Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Rodent


Hantaviruses are among the most important zoonotic pathogens of humans and the subject of heightened global attention. Despite the importance of hantaviruses for public health, there is no consensus on their evolutionary history and especially the frequency of virus-host co-divergence versus cross-species virus transmission. Documenting the extent of hantavirus biodiversity, and particularly their range of mammalian hosts, is critical to resolving this issue. Here, we describe four novel hantaviruses (Huangpi virus, Lianghe virus, Longquan virus, and Yakeshi virus) sampled from bats and shrews in China, and which are distinct from other known hantaviruses. Huangpi virus was found in Pipistrellus abramus, Lianghe virus in Anourosorex squamipes, Longquan virus in Rhinolophus affinis, Rhinolophus sinicus, and Rhinolophus monoceros, and Yakeshi virus in Sorex isodon, respectively. A phylogenetic analysis of the available diversity of hantaviruses reveals the existence of four phylogroups that infect a range of mammalian hosts, as well as the occurrence of ancient reassortment events between the phylogroups. Notably, the phylogenetic histories of the viruses are not always congruent with those of their hosts, suggesting that cross-species transmission has played a major role during hantavirus evolution and at all taxonomic levels, although we also noted some evidence for virus-host co-divergence. Our phylogenetic analysis also suggests that hantaviruses might have first appeared in Chiroptera (bats) or Soricomorpha (moles and shrews), before emerging in rodent species. Overall, these data indicate that bats are likely to be important natural reservoir hosts of hantaviruses.

Concepts: Evolution, Microbiology, Species, Mammal, Rodent, Bat, Zoonosis, Natural reservoir


Until recently, research in animal welfare science has mainly focused on negative experiences like pain and suffering, often neglecting the importance of assessing and promoting positive experiences. In rodents, specific facial expressions have been found to occur in situations thought to induce negatively valenced emotional states (e.g., pain, aggression and fear), but none have yet been identified for positive states. Thus, this study aimed to investigate if facial expressions indicative of positive emotional state are exhibited in rats. Adolescent male Lister Hooded rats (Rattus norvegicus, N = 15) were individually subjected to a Positive and a mildly aversive Contrast Treatment over two consecutive days in order to induce contrasting emotional states and to detect differences in facial expression. The Positive Treatment consisted of playful manual tickling administered by the experimenter, while the Contrast Treatment consisted of exposure to a novel test room with intermittent bursts of white noise. The number of positive ultrasonic vocalisations was greater in the Positive Treatment compared to the Contrast Treatment, indicating the experience of differentially valenced states in the two treatments. The main findings were that Ear Colour became significantly pinker and Ear Angle was wider (ears more relaxed) in the Positive Treatment compared to the Contrast Treatment. All other quantitative and qualitative measures of facial expression, which included Eyeball height to width Ratio, Eyebrow height to width Ratio, Eyebrow Angle, visibility of the Nictitating Membrane, and the established Rat Grimace Scale, did not show differences between treatments. This study contributes to the exploration of positive emotional states, and thus good welfare, in rats as it identified the first facial indicators of positive emotions following a positive heterospecific play treatment. Furthermore, it provides improvements to the photography technique and image analysis for the detection of fine differences in facial expression, and also adds to the refinement of the tickling procedure.

Concepts: Psychology, Rat, Rodent, Emotion, Paul Ekman, Suffering, Brown rat, Anger


Most rodents are small and short-lived, but several lineages have independently evolved long lifespans without a concomitant increase in body-mass. Most notable are the two subterranean species naked mole rat (NMR) and blind mole rat (BMR) which have maximum lifespans of 32 and 21 years, respectively. The longevity of these species has sparked interest in the tumor suppression strategies that may have also evolved, because for many rodent species (including mice, rats, guinea pigs, gerbils, and hamsters) tumors are a major source of late-life mortality. Here, we review the recent literature on anti-cancer mechanisms in long-lived rodents. Both NMR and BMR seem to have developed tumor defenses that rely on extra-cellular signals. However, while the NMR relies on a form of contact inhibition to suppress growth, the BMR evolved a mechanism mediated by the release of interferon, and rapid necrotic cell death. Although both organisms ultimately rely on canonical downstream tumor suppressors (pRB and p53) the studies reveal species can evolve different strategies to achieve tumor-resistance. Importantly, studies of these cancer-resistant rodents may benefit human health if such mechanisms can be activated in human cells.

Concepts: Cancer, Mammal, Rat, Rodent, Muridae, Hamster, Guinea pig, Muroidea


A new genus and species of aplodontid rodent, Proansomys dureensis, from the late Oligocene of the northern Junggar Basin of China is described. The new genus is referred to as Ansomyinae because the ectoloph on the upper cheek teeth, although not fully crested, has attained the same characteristic bucket-handle-shaped configuration as other members of the subfamily. It represents the earliest record of the subfamily yet discovered in Asia and is more plesiomorphic than species of the genus Ansomys in having a partly crested ectoloph, a lower degree of lophodonty, and less complex tooth basins (lacking accessory lophules). Proansomys has transitional features between Prosciurus and Ansomys, suggesting that the Ansomyinae derived from a group of aplodontids related to Prosciurus, as did other advanced aplodontid rodents. This provides new light on the paleobiogeography of the Ansomyinae.

