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Concept: North American Beaver

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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.

Concepts: Hydrology, Beaver, European Beaver, Beavers, Castoreum, Fur trade, North American Beaver, Keystone species

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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.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Rodent, Beaver, Castoreum, North American Beaver, Castoridae

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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.

Concepts: Predation, Hunting, Beaver, Dog, Gray Wolf, Fur trade, North American Beaver, London School of Economics

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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.

Concepts: Archaea, Bacteria, Microbiology, Rodent, Beaver, Beavers, Castoreum, North American Beaver

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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.

Concepts: Mammal, Rodent, Beaver, Leptospira, Squirrel, Prairie dog, North American Beaver, Keystone species

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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.

Concepts: Beaver, Beavers, Castoreum, Fur trade, North American Beaver, Lincoln Park, National symbols of Canada, Flow device

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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.

Concepts: Ecology, Ecosystem, Beaver, Invasive species, Beavers, Castoreum, Fur trade, North American Beaver

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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).

Concepts: Beaver, Beavers, Castoreum, Fur trade, North American Beaver, Lincoln Park, National symbols of Canada, Flow device

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The papillomaviruses comprise a large group of viruses that cause proliferations of the stratified squamous epithelium of skin and mucosa in a variety of animals. An earlier report identified a novel papillomavirus of the North American beaver, Castor canadensis (CcanPV1) that was associated with cutaneous exophytic lesions. In the current study, we determined the sequence of the complete 7435 basepair genome of CcanPV1. The genome contains an Upstream Regulatory Region located between the end of L1 and the start of E6, and seven canonical papillomavirus open reading frames encoding five early (E6, E7, E1, E2, and E4) and two late (L2 and L1) proteins. No E5 open reading frame was detected. Phylogenetic analysis of the CcanPV1 genome places the virus between the genera Kappapapillomavirus and Mupapillomavirus. Analyses of the papillomavirus genomes detected in different species of the order Rodentia indicate these viruses do not form a monophyletic clade.

Concepts: DNA, Genetics, Virus, Beaver, Open reading frame, Reading frame, Castoreum, North American Beaver

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In many settings wildlife can be a significant source of fecal pathogen input into surface water. The North-American beaver (Castor Canadensis) is a zoonotic reservoir for several human pathogens including Cryptosporidium spp. and Giardia spp. In order to specifically detect fecal pollution by beavers, we have developed and validated a beaver-specific Bacteroidales marker, designated Beapol01, based on the 16S rRNA gene. The marker is suitable for quantifying pollution using real-time PCR. The specificity and sensitivity of the marker was excellent, Beaver signal was detected in water of a mixed-activity watershed harbouring this rodent. Overall, Beapol01 will be useful for a better understanding of fecal source inputs in drainage basins inhabited by the beaver.

Concepts: Ribosomal RNA, 16S ribosomal RNA, Drainage basin, Beaver, Beavers, Castoreum, Fur trade, North American Beaver