In many ecological situations, resources are difficult to find but become more apparent to nearby searchers after one of their numbers discovers and begins to exploit them. If the discoverer cannot monopolize the resources, then others may benefit from joining the discoverer and sharing their discovery. Existing theories for this type of conspecific attraction have often used very simple rules for how the decision to join a discovered resource patch should be influenced by the number of individuals already exploiting that patch. We use a mechanistic, spatially explicit model to demonstrate that individuals should not necessarily simply join patches more often as the number of individuals exploiting the patch increases, because those patches are likely to be exhausted soon or joining them will intensify future local competition. Furthermore, we show that this decision should be sensitive to the nature of the resource patches, with individuals being more responsive to discoveries in general and more tolerant of larger numbers of existing exploiters on a patch when patches are resource-rich and challenging to locate alone. As such, we argue that this greater focus on underlying joining mechanisms suggests that conspecific attraction is a more sophisticated and flexible tactic than currently appreciated.
conspecific attraction; genetic algorithm; population size; spatial resource heterogeneity
Cooperative breeding is not common in birds but intriguingly over-represented in several families, suggesting that predisposing factors, similar ecological constraints or a combination of the two facilitate the evolution of this breeding strategy. The life-history hypothesis proposes that cooperative breeding is facilitated by high annual survival, which increases the local population and leads to a shortage of breeding opportunities. Clutch size in cooperative breeders is also expected to be smaller. An earlier comparative analysis in a small sample of birds supported the hypothesis but this conclusion has been controversial. Here, I extend the analysis to a larger, worldwide sample and take into account potential confounding factors that may affect estimates of a slow pace of life and clutch size. In a sample of 81 species pairs consisting of closely related cooperative and non-cooperative breeders, I did not find an association between maximum longevity and cooperative breeding, controlling for diet, body mass and sampling effort. However, in a smaller sample of 37 pairs, adult annual survival was indeed higher in the cooperative breeders, controlling for body mass. There was no association between clutch size and cooperative breeding in a sample of 93 pairs. The results support the facilitating effect of high annual survival on the evolution of cooperative breeding in birds but the effect on clutch size remains elusive.
birds; cooperative breeding; lifespan; life history
Due to loss and degradation of natural wetlands, waterbirds increasingly rely on surrounding human-dominated habitats to obtain food. Quantifying vigilance patterns, investigating the trade-off among various activities, and examining the underlying mechanisms will help us understand how waterbirds adapt to human-caused disturbances. During two successive winters (November-February of 2012–13 and 2013–14), we studied the hooded crane, Grus monacha, in the Shengjin Lake National Nature Reserve (NNR), China, to investigate how the species responds to human disturbances through vigilance and activity time-budget adjustments. Our results showed striking differences in the behavior of the cranes when foraging in the highly disturbed rice paddy fields found in the buffer zone compared with the degraded natural wetlands in the core area of the NNR. Time spent vigilant decreased with flock size and cranes spent more time vigilant in the human-dominated buffer zone. In the rice paddy fields, the birds were more vigilant but also fed more at the expense of locomotion and maintenance activities. Adult cranes spent more time vigilant and foraged less than juveniles. We recommend habitat recovery in natural wetlands and community co-management in the surrounding human-dominated landscape for conservation of the hooded crane and, generally, for the vast numbers of migratory waterbirds wintering in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River floodplain.
Foraging in groups provides many benefits that are not necessarily experienced the same way by all individuals. I explore the possibility that foraging mode, the way individuals exploit resources, varies as a function of spatial position in the group, reflecting commonly occurring spatial differences in predation risk. I show that semipalmated sandpipers (Calidris pusilla), a social foraging avian species, tended to adopt a riskier foraging mode in the central, more protected areas of their groups. Central birds effectively used the more peripheral group members as sentinels, allowing them to exploit a wider range of resources within the same group at the same time. This finding provides a novel benefit of living in groups, which may have a broad relevance given that social foraging species often exploit a large array of resources.
antipredator vigilance; semipalmated sandpipers; social foraging; spatial position
It has been suggested that increasing biodiversity, specifically host diversity, reduces pathogen and parasite transmission amongst wildlife (causing a “dilution effect”), whereby transmission amongst efficient reservoir hosts, (e.g. Peromyscus spp. mice for the agent of Lyme disease Borrelia burgdorferi) is reduced by the presence of other less efficient host species. If so, then increasing biodiversity should inhibit pathogen and parasite invasion.
