)