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Concept: European Beaver

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The Eurasian beaver is one of the largest rodents that, despite its high impact on the environment, is a non-model species that lacks a reference genome. Characterising genes critical for pregnancy outcome can serve as a basis for identifying mechanisms underlying effective reproduction, which is required for the success of endangered species conservation programs. In the present study, high-throughput RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) was used to analyse global changes in the Castor fiber subplacenta transcriptome during multiple pregnancy. De novo reconstruction of the C. fiber subplacenta transcriptome was used to identify genes that were differentially expressed in placentas (n=5) from two females (in advanced twin and triple pregnancy). Analyses of the expression values revealed 124 contigs with significantly different expression; of these, 55 genes were identified using MegaBLAST. Within this group of differentially expressed genes (DEGs), 18 were upregulated and 37 were downregulated in twins. Most DEGs were associated with the following gene ontology terms: cellular process, single organism process, response to stimulus, metabolic process and biological regulation. Some genes were also assigned to the developmental process, the reproductive process or reproduction. Among this group, four genes (namely keratin 19 (Krt19) and wingless-type MMTV integration site family - member 2 (Wnt2), which were downregulated in twins, and Nik-related kinase (Nrk) and gap junction protein β2 (Gjb2), which were upregulated in twins) were assigned to placental development and nine (Krt19, Wnt2 and integrin α7 (Itga7), downregulated in twins, and Nrk, gap junction protein β6 (Gjb6), GATA binding protein 6 (Gata6), apolipoprotein A-I (ApoA1), apolipoprotein B (ApoB) and haemoglobin subunit α1 (HbA1), upregulated in twins) were assigned to embryo development. The results of the present study indicate that the number of fetuses affects the expression profile in the C. fiber subplacental transcriptome. Enhancement of transcriptomic resources for C. fiber will improve understanding of the pathways relevant to proper placental development and successful reproduction.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Gene expression, Reproduction, Organism, RNA, European Beaver

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The European beaver (Castor fiber) is the largest seasonal free-living rodent in Eurasia. Since the physiology and endocrine system of this species remains unknown, the present study aimed to determine plasma leptin concentrations and the expression of the leptin gene and protein in the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPG and HPA) axes of beavers during breeding (April), postbreeding (July), and prebreeding (November) seasons. Leptin plasma concentrations did not change in females, whereas in males, leptin plasma concentrations were higher in July than those in April. The presence of leptin mRNA and protein was found in all examined tissues. In females, leptin mRNA expression in the hypothalamus, pituitary, ovaries, and myometrium was markedly higher in July than that in April. In males, leptin mRNA levels varied across the examined tissues of the HPG and HPA. Leptin synthesis increased in the hypothalamus during breeding and postbreeding seasons, but seasonal changes were not observed in the pituitary. In turn, testicular leptin levels were higher during breeding and prebreeding stages. Seasonal differences in the concentrations of leptin mRNA were also observed in the adrenal cortex. In males, leptin mRNA levels were higher in November than those in April or July. In females, leptin synthesis increased in the adrenal cortex during pregnancy relative to other seasons. This is the first ever study to demonstrate seasonal differences in leptin expression in beaver tissues, and our results could suggest that leptin is involved in the regulation of the HPG and HPA axes during various stages of the reproductive cycle in beavers.

Concepts: DNA, Reproduction, Transcription, Messenger RNA, Leptin, Endocrine system, Beaver, European Beaver

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There are many locations in Russia where Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) populations have been restored. As a keystone species, beavers provide wide-ranging direct and indirect impacts on aquatic ecosystems. In particular, beaver-created ponds are sites for spawning and nursery places for tadpoles of the brown frog (genus Rana). Because of such impacts, study techniques for assessing aquatic organisms abundance are being developed. We compared two methods for estimating tadpole abundance: traditional catches by dipnet and electrofishing. Our results show that the dipnet catch data of the shallower ponds with larger water surface area were five times lower than that obtained by electrofishing. Therefore, we conclude that dipnet catches are not suitable for comparing the relative abundance of tadpoles in the two beaver ponds that were studied. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Species, Beaver, Amphibian, Frog, Tadpole, European Beaver, Beavers, Keystone species

