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Concept: Alectoris


This report describes the results of radiological, histological and molecular examination of three farm-reared red-legged partridges (Alectoris rufa) affected by candidiasis.

Concepts: Candidiasis, Phasianidae, Partridge, Alectoris, Red-legged Partridge


Animal coloration is key in natural and sexual selection, playing significant roles in intra- and interspecific communication because of its linkage to individual behaviour, genetics and physiology. Simple animal traits such as the area or the colour intensity of homogeneous patches have been profusely studied. More complex patterns are widespread in nature, but they escape our understanding because their variation is difficult to capture effectively by standard, simple measures. Here, we used fractal geometry to quantify inter-individual variation in the expression of a complex plumage trait, the heterogeneous black bib of the red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa). We show that a higher bib fractal dimension (FD) predicted better individual body condition, as well as immune responsiveness, which is condition-dependent in our study species. Moreover, when food intake was experimentally reduced during moult as a means to reduce body condition, the bib’s FD significantly decreased. Fractal geometry therefore provides new opportunities for the study of complex animal colour patterns and their roles in animal communication.

Concepts: Mathematics, Chaos theory, Animal, Bird, Fractal, Partridge, Alectoris, Red-legged Partridge


The rock partridge, Alectoris graeca, is a polytypic species declining in Italy mostly due to anthropogenic causes, including the massive releases of the closely related allochthonous chukar partridge Alectoris chukar which produced the formation of hybrids. Molecular approaches are fundamental for the identification of evolutionary units in the perspective of conservation and management, and to correctly select individuals to be used in restocking campaigns. We analyzed a Cytochrome oxidase I (COI) fragment of contemporary and historical A. graeca and A. chukar samples, using duplicated analyses to confirm results and nuclear DNA microsatellites to exclude possible sample cross-contamination. In two contemporary specimens of A. graeca, collected from an anthropogenic hybrid zone, we found evidence of the presence of mtDNA heteroplasmy possibly associated to paternal leakage and suggesting hybridization with captive-bred exotic A. chukar. These results underline significant limitations in the reliability of mtDNA barcoding-based species identification and could have relevant evolutionary and ecological implications that should be accounted for when interpreting data aimed to support conservation actions.

Concepts: DNA, Mitochondrion, Mitochondrial DNA, Birds of Pakistan, Nuclear DNA, Partridge, Alectoris, Rock Partridge


The propagule pressure hypothesis asserts that the number of individuals released is the key determinant of whether an introduction will succeed or not. It remains to be shown whether propagule pressure is more important than either species-level or site-level factors in determining the fate of an introduction. Studies claiming to show that propagule pressure is the primary determinant of introduction success must assume that the historical record as reported by secondary sources is complete and accurate. Here, examine a widely introduced game bird, the Chukar (Alectoris chukar), to the USA. We compare the records reported by two secondary sources (Long, 1981; Lever, 1987) to those in a primary source (Christensen, 1970) and to a recent study by Sol et al. (2012). Numerous inconsistencies exist in the records reported by Sol et al. (2012), Long (1981) and Lever (1987) when compared to the primary record of Christensen (1970). As reported by Christensen (1970), very large numbers of Chukars were released unsuccessfully in some states. Our results strongly imply that factors other than sheer numbers are more important. Site-to-site differences are the most likely explanation for the variation in success.

Concepts: United States, Alectoris, Chukar Partridge, Game birds, Gorget


Pesticide coated seeds are commonly used in agriculture, and may be an important source of food for some birds in times of scarcity, as well as a route of pesticide ingestion. We tested the lethal and sub-lethal effects of treated seed ingestion by the red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa), a game bird of high socio-economic value in Spain. One year-old partridges (n = 42 pairs) were fed for 10 days in spring (prior to breeding) with wheat treated with difenoconazole (fungicide), thiram (fungicide) or imidacloprid (insecticide), using two doses for each pesticide (the one recommended, and its double to represent potential cases of abuse of pesticides). We investigated the direct and indirect effects on the body condition, physiology, immunology, coloration and subsequent reproduction of exposed partridges. For the latter, eggs were collected, measured and incubated and the growth and survival of chicks were monitored. Thiram and imidacloprid at high exposure doses produced mortalities of 41.6 and 58.3 %, respectively. The first death was observed at day 3 for imidacloprid and at day 7 for thiram. Both doses of the three pesticides caused sublethal effects, such as altered biochemical parameters, oxidative stress and reduced carotenoid-based coloration. The high exposure doses of imidacloprid and thiram also produced a decrease in cellular immune response measured by the phytohemagglutinin test in males. Bearing in mind the limitation of the small number of surviving pairs in some treatments, we found that the three pesticides reduced the size of eggs and imidacloprid and difenoconazole also reduced the fertilization rate. In addition, both thiram and imidacloprid reduced chick survival. These experiments highlight that the toxicity of pesticide-treated seeds is a factor to consider in the decline of birds in agricultural environments.

