Concept: North American Beaver
Beavers are the archetypal keystone species, which can profoundly alter ecosystem structure and function through their ecosystem engineering activity, most notably the building of dams. This can have a major impact upon water resource management, flow regimes and water quality. Previous research has predominantly focused on the activities of North American beaver (Castor canadensis) located in very different environments, to the intensive lowland agricultural landscapes of the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe. Two Eurasian beavers (Castor fiber) were introduced to a wooded site, situated on a first order tributary, draining from intensively managed grassland. The site was monitored to understand impacts upon water storage, flow regimes and water quality. Results indicated that beaver activity, primarily via the creation of 13 dams, has increased water storage within the site (holding ca. 1000m(3) in beaver ponds) and beavers were likely to have had a significant flow attenuation impact, as determined from peak discharges (mean 30±19% reduction), total discharges (mean 34±9% reduction) and peak rainfall to peak discharge lag times (mean 29±21% increase) during storm events. Event monitoring of water entering and leaving the site showed lower concentrations of suspended sediment, nitrogen and phosphate leaving the site (e.g. for suspended sediment; average entering site: 112±72mgl(-1), average leaving site: 39±37mgl(-1)). Combined with attenuated flows, this resulted in lower diffuse pollutant loads in water downstream. Conversely, dissolved organic carbon concentrations and loads downstream were higher. These observed changes are argued to be directly attributable to beaver activity at the site which has created a diverse wetland environment, reducing downstream hydrological connectivity. Results have important implications for beaver reintroduction programs which may provide nature based solutions to the catchment-scale water resource management issues that are faced in agricultural landscapes.
The Canadian beaver (Castor canadensis) is the largest indigenous rodent in North America. We report a draft annotated assembly of the beaver genome, the first for a large rodent and the first mammalian genome assembled directly from uncorrected and moderate coverage (< 30 ×) long-reads generated by single-molecule sequencing. The genome size is 2.7 Gb estimated by k-mer analysis. We assembled the beaver genome using the new Canu assembler optimized for noisy reads. The resulting assembly was refined using Pilon supported by shortreads (80 ×) and checked for accuracy by congruency against an independent short-read assembly. We scaffolded the assembly using the exon-gene models derived from 9805 full-length open reading frames (FL-ORFs) constructed from the beaver leukocyte and muscle transcriptomes. The final assembly comprised 22,515 contigs with an N50 of 278,680 bp and an N50-scaffold of 317,558 bp. Maximum contig and scaffold lengths were 3.3 and 4.2 Mb, respectively, with a combined scaffold length representing 92% of the estimated genome size. The completeness and accuracy of the scaffold assembly was demonstrated by the complete and precise exon placement for 91.1% of the 9,805 assembled FL-ORFs and 83.1% of the BUSCO (Benchmarking Universal Single-Copy Orthologs) gene set used to assess the quality of genome assemblies. Well-represented were genes involved in dentition and enamel deposition, defining characteristics of rodents with which the beaver is well-endowed. The study provides insights for genome assembly and an important genomics resource for Castoridae and rodent evolutionary biology.
The North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) is the second largest living rodent and an iconic symbol of Canada. The beaver is a semi-aquatic browser whose diet consists of lignocellulose from a variety of plants. The beaver is a hindgut fermenter and has an enlarged ceacum that houses a complex microbiome. There have been few studies examining the microbial diversity in gastrointestinal tract of hindgut fermenting herbivores. To examine the bacterial and archaeal communities inhabiting the gastrointestinal tract of the beaver, the microbiome of the ceacum and feaces was examined using culture-independent methods. DNA from the microbial community of the ceacum and feaces of 4 adult beavers was extracted, and the16S rRNA gene was sequenced using either bacterial or archaeal specific primers. A total of 1447 and 1435 unique bacterial OTUs were sequenced from the ceacum and feaces, respectively. On average, the majority of OTUs within the ceacum were classified as Bacteroidetes (49.2%) and Firmicutes (47.6%). The feaces was also dominated by OTUs from Bacteroidetes (36.8%) and Firmicutes (58.9%). The composition of bacterial community was not significantly different among animals. The composition of the ceacal and feacal microbiome differed, but this difference is due to changes in the abundance of closely related OTUs, not because of major differences in the taxonomic composition of the communities. Within these communities, known degraders of lignocellulose were identified. In contrast, to the bacterial microbiome, the archaeal community was dominated by a single species of methanogen, Methanosphaera stadtmanae. The data presented here provide the first insight into the microbial community within the hindgut of the beaver.