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Orexins are hypothalamic neuropeptides acting via two G protein-coupled receptors in mammals: orexin receptor 1 (OX1R) and orexin receptor 2 (OX2R). In European beavers, which are seasonally breeding animals, the presence and functions of orexins and their receptors remain unknown. Our study aimed to determine the expression of OXR mRNAs and the localization of OXR proteins in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal/gonadal (HPA/HPG) axes in free-living beavers. The expression of OXR genes (OX1R, OX2R) and proteins was found in all analysed tissues during three periods of beavers' reproductive cycle (April, July, November). The expression of OXR mRNAs in the beaver HPA axis varied seasonally (P<0.05). The levels of OX1R mRNA also differed between the sexes (P<0.05). In the mediobasal hypothalamus, OX1R transcript content increased in pregnant females in April (P<0.05) and OX2R expression increased in males in July (P<0.05). In the pituitary and adrenals, OX1R mRNA levels were relatively constant in females and peaked in July in males (P<0.05), whereas the OX2R was most highly expressed in males in November and in females in April (P<0.05). In gonads, OX1R expression did not fluctuate between seasons or sexes, but transcript levels were elevated in the testes in November and in the ovaries in July (P<0.05). In turn, OX2R mRNA levels varied between the sexes (P<0.05) and were higher in females (July and November) than in males (P<0.05). The circannual variations in OXR mRNA levels in HPA and HPG axes suggest that the expression of these receptors is associated with sex-specific changes in beavers' reproductive activity and their environmental adaptations.

Concepts: Protein, Hypothalamus, Male, Signal transduction, Female, Sex, Beaver, European Beaver

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The Scottish Beaver Trial, involving the translocation and release of 16 wild Norwegian beavers (Castor fiber) to Scotland, provides a good example of a ‘One Health’ scientific monitoring approach, with independent monitoring partners on ecology and public health feeding into veterinary health surveillance. Pathogen detection did not prohibit beaver release, although eight beavers were seropositive for Leptospira spp. Six deaths (37.5%) occurred during Rabies quarantine, followed by the death of two animals shortly after release and two wild-born kits due to suspected predation. Two host-specific parasites, the beaver fluke (Stichorchis subtriquetrus) and beaver beetle (Platypsyllus castoris) were also reintroduced.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Vaccination, Rodent, Beaver, Wildlife management, European Beaver, Beavers, London School of Economics

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The proximate composition of meat from young and mature European beaver and physicochemical properties during storage were investigated. The young beaver meat contains 20.52g of protein and 1.86g of fat in 100g, while mature animals 22.16g and 0.73g. Index of nutritional quality for protein ranged from 2.03 to 2.24. Storage had a greater impact on the physicochemical properties of beaver meat than animal age and muscle type. The meat of mature beavers was significantly (P<0.05) darker (L*=28.51) in comparison with young animals (L*=30.79) and contained significantly (P<0.01) more total pigments. However, the negative b* values (between -2.05 and -2.19) indicated a bluish tint on the surface of beaver meat. The significantly (P<0.05) lower drip loss and cooking loss showed semimembranosus (0.65% and 17.89%) compared to longissimus thoracis et lumborum muscle (0.84% and 19.58%). Significantly (P<0.01) lower values of TBARS, drip loss and cooking loss were determined in meat at 24h (0.15mgMDAkg(-1), 0.59% and 15.99%) in comparison with stored for 7days (0.46mgMDAkg(-1), 0.90% and 21.49%). Generally, storage for 7days improved meat water holding capacity and tenderness. W-B shear force and shear energy of beaver meat decreased from 51.4N and 0.21J at 24h to 33.2N and 0.11J at 7days.

Concepts: Nutrition, Force, Beaver, Norway, European Beaver, Beavers, Castoreum, Iliocostalis

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A new species of demodecid mite, Demodex castoris sp. nov. (Acari: Prostigmata: Demodecidae), is described based on adult stages from the skin of the nasal region of the Eurasian beaver Castor fiber Linnaeus, 1758, collected in Poland. This is the first detection of a representative demodecid mite in rodents of the suborder Castorimorpha and also represents the first detection of a skin mite in Eurasian beavers. The new species is a small skin mite (average 173 µm in length) characterized by sexual dimorphism related to body proportions. D. castoris sp. nov. was observed in 4 out of 6 beavers examined (66.6%), with a mean intensity of 10.8 and an intensity range of 2-23 ind. host-1. This paper also contains a checklist of parasitic arthropods known from Castor spp.