We investigated this hypothesis by studying invasion of B. burgdorferi and its tick vector Ixodes scapularis in 71 field sites in southeastern Canada. Indices of trapped rodent host diversity, and of biodiversity of the wider community, were investigated as variables explaining the numbers of I. scapularis collected and B. burgdorferi infection in these ticks. A wide range of alternative environmental explanatory variables were also considered.
The observation of low I. scapularis abundance and low B. burgdorferi infection prevalence in sites where I. scapularis were detected was consistent with early-stage invasion of the vector. There were significant associations between the abundance of ticks and season, year of study and ambient temperature. Abundance of host-seeking larvae was significantly associated with deer density, and abundance of host-seeking larvae and nymphs were positively associated with litter layer depth. Larval host infestations were lower where the relative proportion of non-Peromyscus spp. was high. Infestations of hosts with nymphs were lower when host species richness was higher, but overall nymphal abundance increased with species richness because Peromyscus spp. mouse abundance and host species richness were positively correlated. Nymphal infestations of hosts were lower where tree species richness was higher. B. burgdorferi infection prevalence in ticks varied significantly with an index of rates of migratory bird-borne vector and pathogen invasion.
I. scapularis abundance and B. burgdorferi prevalence varied with explanatory variables in patterns consistent with the known biology of these species in general, and in the study region in particular. The evidence for a negative effect of host biodiversity on I. scapularis invasion was mixed. However, some evidence suggests that community biodiversity beyond just host diversity may have direct or indirect inhibitory effects on parasite invasion that warrant further study.
Ixodes scapularis; Borrelia burgdorferi; Lyme; Host; Biodiversity; Invasion
The objective of this study was to estimate the prevalence of mycoplasma, Staphylococcus aureus, and Streptococcus agalactiae in bulk tank milk (BTM) in Québec dairy herds. BTM was sampled 3 times a month in 117 randomly selected dairy herds. Samples were submitted for S. aureus, S. agalactiae, and mycoplasma and for direct mycoplasma detection by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Mycoplasma spp. was identified at least once in 3 herds (2.6%) by primary culture and/or PCR and in 4 herds (3.4%) by enrichment culture and/or PCR. Staphylococcus aureus was isolated at least once in 99 (84.6%) and 112 (95.7%) herds in primary culture and after enrichment, respectively. Streptococcus agalactiae was isolated at least once in 9 (7.7%) and 10 (8.6%) herds in primary culture and after enrichment, respectively. Herd prevalence of mycoplasma was similar to that previously reported in Canada. Staphylococcus aureus is still by far the most important contagious mastitis pathogen.
How individuals migrate over long distances is an enduring mystery of animal migration. Strong selection pressure for travelling in groups has been suggested in long-distance migrating species. Travelling in groups can reduce the energetic demands of long migration, increase navigational accuracy and favour group foraging at migratory halts. Nevertheless, this hypothesis has received scant attention. I examined evolutionary transitions in migration distance in all North American breeding species of birds. I documented 72 evolutionary shifts in migration distance in the pool of 409 species. In contrasting clades, long-distance migration, as opposed to short-distance migration, was associated with a larger travelling group size. No other transitions occurred alongside in other traits such as group size in the non-breeding season or body mass. The results suggest that larger group sizes have been beneficial in the evolution of long-distance migration in a large clade of birds.
birds; flight formation; group size; migration; navigation accuracy
Neutrophils are generally considered less responsive to glucocorticoids compared to other inflammatory cells. The reported increase in human neutrophil survival mediated by these drugs partly supports this assertion. However, it was recently shown that dexamethasone exerts potent anti-inflammatory effects in equine peripheral blood neutrophils. Few comparative studies of glucocorticoid effects in neutrophils and other leukocytes have been reported and a relative insensitivity of neutrophils to these drugs could not be ruled out.
We assessed glucocorticoid-responsiveness in equine and human peripheral blood neutrophils and neutrophil-depleted leukocytes.