Through their dam-building activities and subsequent water storage, beaver have the potential to restore riparian ecosystems and offset some of the predicted effects of climate change by modulating streamflow. Thus, it is not surprising that reintroducing beaver to watersheds from which they have been extirpated is an often-used restoration and climate-adaptation strategy. Identifying sites for reintroduction, however, requires detailed information about habitat factors-information that is not often available at broad spatial scales. Here we explore the potential for beaver relocation throughout the Snohomish River Basin in Washington, USA with a model that identifies some of the basic building blocks of beaver habitat suitability and does so by relying solely on remotely sensed data. More specifically, we developed a generalized intrinsic potential model that draws on remotely sensed measures of stream gradient, stream width, and valley width to identify where beaver could become established if suitable vegetation were to be present. Thus, the model serves as a preliminary screening tool that can be applied over relatively large extents. We applied the model to 5,019 stream km and assessed the ability of the model to correctly predict beaver habitat by surveying for beavers in 352 stream reaches. To further assess the potential for relocation, we assessed land ownership, use, and land cover in the landscape surrounding stream reaches with varying levels of intrinsic potential. Model results showed that 33% of streams had moderate or high intrinsic potential for beaver habitat. We found that no site that was classified as having low intrinsic potential had any sign of beavers and that beaver were absent from nearly three quarters of potentially suitable sites, indicating that there are factors preventing the local population from occupying these areas. Of the riparian areas around streams with high intrinsic potential for beaver, 38% are on public lands and 17% are on large tracts of privately-owned timber land. Thus, although there are a large number of areas that could be suitable for relocation and restoration using beavers, current land use patterns may substantially limit feasibility in these areas.
Beavers (Castor canadensis) can be a significant prey item for wolves (Canis lupus) in boreal ecosystems due to their abundance and vulnerability on land. How wolves hunt beavers in these systems is largely unknown, however, because observing predation is challenging. We inferred how wolves hunt beavers by identifying kill sites using clusters of locations from GPS-collared wolves in Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota. We identified 22 sites where wolves from 4 different packs killed beavers. We classified these kill sites into 8 categories based on the beaver-habitat type near which each kill occurred. Seasonal variation existed in types of kill sites as 7 of 12 (58%) kills in the spring occurred at sites below dams and on shorelines, and 8 of 10 (80%) kills in the fall occurred near feeding trails and canals. From these kill sites we deduced that the typical hunting strategy has 3 components: 1) waiting near areas of high beaver use (e.g., feeding trails) until a beaver comes near shore or ashore, 2) using vegetation, the dam, or other habitat features for concealment, and 3) immediately attacking the beaver, or ambushing the beaver by cutting off access to water. By identifying kill sites and inferring hunting behavior we have provided the most complete description available of how and where wolves hunt and kill beavers.
A total of 58 American beavers ( Castor canadensis) was immobilized with butorphanol, azaperone, and medetomidine (BAM) for the purpose of health assessments, sex determination, and placement of very high-frequency tail transmitters in a subset of animals. Isoflurane gas anesthesia was available to aid with induction when needed, and all animals received supplementary oxygen. Thirty-one beavers immobilized with a mean (SD) dose of 0.65 (0.15) mg/kg butorphanol, 0.22 (0.05) mg/kg azaperone, and 0.26 (0.06) mg/kg medetomidine did not require supplemental isoflurane during induction and the mean induction time was 8 min (range: 3-21 min). This dose was equivalent to 0.024 (0.005) mL of BAM per kilogram. A total of 29 beavers that was immobilized with a mean (SD) of 0.51 (0.07) mg/kg butorphanol, 0.17 (0.02) mg/kg azaperone, and 0.2 (0.03) mg/kg medetomidine needed supplementary isoflurane at 5% and 5 L/min for <1 min to induce full anesthesia. In none of the beavers did BAM alone provide sufficient depth of anesthesia to drill a hole in the tail for transmitter placement, and supplementary isoflurane was administered to reach a sufficient level of analgesia for the procedure. The beavers were reversed with 5 mg of atipamezole per milligram of medetomidine and 1 mg of naltrexone per milligram of butorphanol. No adverse effects or mortalities were observed. Butorphanol-azaperone-medetomidine can be considered safe for use in American beavers for minor procedures.
