Following the 1986 Chernobyl accident, 116,000 people were permanently evacuated from the 4,200 km(2) Chernobyl exclusion zone . There is continuing scientific and public debate surrounding the fate of wildlife that remained in the abandoned area. Several previous studies of the Chernobyl exclusion zone (e.g. [2,3]) indicated major radiation effects and pronounced reductions in wildlife populations at dose rates well below those thought [4,5] to cause significant impacts. In contrast, our long-term empirical data showed no evidence of a negative influence of radiation on mammal abundance. Relative abundances of elk, roe deer, red deer and wild boar within the Chernobyl exclusion zone are similar to those in four (uncontaminated) nature reserves in the region and wolf abundance is more than 7 times higher. Additionally, our earlier helicopter survey data show rising trends in elk, roe deer and wild boar abundances from one to ten years post-accident. These results demonstrate for the first time that, regardless of potential radiation effects on individual animals, the Chernobyl exclusion zone supports an abundant mammal community after nearly three decades of chronic radiation exposures.
The attire of the Tyrolean Iceman, a 5,300-year-old natural mummy from the Ötzal Italian Alps, provides a surviving example of ancient manufacturing technologies. Research into his garments has however, been limited by ambiguity surrounding their source species. Here we present a targeted enrichment and sequencing of full mitochondrial genomes sampled from his clothes and quiver, which elucidates the species of production for nine fragments. Results indicate that the majority of the samples originate from domestic ungulate species (cattle, sheep and goat), whose recovered haplogroups are now at high frequency in today’s domestic populations. Intriguingly, the hat and quiver samples were produced from wild species, brown bear and roe deer respectively. Combined, these results suggest that Copper Age populations made considered choices of clothing material from both the wild and domestic populations available to them. Moreover, these results show the potential for the recovery of complete mitochondrial genomes from degraded prehistoric artefacts.
The effect of anthropogenic noise on terrestrial wildlife is a relatively new area of study with broad ranging management implications. Noise has been identified as a disturbance that has the potential to induce behavioral responses in animals similar to those associated with predation risk. This study investigated potential impacts of a variety of human activities and their associated noise on the behavior of elk (Cervus elaphus) and pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) along a transportation corridor in Grand Teton National Park.
Schmallenberg virus was detected in cattle and sheep in northwestern Europe in 2011. To determine whether wild ruminants are also susceptible, we measured antibody seroprevalence in cervids (roe deer and red deer) in Belgium in 2010 and 2011. Findings indicated rapid spread among these deer since virus emergence ≈250 km away.
The cranial arterial pattern of artiodactyls deviates significantly from the typical mammalian pattern. One of the most striking atypical features is the rete mirabile epidurale: a subdural arterial meshwork that functionally and anatomically replaces the arteria carotis interna. This meshwork facilitates an exceptional ability to cool the brain, and was thought to be present in all artiodactyls. Recent research, however, has found that species of mouse deer (Artiodactyla: Tragulidae) endemic to the Malay Archipelago possess a complete a. carotis interna instead of a rete mirabile epidurale. As tragulids are the sister group to pecoran ruminants, the lack of a rete mirabile epidurale in these species raises intriguing evolutionary questions about the origin and nature of artiodactyl thermoregulatory cranial vasculature. In this study, cranial arterial patterns are documented for the remaining species within the Tragulidae. Radiopaque latex vascular injection, computed tomography (CT-scanning), and digital 3-dimensional anatomical reconstruction are used to image the cranial arteries of a Sri Lankan spotted chevrotain, Moschiola meminna. Sites of hard and soft tissue interaction were identified, and these osteological correlates were then sought in nine skulls representative of the remaining tragulid species. Both hard and soft tissue surveys confirm that the presence of an a. carotis interna is the common condition for tragulids. Moreover, the use of a 3-D, radiographic anatomical imaging technique enabled identification of a carotico-maxillary anastomosis that may have implications for the evolution of the artiodactyl rete mirabile epidurale.
Courtship behaviours, frequent among modern insects, have left extremely rare fossil traces. None are known previously for fossil odonatans. Fossil traces of such behaviours are better known among the vertebrates, e.g. the hypertelic antlers of the Pleistocene giant deer Megaloceros giganteus. Here we describe spectacular extremely expanded, pod-like tibiae in males of a platycnemidid damselfly from mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber. Such structures in modern damselflies, help to fend off other suitors as well as attract mating females, increasing the chances of successful mating. Modern Platycnemidinae and Chlorocyphidae convergently acquired similar but less developed structures. The new findings provide suggestive evidence of damselfly courtship behaviour as far back as the mid-Cretaceous. These data show an unexpected morphological disparity in dancing damselfly leg structure, and shed new light on mechanisms of sexual selection involving intra- and intersex reproductive competition during the Cretaceous.