Concepts: Biology, Species, Mammal, Rodent, Euarchontoglires, Sciuromorpha, Rodents, Tian Shan


BACKGROUND: Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis (CNM) has been described in the hard tick Ixodes ricinus and rodents as well as in some severe cases of human disease. The aims of this study were to identify DNA of CNM in small mammals, the ticks parasitizing them and questing ticks in areas with sympatric existence of Ixodes ricinus and Dermacentor reticulatus in Germany. METHODS: Blood, transudate and organ samples (spleen, kidney, liver, skin) of 91 small mammals and host-attached ticks from altogether 50 small mammals as well as questing I. ricinus ticks (n=782) were screened with a real-time PCR for DNA of CNM. RESULTS: 52.7% of the small mammals were positive for CNM-DNA. The majority of the infected animals were yellow-necked mice (Apodemus flavicollis) and bank voles (Myodes glareolus). Small mammals with tick infestation were more often infected with CNM than small mammals without ticks. Compared with the prevalence of ~25% in the questing I. ricinus ticks, twice the prevalence in the rodents provides evidence for their role as reservoir hosts for CNM. CONCLUSION: The high prevalence of this pathogen in the investigated areas in both rodents and ticks points towards the need for more specific investigation on its role as a human pathogen.

Concepts: Lyme disease, Mammal, Rodent, Ixodidae, Acari, Ixodes scapularis, Dermacentor variabilis, Ixodes holocyclus


Rodent models have dominated preclinical investigations into the mechanisms of depression. However, these models-which rely on subjecting individual rodents to physical stressors - do not realistically resemble the etiopathological development of depression, which occurs naturally in a social context. A non-human primate model that better reflects the social ethological aspects of depression would be more advantageous to investigating pathophysiological mechanisms and developing antidepressant therapeutics. Here, we describe and model a naturally-occurring depressive state in a non-human primate species, the cynomolgus monkey (Macaca fascicularis), in a realistic social ethological context and associate the depressed behavioral phenotype with significant serum metabolic perturbations. One to two subjects per stable social colony (17-22 subjects) manifested a depressive phenotype that may be attributed to psychosocial stress. In accordance with rodent and human studies, the serum metabolic phenotype of depressed and healthy subjects significantly differed, supporting the model’s face validity. However, application of the fast-acting antidepressant ketamine failed to demonstrate predictive validity. This study proposes a non-human primate depression model in a realistic social ethological context that can better approximate the psychosocial stressors underlying depression.

Concepts: Human, Mammal, Macaque, Primate, Rodent, Bipolar disorder, Monkey, Euarchontoglires


The longest-lived rodent, the naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber), has a reported maximum lifespan of >30 years and exhibits delayed and/or attenuated age-associated physiological declines. We questioned whether these mouse-sized, eusocial rodents conform to Gompertzian mortality laws by experiencing an exponentially increasing risk of death as they get older. We compiled and analyzed a large compendium of historical naked mole-rat lifespan data with >3000 data points. Kaplan-Meier analyses revealed a substantial portion of the population to have survived at 30 years of age. Moreover, unlike all other mammals studied to date, and regardless of sex or breeding-status, the age-specific hazard of mortality did not increase with age, even at ages 25-fold past their time to reproductive maturity. This absence of hazard increase with age, in defiance of Gompertz’s law, uniquely identifies the naked mole-rat as a non-aging mammal, confirming its status as an exceptional model for biogerontology.

Concepts: Death, Mortality rate, Demography, Mammal, Life expectancy, Rodent, Naked mole rat, Blesmol


The first histological study of an entire hadrosaurid dental battery provides a comprehensive look at tooth movement within this complex structure. Previous studies have focused on isolated teeth, or in-situ batteries, but this is the first study to examine an entire dental battery of any dinosaur. The absence of direct tooth-to-tooth contact across the entire battery and a unique arrangement of the dental tissues in hadrosaurids led us to compare their teeth with the ever-growing incisors of mammals. The similarity in the distributions of tissues along the incisor, coupled with continuous eruption, make for helpful comparisons to hadrosaurid teeth. The mammalian ever-growing incisor can be used as a model to extrapolate the soft tissue connections and eruptive mechanisms within the hadrosaurid dental battery. Serial sections across the adult dental battery reveal signs of gradual ontogenetic tooth migration. Extensive remodeling of the alveolar septa and the anteroposterior displacement of successive generations of teeth highlight the gradual migration of tooth generations within the battery. These eruptive and ontogenetic tooth movements would not be possible without a ligamentous connection between successive teeth and the jaws, underscoring the dynamic nature of one of the most unique and complex dental systems in vertebrate history.

Concepts: Tissues, Mammal, Tissue, Rodent, Teeth, Incisor, Dinosaur, Hadrosaurid


The mechanistic basis of speciation and in particular the contribution of behaviour to the completion of the speciation process is often contentious. Contact zones between related taxa provide a situation where selection against hybridization might reinforce separation by behavioural mechanisms, which could ultimately fully isolate the taxa. One of the most abundant European mammals, the common vole Microtus arvalis, forms multiple natural hybrid zones where rapidly diverging evolutionary lineages meet in secondary contact. Very narrow zones of hybridization spanning only a few kilometres and sex-specific gene flow patterns indicate reduced fitness of natural hybrids and incipient speciation between some of the evolutionary lineages. In this study, we examined the contribution of behavioural mechanisms to the speciation process in these rodents by fine-mapping allopatric and parapatric populations in the hybrid zone between the Western and Central lineages and experimental testing of the partner preferences of wild, pure-bred and hybrid female common voles.

Concepts: Natural selection, Evolution, Rodent, Speciation, Vole, Microtus, Hybrid zone, Common Vole


Despite advances to targeted leishmanicidal chemotherapy, defies around severe toxicity, recent emergence of resistant variants and absence of rational vaccine still persist. This necessitates search and/or progressive validation of accessible medicinal remedies including plant based. The study examined both in vivo and in vitro response of L. major infection to combined therapy of Ricinus communis and Azadirachta indica extracts in BALB/c mice as the mouse model. A comparative study design was applied.

Concepts: Immune system, Animal testing, In vivo, In vitro, Rat, Rodent, Mouse, Mice