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1.  Echolocation intensity and directionality of perching and flying fringe-lipped bats, Trachops cirrhosus (Phyllostomidae) 
The Neotropical frog-eating bat, Trachops cirrhosus, primarily hunts stationary prey, either by gleaning on the wing, or in a sit-and-wait mode hanging from a perch. It listens passively for prey-generated sounds, but uses echolocation in all stages of the hunt. Like other bats in the family Phyllostomidae, T. cirrhosus has a conspicuous nose leaf, hypothesized to direct and focus echolocation calls emitted from the nostrils. T. cirrhosus is highly flexible in its cognitive abilities and its use of sensory strategies for prey detection. Additionally, T. cirrhosus has been observed to echolocate both with closed and open mouth. We hypothesize that its flexibility extends to echolocation call design. We investigated the effect of hunting mode, perching or flying, as well as the effect of mouth opening, on the acoustic parameters and directionality of the echolocation call. We used a multi-microphone array, a high-speed video camera, and a microphone-diode-video system to directly visualize the echolocation sound beam synchronized with the bat's behavior. We found that T. cirrhosus emits a highly directional sound beam with half amplitude angle (HAM) of 12–18° and DI (directionality index) of ~17 dB, among the most directional bat sonar beams measured to date. The directionality was high both when flying and when perching. The emitted intensity was low, around 88 dB SPL at 10 cm from the mouth, when hanging, but higher, around 100 dB SPL at 10 cm, when flying or just before take-off. Our data suggests that the limited search volume of T. cirrhosus sonar beam defined by the high directionality and the rather low intensity of its echolocation calls is adapted to the highly cluttered hunting habitat and to the perch hunting mode.
PMCID: PMC3695372  PMID: 23825459
echolocation; directionality; intensity; sonar beam; perch hunting
2.  Degradation of [Dha7]MC-LR by a Microcystin Degrading Bacterium Isolated from Lake Rotoiti, New Zealand 
ISRN Microbiology  2013;2013:596429.
For the first time a microcystin-degrading bacterium (NV-3 isolate) has been isolated and characterized from a NZ lake. Cyanobacterial blooms in New Zealand (NZ) waters contain microcystin (MC) hepatotoxins at concentrations which are a risk to animal and human health. Degradation of MCs by naturally occurring bacteria is an attractive bioremediation option for removing MCs from drinking and recreational water sources. The NV-3 isolate was identified by 16S rRNA sequence analysis and found to have 100% nucleotide sequence homology with the Sphingomonas MC-degrading bacterial strain MD-1 from Japan. The NV-3 isolate (concentration of 1.0 × 108 CFU/mL) at 30°C degraded a mixture of [Dha7]MC-LR and MC-LR (concentration 25 μg/mL) at a maximum rate of 8.33 μg/mL/day. The intermediate by-products of [Dha7]MC-LR degradation were detected and similar to MC-LR degradation by-products. The presence of three genes (mlrA, mlrB, and mlrC), that encode three enzymes involved in the degradation of MC-LR, were identified in the NV-3 isolate. This study confirmed that degradation of [Dha7]MC-LR by the Sphingomonas isolate NV-3 occurred by a similar mechanism previously described for MC-LR by Sphingomonas strain MJ-PV (ACM-3962). This has important implications for potential bioremediation of toxic blooms containing a variety of MCs in NZ waters.
PMCID: PMC3712209  PMID: 23936728
3.  Foraging Ecology Predicts Learning Performance in Insectivorous Bats 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e64823.
Bats are unusual among mammals in showing great ecological diversity even among closely related species and are thus well suited for studies of adaptation to the ecological background. Here we investigate whether behavioral flexibility and simple- and complex-rule learning performance can be predicted by foraging ecology. We predict faster learning and higher flexibility in animals hunting in more complex, variable environments than in animals hunting in more simple, stable environments. To test this hypothesis, we studied three closely related insectivorous European bat species of the genus Myotis that belong to three different functional groups based on foraging habitats: M. capaccinii, an open water forager, M. myotis, a passive listening gleaner, and M. emarginatus, a clutter specialist. We predicted that M. capaccinii would show the least flexibility and slowest learning reflecting its relatively unstructured foraging habitat and the stereotypy of its natural foraging behavior, while the other two species would show greater flexibility and more rapid learning reflecting the complexity of their natural foraging tasks. We used a purposefully unnatural and thus species-fair crawling maze to test simple- and complex-rule learning, flexibility and re-learning performance. We found that M. capaccinii learned a simple rule as fast as the other species, but was slower in complex rule learning and was less flexible in response to changes in reward location. We found no differences in re-learning ability among species. Our results corroborate the hypothesis that animals’ cognitive skills reflect the demands of their ecological niche.