Leptospires are widespread spirochete bacteria that infect mammals, including rodents and humans. We investigated the presence of Leptospira antibodies in two species of rodents from San Pedro River Basin (SPRB) in northwestern Mexico as part of the black-tailed prairie dog ( Cynomys ludovicianus ) monitoring plan and the North American beaver ( Castor canadensis ) reintroduction program. We sampled a total of 26 black-tailed prairie dogs and three beavers during October-November 2015. We detected antibodies against Leptospira spp. by microagglutination test in 12 (46%) prairie dogs and in two (67%) beavers. The antibody titers for seropositive rodents varied from 1:100 to 1:200, but none of the animals showed clinical signs of disease. We found seven Leptospira spp. serogroups (Autumnalis, Australis, Bataviae, Canicola, Celledoni, Grippotyphosa, and Sejroe) circulating in rodent species in SPRB. We did not find any differences between sex and age concerning Leptospira-positive rodents. Our findings suggest the presence of endemic cycles and potential risks of Leptospira infection in both species from SPRB. Although the impact of this infection on threatened species remains unclear, human activities and environmental stress might facilitate the emergence or reemergence of leptospirosis disease as has been reported elsewhere.
The North American beaver (Castor canadensis) is a managed species in the United States. In northern Wisconsin, as part of the state-wide beaver management program, the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest removes beavers from targeted trout streams on U.S. Forest Service lands. However, the success of this management program has not been evaluated. Targeted removals comprise only 3% of the annual beaver harvest, a level of effort that may not affect the beaver population. We used colony location data along Forest streams from 1987-2013 (Nicolet, northeast Wisconsin) and 1997-2013 (Chequamegon, northwest Wisconsin) to assess trends in beaver colony density on targeted trout streams compared to non-targeted streams. On the Chequamegon, colony density on non-targeted trout and non-trout streams did not change over time, while colony density on targeted trout streams declined and then stabilized. On the Nicolet, beaver colony density decreased on both non-targeted streams and targeted trout streams. However, colony density on targeted trout streams declined faster. The impact of targeted trapping was similar across the two sides of the Forest (60% reduction relative to non-targeted trout streams). Exploratory analyses of weather influences found that very dry conditions and severe winters were associated with transient reductions in beaver colony density on non-targeted streams on both sides of the Forest. Our findings may help land management agencies weigh more finely calibrated beaver control measures against continued large-scale removal programs.
The North American beaver (Castor canadensis) is an invasive species in southern Patagonia, introduced in 1946 as part of a program by the Argentine government to augment furbearers. Research focus has turned from inventorying the beaver’s population and ecosystem impacts toward eradicating it from the region and restoring degraded areas. Successful restoration, however, requires a fuller determination of how beavers have altered physical landscape characteristics, and of what landscape features and biota need to be restored. Our goal was to identify changes to the physical landscape by invasive beaver. We analyzed channel and valley morphology in detail at one site in each of the three major forest zones occurring on the Argentine side of Tierra del Fuego’s main island. We also assessed 48 additional sites across the three forest biomes on the island to identify a broader range of aquatic habitat occupied and modified by beaver. Beaver build dams with Nothofagus tree branches on streams, which triggered mineral sediment accretion processes in the riparian zone, but not in ways consistent with the beaver meadow theory and only at a few sites. At the majority of sites, beavers actively excavated peat and mineral sediment, moved thousands of cubic meters of sediment within their occupied landscapes and used it to build dams. Beaver were also common in fen ecosystems where pond formation inundated and drowned peat forming mosses and sedges, and triggered a massive invasion of exotic plant species. Results highlight that restoration of fen ecosystems is a previously unrecognized but pressing and challenging restoration need in addition to reforestation of Nothofagus riparian forests. We recommend that decision-makers include the full ecosystem diversity of the Fuegian landscape in their beaver eradiation and ecosystem restoration plans.
Abstract All mammals are believed susceptible to rabies virus infection, yet transmission from nonreservoir hosts to humans is uncommon. However, interactions between nonreservoir hosts and humans occur frequently and risk of exposure increases where rabies is enzootic. We describe rabies and apparent pantropism of rabies virus in a beaver (Castor canadensis).