Twentieth century warming has increased vegetation productivity and shrub cover across northern tundra and treeline regions, but effects on terrestrial wildlife have not been demonstrated on a comparable scale. During this period, Alaskan moose (Alces alces gigas) extended their range from the boreal forest into tundra riparian shrub habitat; similar extensions have been observed in Canada (A. a. andersoni) and Eurasia (A. a. alces). Northern moose distribution is thought to be limited by forage availability above the snow in late winter, so the observed increase in shrub habitat could be causing the northward moose establishment, but a previous hypothesis suggested that hunting cessation triggered moose establishment. Here, we use recent changes in shrub cover and empirical relationships between shrub height and growing season temperature to estimate available moose habitat in Arctic Alaska c. 1860. We estimate that riparian shrubs were approximately 1.1 m tall c. 1860, greatly reducing the available forage above the snowpack, compared to 2 m tall in 2009. We believe that increases in riparian shrub habitat after 1860 allowed moose to colonize tundra regions of Alaska hundreds of kilometers north and west of previous distribution limits. The northern shift in the distribution of moose, like that of snowshoe hares, has been in response to the spread of their shrub habitat in the Arctic, but at the same time, herbivores have likely had pronounced impacts on the structure and function of these shrub communities. These northward range shifts are a bellwether for other boreal species and their associated predators.
Interspecies sexual behaviour or ‘reproductive interference’ has been reported across a wide range of animal taxa. However, most of these occurrences were observed in phylogenetically close species and were mainly discussed in terms of their effect on fitness, hybridization and species survival. The few cases of heterospecific mating in distant species occurred between animals that were bred and maintained in captivity. Only one scientific study has reported this phenomenon, describing sexual harassment of king penguins by an Antarctic fur seal. This is the first article to report mating behaviour between a male Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata yakui) and female sika deer (Cervus nippon yakushimae) on Yakushima Island, Japan. Although Japanese macaques are known to ride deer, this individual showed clearly sexual behaviour towards several female deer, some of which tried to escape whilst others accepted the mount. This male seems to belong to a group of peripheral males. Although this phenomenon may be explained as copulation learning, this is highly unlikely. The most realistic hypothesis would be that of mate deprivation, which states that males with limited access to females are more likely to display this behaviour. Whatever the cause for this event may be, the observation of highly unusual animal behaviour may be a key to understanding the evolution of heterospecific mating behaviour in the animal kingdom.
Understanding population and individual-level behavioral responses of large carnivores to human disturbance is important for conserving top predators in fragmented landscapes. However, previous research has not investigated resource selection at predation sites of mountain lions in highly urbanized areas. We quantified selection of natural and anthropogenic landscape features by mountain lions at sites where they consumed their primary prey, mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), in and adjacent to urban, suburban, and rural areas in greater Los Angeles. We documented intersexual and individual-level variation in the environmental conditions present at mule deer feeding sites relative to their availability across home ranges. Males selected riparian woodlands and areas closer to water more than females, whereas females selected developed areas marginally more than males. Females fed on mule deer closer to developed areas and farther from riparian woodlands than expected based on the availability of these features across their home ranges. We suggest that mortality risk for females and their offspring associated with encounters with males may have influenced the different resource selection patterns between sexes. Males appeared to select mule deer feeding sites mainly in response to natural landscape features, while females may have made kills closer to developed areas in part because these are alternative sites where deer are abundant. Individual mountain lions of both sexes selected developed areas more strongly within home ranges where development occurred less frequently. Thus, areas near development may represent a trade-off for mountain lions such that they may benefit from foraging near development because of abundant prey, but as the landscape becomes highly urbanized these benefits may be outweighed by human disturbance.
The expansion of moose into southern British Columbia caused the decline and extirpation of woodland caribou due to their shared predators, a process commonly referred to as apparent competition. Using an adaptive management experiment, we tested the hypothesis that reducing moose to historic levels would reduce apparent competition and therefor recover caribou populations. Nested within this broad hypothesis were three specific hypotheses: (1) sport hunting could be used to substantially reduce moose numbers to an ecological target; (2) wolves in this ecosystem were primarily limited by moose abundance; and (3) caribou were limited by wolf predation. These hypotheses were evaluated with a before-after control-impact (BACI) design that included response metrics such as population trends and vital rates of caribou, moose, and wolves. Three caribou subpopulations were subject to the moose reduction treatment and two were in a reference area where moose were not reduced. When the moose harvest was increased, the moose population declined substantially in the treatment area (by 70%) but not the reference area, suggesting that the policy had the desired effect and was not caused by a broader climatic process. Wolf numbers subsequently declined in the treatment area, with wolf dispersal rates 2.5× greater, meaning that dispersal was the likely mechanism behind the wolf numerical response, though reduced recruitment and starvation was also documented in the treatment area. Caribou adult survival increased from 0.78 to 0.88 in the treatment area, but declined in the reference. Caribou recruitment was unaffected by the treatment. The largest caribou subpopulation stabilized in the treatment area, but declined in the reference area. The observed population stability is comparable to other studies that used intensive wolf control, but is insufficient to achieve recovery, suggesting that multiple limiting factors and corresponding management tools must be addressed simultaneously to achieve population growth.