Blood neutrophils and neutrophil-depleted leukocytes were isolated from 6 healthy horses and 4 human healthy subjects. Cells were incubated for 5 h with or without LPS (100 ng/mL) alone or combined with hydrocortisone, prednisolone or dexamethasone (10−8 M and 10−6 M). IL-1β, TNF-α, IL-8, glutamine synthetase and GR-α mRNA expression was quantified by qPCR. Equine neutrophils were also incubated for 20 h with or without the three glucocorticoids and cell survival was assessed by flow cytometry and light microscopy on cytospin preparations.
We found that glucocorticoids down-regulated LPS-induced pro-inflammatory mRNA expression in both cell populations and species. These drugs also significantly increased glutamine synthetase gene expression in both equine cell populations. The magnitude of glucocorticoid response between cell populations was generally similar in both species. We also showed that dexamethasone had a comparable inhibitory effect on pro-inflammatory gene expression in both human and equine neutrophils. As reported in other species, glucocorticoids significantly increase the survival in equine neutrophils.
Glucocorticoids exert genomic effects of similar magnitude on neutrophils and on other blood leukocytes. We speculate that the poor response to glucocorticoids observed in some chronic neutrophilic diseases such as severe asthma or COPD is not explained by a relative lack of inhibition of these drugs on pro-inflammatory cytokines expression in neutrophils.
The purposes of this retrospective study were to assess the prevalence of gallbladder sludge (GBS) in a population of cats presented for abdominal ultrasound in a teaching hospital and to determine its association with increased serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), and total bilirubin (TB). Gallbladder sludge was detected in 152 (14%) of the cats undergoing abdominal ultrasound between 2004 and 2008. This population was compared to a control group of 32 cats without GBS. Alanine aminotransferase, ALP, and TB mean values were significantly higher in cats with GBS than in controls (P ≤ 0.0005) and odds for increased values in cats with GBS were 4.2 [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.6 to 11.0], 9.5 (95% CI: 2.2 to 41.7), and 4.1 (95% CI: 1.5 to 11.5), respectively (P ≤ 0.007). In conclusion, GBS is an uncommon ultrasonographic finding in cats that is predictive of increased liver enzymes and TB. More studies are needed to establish potential links between GBS and hepatobiliary disease in cats.
Quantifying vigilance and exploring the underlying mechanisms has been the subject of numerous studies. Less attention has focused on the complex interplay between contributing factors such as reproductive status, social rank, sex and group size. Reproductive status and social rank are of particular interest due to their association with mating behavior. Mating activities in rutting season may interfere with typical patterns of vigilance and possibly interact with social rank. In addition, balancing the tradeoff between vigilance and life maintenance may represent a challenge for gregarious ungulate species rutting under harsh winter conditions. We studied vigilance patterns in the endangered Przewalski's gazelle (Procapra przewalskii) during both the rutting and non-rutting seasons to examine these issues.
Field observations were carried out with focal sampling during rutting and non-rutting season in 2008–2009. Results indicated a complex interplay between reproductive status, social rank, sex and group size in determining vigilance in this species. Vigilance decreased with group size in female but not in male gazelles. Males scanned more frequently and thus spent more time vigilant than females. Compared to non-rutting season, gazelles increased time spent scanning at the expense of bedding in rutting season. During the rutting season, territorial males spent a large proportion of time on rutting activities and were less vigilant than non-territorial males. Although territorial males may share collective risk detection with harem females, we suggest that they are probably more vulnerable to predation because they seemed reluctant to leave rut stands under threats.
Vigilance behavior in Przewalski's gazelle was significantly affected by reproductive status, social rank, sex, group size and their complex interactions. These findings shed light on the mechanisms underlying vigilance patterns and the tradeoff between vigilance and other crucial activities.
Much of the previous research on anti-predation vigilance in groups has assumed independent scanning for threats among group members. Alternative patterns that are based on monitoring the vigilance levels of companions can also be adaptive. Coordination of vigilance, in which foragers avoid scanning at the same time as others, should decrease the odds that no group member is alert. Synchronisation of vigilance implies that individuals are more likely to be vigilant when companions are already vigilant. While synchronisation will increase the odds that no one is vigilant, it may allow a better assessment of potential threats. We investigated temporal sequences of vigilance in family flocks consisting of two parents and at most two juveniles in two species of cranes in coastal China. We established whether the observed probability that at least one parent is alert was greater (coordination) or lower (synchronisation) than that predicted under the null hypothesis of independent vigilance. We documented coordination of vigilance in common cranes (Grus grus) foraging in an area with high potential for disturbance by people. We documented synchronisation of vigilance in red-crowned cranes (Grus japonensis) in the less but not in the more disturbed area. Coordination in small flocks leads to high collective vigilance but low foraging rates that may not be suitable in areas with low disturbance. We also argue that synchronisation should break down in areas with high disturbance because periods with low vigilance are riskier. Results highlight the view that temporal patterns of vigilance can take many forms depending on ecological factors.