Concepts: Immune system, Humoral immunity, Bird, Insecticide, Cell-mediated immunity, Partridge, Alectoris, Red-legged Partridge


The red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa) is a competent host for West Nile virus (WNV) replication and highly susceptible to WNV disease. With the aim to assess in this species whether the inoculation of non-structural protein NS1 from WNV elicits a protective immune response against WNV infection, groups of partridges were inoculated with recombinant NS1 (NS1 group) or an unrelated recombinant protein (mock group), and challenged with infectious WNV. A third group received no inoculation prior to challenge (challenge group). The NS1 group failed to elicit detectable antibodies to NS1 while in the mock group a specific antibody response was observed. Moreover, no protection against WNV disease was observed in the NS1 group, but rather, it showed significantly higher viral RNA load and delayed neutralizing antibody response, and suffered a more severe clinical disease, which resulted in higher mortality. This adverse effect has not been observed before and warrants further investigations.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, DNA, Infection, Influenza, Partridge, Alectoris, Red-legged Partridge


Rotational deformities of the long bones affect various avian species. Tibiotarsal rotation may cause the leg to deviate up to 180° from the dorsoplantar axis in a matter of days, thus preventing the birds from walking freely and leading to the inability to stand. In this study, tibiotarsal rotation observed in pigeons and partridges was managed by creating a closed fracture in the tibiotarsus and then, following reduction, stabilizing it with an intramedullary tie-in Type 2 external skeletal fixation system. Functional healing was achieved in 12 pigeons (Columba livia domestica; mean healing time, 38 days) and 7 partridges (Alectoris chukar; mean healing time, 40 days). This treatment was successful. In small bird species (<1 kg), this simple and inexpensive surgical intervention may provide a highly effective method for the treatment of rotational deformities.

Concepts: Bone, Bird, Columbidae, Rock Pigeon, Domestic Pigeon, Alectoris, Columba, Feral Pigeon


Flight is the defining characteristic of birds, yet the mechanisms through which flight ability develops are only beginning to be understood. Wing-assisted incline running (WAIR) and controlled flapping descent (CFD) are behaviors that may offer significant adaptive benefits to developing birds. Recent research into these forms of locomotion has focused on species with precocial development, with a particularly rich data set from chukar partridge (Alectoris chukar). Here we briefly review the kinematics and aerodynamics of flight development in this species. We then present novel measurements of the development of pectoralis contractile behavior during the ontogenetic transition toward powered flight. To obtain these new empirical data, we used indwelling electromyography (EMG) and sonomicrometry and tested WAIR and CFD in seven age classes of chukar (n = 2-4 birds per age) from 5 days post hatching (dph) to adult (300+ dph). For each age class, we measured muscle activity during maximal performance, which was WAIR at 65° in birds 5 dph, CFD in birds 9 dph, WAIR at 80° in birds 14 dph, level flight in birds 25-61 dph, and ascending flight in adults. We also measured muscle activity during sub-maximal performance in all age classes. Flapping chukar chicks use near-continuous activation of their pectoralis at relatively low electromyography amplitudes for the first 8 days and progress to stereotypic higher-amplitude activation bursts by Day 12. The pectoralis undergoes increasing strain at higher strain rates with age, and length trajectory becomes more asymmetrical with greater variation in contractile velocity within the shortening phase of individual contractions. At 20-25 days (12-15% adult chukar mass), pectoralis activity and locomotor performance approaches that of adults, although strain rate exhibits a temporary decrease at 61 dph concurrent with using newly-replaced primary feathers. To better understand how these patterns relate to the evolution of life-history strategy and locomotion, we encourage future efforts to explore these behaviors in altricial and semi-altricial bird species.

Concepts: Developmental biology, Bird, Electromyography, Alectoris, Chukar Partridge, Precocial, Gorget


To investigate the effect of two insect meals (from Hermetia illucens, HI and Tenebrio molitor, TM larvae) on productive performance and blood profiles of Barbary partridge, ninety, seven days old partridges were divided into 5 groups (6 replicates, 3 partridges/replicate). Up to 64d, the groups fed 5 isoproteic and isoenergetic diets: the control fed a corn-soybean meal diet (SBM group); in TM25 and TM50 groups the 25 and 50% of SBM proteins were substituted by the protein from TM, respectively; in HI25 and HI50 groups the 25 and 50% of SBM were substituted by the protein from HI, respectively. The birds fed TM25 and both the HI levels reached a higher (P<0.01) live weight at 64d than the control. Considering the entire experimental period the TM groups had a more favorable FCR than SBM. The carcass weights of all the insect groups were higher (P<0.01) than the control. The weight of the full digestive tract in SBM group was the highest (P<0.01). The caecal weight, the intestinal and caecal length were the highest (P<0.01) in the SBM group. The SBM group the highest value of albumin/globulin (P<0.01) and creatinine (P<0.05). TM seems to be more effective than HI in improving FCR. The reduced albumin/globulin ratio in the insect meal fed groups could be ascribed to the chitin content and this result was not affected by the amount of chitin intake, suggesting that also the lowest values are able to express their potential effects in partridges.

Concepts: Protein, Insect, Larva, Digestion, Weight, Partridge, Alectoris, Barbary Partridge


Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) have been detected in wild animals representing a public health concern. The red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa) is a common game bird and its meat is consumed in several countries, including Portugal. Three hundred five fecal samples of red-legged partridge from the north of Portugal were screened for VRE. Samples were cultured on Slanetz-Bartley agar supplemented with vancomycin (4 mg/L) and six vanA-Enterococcus faecium were recovered. Isolates were tested for antibiotic resistance and virulence genes. Multilocus sequence typing (MLST) was performed to study the genotypic diversity of vanA-containing E. faecium. The six isolates showed erythromycin resistance and harbored the erm(B) gene and the four that were tetracycline resistant showed the tet(M) gene. The C-terminal region of the pbp5 gene of the ampicillin-resistant isolates (minimal inhibitory concentration range of 256 μg/ml) was sequenced. Two different pbp5 alleles were detected when considering the changes of amino acid in 461-629 region. All isolates harbored the esp gene, whereas hyl, together with the esp gene, was detected in five isolates. MLST analysis grouped the isolates as ST448 (n = 1), ST139 (n = 1), and ST18 (n = 4). Our findings show that the red-legged partridges could be a reservoir of antimicrobial resistance genes and may contribute to the dissemination and transference of the resistance genes to other animals and humans.

Concepts: Gene, Evolution, Antibiotic resistance, Vancomycin, Enterococcus, Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus, Partridge, Alectoris