Concepts: Rodent, Beaver, Poland, Fauna of Finland, European Beaver, Beavers, Castoreum, Castoridae

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Between March 2012 and April 2014, we performed post-mortem parasitological examinations of 11 Eurasian beavers (Castor fiber Linnaeus, 1758) from the basins of four main rivers (Dyje, Labe, Morava, Vltava) in the Czech Republic. The cause of death of five adult animals was unknown, three adult animals died after being hit by cars, while one young and one adult as a result of serious injuries and one juvenile male drowned. The trematode Stichorchis subtriquetrus (Rudolphi, 1814) Lühe, 1909 was only found in the caecum body and caecum apex of nine beavers (82 %), with no significant differences in parasite intensity among beavers. The highest number of trematodes (271) occurred in an adult female in July 2013; while a range of 1-57 individuals were found in other positive beavers. S. subtriquetrus size in both parts of the caecum was 11.0-17.0 × 5.5-8.0 mm (mean 14.3 × 6.9 mm). Results demonstrated that for the optimal detection of eggs, it was necessary to examine at least 10 g of faeces with a new modified method of sedimentation. The size range of 30 eggs was 157.1-182.5 × 99.3-109.8 μm (mean 168.0 × 104.4 μm). There were no differences in prevalence and seasonal occurrence of S. subtriquetrus between male and female beavers. We did not find any other intestinal endoparasites or tissue parasites (Sarcocystis spp., Trichinella spp.).

Concepts: Death, Parasitism, Czech Republic, Beaver, Poland, Prague, European Beaver, Beavers

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Haematology parameters (N = 24) and serum biochemistry parameters (N = 35) were determined for wild Eurasian beavers (Castor fiber), between 6 months - 12 years old. Of the population tested in this study, N = 18 Eurasian beavers were from Norway and N = 17 originating from Bavaria but now living extensively in a reserve in England. All blood samples were collected from beavers via the ventral tail vein. All beavers were chemically restrained using inhalant isoflurane in 100% oxygen prior to blood sampling. Results were determined for haematological and serum biochemical parameters for the species and were compared between the two different populations with differences in means estimated and significant differences being noted. Standard blood parameters for the Eurasian beaver were determined and their ranges characterised using percentiles. Whilst the majority of blood parameters between the two populations showed no significant variation, haemoglobin, packed cell volume, mean cell haemoglobin and white blood cell counts showed significantly greater values (p<0.01) in the Bavarian origin population than the Norwegian; neutrophil counts, alpha 2 globulins, cholesterol, sodium: potassium ratios and phosphorus levels showed significantly (p<0.05) greater values in Bavarian versus Norwegian; and potassium, bile acids, gamma globulins, urea, creatinine and total calcium values levels showed significantly (p<0.05) greater values in Norwegian versus Bavarian relict populations. No significant differences were noted between male and female beavers or between sexually immature (<3 years old) and sexually mature (≥3 years old) beavers in the animals sampled. With Eurasian beaver reintroduction encouraged by legislation throughout Europe, knowledge of baseline blood values for the species and any variations therein is essential when assessing their health and welfare and the success or failure of any reintroduction program. This is the first study to produce base-line blood values and their variations for the Eurasian beaver.

Concepts: Blood, Red blood cell, Hematology, Blood plasma, Beaver, Norway, Complete blood count, European Beaver

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We report the first finding of Trichinella britovi in a European beaver. In Latvia, beaver is a common game animal and frequently used in human diet. A high prevalence of Trichinella infections in Latvia is present in the most common hosts-carnivores and omnivores. In total, 182 European beaver muscle samples were tested for Trichinella larvae accordingly to the reference method of European Communities Commission Regulation (EC) No. 2075/2005 (2005). Trichinella britovi larvae were detected in one animal (prevalence 0.5 %; intensity 5.92 larvae per gram of muscle). This finding suggests that the consumption of European beaver meat can be a risk to human health. Further studies are needed in order to determine if the present observation represents an isolated individual case or low prevalence of Trichinella infection in beavers.

Concepts: Health, Nutrition, European Union, Beaver, Norway, European Beaver, Beavers, Castoreum