Disentangling the relative contribution of predation avoidance and increased foraging efficiency in the evolution of sociality in animals has proven difficult given that the two types of benefits often operate concurrently. I identified different types of refuges from predation in birds related to morphological and ecological traits, providing an opportunity to examine concomitant changes in sociality over evolutionary times. Results of a matched-species comparative analysis indicated a reduction in the size of foraging or non-foraging groups but not complete disappearance under negligible predation risk. The results suggest that while predation avoidance is an important component in the evolution of sociality in birds, it is most probably not acting alone but rather in conjunction with other benefits such as increased foraging efficiency.
birds; group size; predation risk; relaxed selection; sociality
The aim of this prospective, randomized, controlled, double-blind study was to evaluate the effects of tiludronate (TLN), a bisphosphonate, on structural, biochemical and molecular changes and function in an experimental dog model of osteoarthritis (OA).
Baseline values were established the week preceding surgical transection of the right cranial/anterior cruciate ligament, with eight dogs serving as OA placebo controls and eight others receiving four TLN injections (2 mg/kg subcutaneously) at two-week intervals starting the day of surgery for eight weeks. At baseline, Week 4 and Week 8, the functional outcome was evaluated using kinetic gait analysis, telemetered locomotor actimetry and video-automated behaviour capture. Pain impairment was assessed using a composite numerical rating scale (NRS), a visual analog scale, and electrodermal activity (EDA). At necropsy (Week 8), macroscopic and histomorphological analyses of synovium, cartilage and subchondral bone of the femoral condyles and tibial plateaus were assessed. Immunohistochemistry of cartilage (matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-1, MMP-13, and a disintegrin and metalloproteinase domain with thrombospondin motifs (ADAMTS5)) and subchondral bone (cathepsin K) was performed. Synovial fluid was analyzed for inflammatory (PGE2 and nitrite/nitrate levels) biomarkers. Statistical analyses (mixed and generalized linear models) were performed with an α-threshold of 0.05.
A better functional outcome was observed in TLN dogs than OA placebo controls. Hence, TLN dogs had lower gait disability (P = 0.04 at Week 8) and NRS score (P = 0.03, group effect), and demonstrated behaviours of painless condition with the video-capture (P < 0.04). Dogs treated with TLN demonstrated a trend toward improved actimetry and less pain according to EDA. Macroscopically, both groups had similar level of morphometric lesions, TLN-treated dogs having less joint effusion (P = 0.01), reduced synovial fluid levels of PGE2 (P = 0.02), nitrites/nitrates (P = 0.01), lower synovitis score (P < 0.01) and a greater subchondral bone surface (P < 0.01). Immunohistochemical staining revealed lower levels in TLN-treated dogs of MMP-13 (P = 0.02), ADAMTS5 (P = 0.02) in cartilage and cathepsin K (P = 0.02) in subchondral bone.
Tiludronate treatment demonstrated a positive effect on gait disability and joint symptoms. This is likely related to the positive influence of the treatment at improving some OA structural changes and reducing the synthesis of catabolic and inflammatory mediators.
Group-foraging is common in many animal taxa and is thought to offer protection against predators and greater foraging efficiency. Such benefits may have driven evolutionary transitions from solitary to group-foraging. Greater protection against predators and greater access to resources should reduce extrinsic sources of mortality and thus select for higher longevity according to life-history theory. I assessed the association between group-foraging and longevity in a sample of 421 North American birds. Taking into account known correlates of longevity, such as age at first reproduction and body mass, foraging group size was not correlated with maximum longevity, with and without phylogenetic correction. However, longevity increased with body mass in non-passerine birds. The results suggest that the hypothesized changes in predation risk with group size may not correlate with mortality rate in foraging birds.