PMCID: PMC3673959  PMID: 23755146
4.  Exercise intervention in New Zealand Polynesian peoples with type 2 diabetes: Cultural considerations and clinical trial recommendations 
The Australasian Medical Journal  2012;5(8):429-435.
The Maori and Pacific Islands peoples of New Zealand suffer a greater burden of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and associated comorbidities than their European counterparts. Empirical evidence supports the clinical application of aerobic and resistance training for effective diabetes management and potential remission, but few studies have investigated the effectiveness of these interventions in specific ethnic cohorts. We recently conducted the first trial to investigate the effect of prescribed exercise training in Polynesian people with T2DM. This article presents the cultural considerations undertaken to successfully implement the study. The research procedures were accepted and approved by cultural liaisons and potential participants. The approved methodology involved a trial evaluating and comparing the effects of two, 16-week exercise regimens (i.e. aerobic training and resistance training) on glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c), related diabetes markers (i.e. insulin resistance, blood lipids, relevant cytokines and anthropometric and hemodynamic indices) and health-related quality of life. Future exercise-related research or implementation strategies in this cohort should focus on cultural awareness and techniques to enhance participation and compliance. Our approach to cultural consultation could be considered by researchers undertaking trials in this and other ethnic populations suffering an extreme burden of T2DM, including indigenous Australians and Americans.
PMCID: PMC3442187  PMID: 23024717
Resistance; Aerobic; Obesity; Maori; Pacific Islands; Polynesia; Ethnic; High-Risk
5.  TRPV1 channels mediate long-term depression at synapses on hippocampal interneurons 
Neuron  2008;57(5):746-759.
TRPV1 (transient receptor potential vanilloid subfamily member 1) receptors have classically been defined as ligand-gated, non-selective cation channels that act as heat-, proton- and ligand-activated integrators of nociceptive stimuli in sensory neurons, and there has been great interest in TRPV1 as a novel therapeutic target for pain relief. TRPV1 receptors have also been identified in the brain, but their physiological role is poorly understood. Here we report for the first time that TRPV1 channel activation is necessary and sufficient to trigger long-term synaptic depression (LTD). Excitatory synapses onto hippocampal interneurons were depressed either by capsaicin, a potent TRPV1 activator, or by 12-(S)-HPETE, an endogenous eicosanoid released during synaptic stimulation, while neither compound affected excitatory synapses onto CA1 pyramidal cells. TRPV1 receptor antagonists also prevented the induction of interneuron LTD. Furthermore, in brain slices from transgenic mice lacking TRPV1 receptors, LTD was absent and neither capsaicin nor 12-(S)-HPETE elicited synaptic depression. Our results suggest that TRPV1 channel activation represents a novel mechanism capable of selectively modifying synapses onto hippocampal interneurons. Like other forms of synaptic plasticity, TRPV1-mediated LTD may have a role in long-term changes in the physiological and pathological behavior of neural circuits during learning and epileptic activity.
PMCID: PMC2698707  PMID: 18341994
6.  Flexibility in assessment of prey cues: frog-eating bats and frog calls 
Predators use cues associated with their prey to assess prey quality and to avoid consuming poisonous prey. Considerable attention has been given to predators' use of aposematic cues to assess prey quality, but little is known about predators that eavesdrop on prey cues that are not intended for them. Here we investigate the prey-cue/prey-quality associations of a predator that eavesdrops on the sexual advertisement signals of its prey. Stability is expected in prey-cue/prey-quality associations when mistakes in prey assessment are lethal. Conversely, flexibility is possible when mistakes are less costly. Predators that must respond to temporal and spatial fluctuations in prey availability should be more flexible in their assessment of prey quality. Given these predictions, we examined flexibility in the ability of wild-caught bats to reverse prey-cue/prey-quality associations for a preferred prey and a poisonous one. We found that the predatory bat, Trachops cirrhosus, has a heretofore undescribed ability to reverse its evaluations of the cues that signal preferred prey.
PMCID: PMC1599868  PMID: 15888417
behavioural flexibility; predator–prey interactions; reversal learning; eavesdropping; Trachops cirrhosus; Physalaemus pustulosus

Results 1-6 (6)