body mass; group size; foraging; independent contrasts; maximum longevity; passerine versus non-passerine bird
Individuals in groups are often thought to scan their surroundings for threats independently of one another. Models, however, suggest that foragers should monitor the vigilance level of their neighbours to prevent cheating, and to gather information about incipient predation risk. Evidence for monitoring of vigilance is scant. Here, I examined changes in vigilance levels in sleeping gulls (Larus sp.) surrounded by neighbours in various states of alertness. Controlling for group size and neighbour density, gulls interrupted sleep more often to scan their surroundings, and were therefore more vigilant, when their neighbours were alert rather than sleeping or preening. The results provide evidence for copying of vigilance within groups of birds, suggesting a complex flow of information about predation risk in groups.
anti-predator vigilance; group size; gulls; Larus sp.; sleep; visual monitoring
Anti-predator benefits increase with vigilance rate and group size in many species of animal, while simultaneously resource intake rates usually decrease. This implies that there is an optimal group size and vigilance rate that will maximize individual fitness. While this basic theory of vigilance has been modelled and tested extensively, it has often been assumed that the predator represents a ‘fixed-risk’ such that groups of prey are essentially independent entities that exert little or no effect on one another either directly or indirectly. We argue that this is an over-simplification, and propose that the behaviour of one group of prey will likely affect the fitness of another local group of prey if the predator preferentially attacks the most vulnerable group—rather than attack both with constant rates. Using a numerical simulation model, we make the first examination of this game and allow the prey to dynamically evolve both optimal group size distributions between two habitats and vigilance rates in response to a predator with a preference for whichever group is the more vulnerable. We show that the density of prey in the population and the sensitivity of a predator to differences in prey vulnerability are likely to drive the dynamics of such a game. This novel approach to vigilance theory opens the door to several challenging lines of future research, both experimental and theoretical.
simulation model; vigilance; game dynamics; group size
Adaptive hypotheses for the evolution of flocking in birds have usually focused on predation avoidance or foraging enhancement. It still remains unclear to what extent each factor has contributed to the evolution of flocking. If predation avoidance were the sole factor involved, flocking should not be prevalent when predation is relaxed. I examined flocking tendencies along with mean and maximum flock size in species living on islands where predation risk is either absent or negligible and then compared these results with matched counterparts on the mainland. The dataset consisted of 46 pairs of species from 22 different islands across the world. The tendency to flock was retained on islands in most species, but in pairs with dissimilar flocking tendencies, island species were less likely to flock. Mean and maximum flock size were smaller on islands than on the mainland. Potential confounding factors such as population density, nest predation, habitat type, food type and body mass failed to account for the results. The results suggest that predation is a significant factor in the evolution of flocking in birds. Nevertheless, predation and other factors, such as foraging enhancement, probably act together to maintain the trait in most species.
A randomized clinical trial was conducted to compare the humoral immune response to 3 different commercial vaccines in dairy heifers housed in 3 different dairy farms in Quebec. All heifers were seronegative to type 1 bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) (Singer strain), type 2 BVDV (NVSL 125c strain), and bovine herpesvirus-1 (BHV-1) at the beginning of the trial. In addition, control heifers in group 1 remained seronegative to the 2 viruses till the end of the trial. Significant differences in humoral immune responses occurred among the 3 commercial vaccines at 4 weeks and 6 months following vaccination. The vaccine in group 2 elicited higher mean antibody titers and seroconversion rates to both type 1 and type 2 BVDV than that in groups 3 or 4. Vaccines in groups 2 and 3 induced higher mean antibody titers to BHV-1 than did the vaccine in group 4.
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of the administration of meloxicam; carprofen; and a slow-acting disease modifying osteoarthritis agent, that contains chondroitin sulfate, purified glucosamine, and manganese ascorbate (CS-G-M), on thyroid function in dogs. Forty-six healthy (except for osteoarthritis) euthyroid dogs were blindly assigned to 3 treatment groups: meloxicam, carprofen, and CS-G-M. Each group received the recommended dose of the drug for 60 days. Sixteen other osteoarthritic euthyroid dogs, which received a placebo, were used as a control group to validate the study. For all groups, blood samples were collected on days 0, 30, and 60 to evaluate the serum total and free thyroxine, and endogenous thyrotropin concentrations. There were no significant differences among the treatment groups at each time or within each group over a 60-day period for all parameters. Moreover, none of these values were within the hypothyroid range. Based on the results of this study, the administration of meloxicam, carprofen, and CS-G-M did not affect canine thyroid function evaluation.