Archive for the ‘veterinary medicine and animal welfare’ Category

Implications of the Circumpolar Genetic Structure of Polar Bears for Their Conservation in a Rapidly Warming Arctic

February 25, 2015 Comments off

Implications of the Circumpolar Genetic Structure of Polar Bears for Their Conservation in a Rapidly Warming Arctic
Source: PLoS ONE

We provide an expansive analysis of polar bear (Ursus maritimus) circumpolar genetic variation during the last two decades of decline in their sea-ice habitat. We sought to evaluate whether their genetic diversity and structure have changed over this period of habitat decline, how their current genetic patterns compare with past patterns, and how genetic demography changed with ancient fluctuations in climate. Characterizing their circumpolar genetic structure using microsatellite data, we defined four clusters that largely correspond to current ecological and oceanographic factors: Eastern Polar Basin, Western Polar Basin, Canadian Archipelago and Southern Canada. We document evidence for recent (ca. last 1–3 generations) directional gene flow from Southern Canada and the Eastern Polar Basin towards the Canadian Archipelago, an area hypothesized to be a future refugium for polar bears as climate-induced habitat decline continues. Our data provide empirical evidence in support of this hypothesis. The direction of current gene flow differs from earlier patterns of gene flow in the Holocene. From analyses of mitochondrial DNA, the Canadian Archipelago cluster and the Barents Sea subpopulation within the Eastern Polar Basin cluster did not show signals of population expansion, suggesting these areas may have served also as past interglacial refugia. Mismatch analyses of mitochondrial DNA data from polar and the paraphyletic brown bear (U. arctos) uncovered offset signals in timing of population expansion between the two species, that are attributed to differential demographic responses to past climate cycling. Mitogenomic structure of polar bears was shallow and developed recently, in contrast to the multiple clades of brown bears. We found no genetic signatures of recent hybridization between the species in our large, circumpolar sample, suggesting that recently observed hybrids represent localized events. Documenting changes in subpopulation connectivity will allow polar nations to proactively adjust conservation actions to continuing decline in sea-ice habitat.

See: Polar Bears Shifting to Areas with More Sea Ice — Genetic Study Reveals (USGS)

Notes from the Field: Prevalence of Risk Factors for Suicide Among Veterinarians — United States, 2014

February 24, 2015 Comments off

Notes from the Field: Prevalence of Risk Factors for Suicide Among Veterinarians — United States, 2014
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)

Veterinarians are believed to be at increased risk for suicide compared with the general population. Few data on the occurrence of suicidal behavior and suicide risk factors among U.S. veterinarians are available. Veterinarians participating in two wellness summits held during September 2013 concluded that more research is needed on veterinarians and their mental health.

During July 1–October 20, 2014, an anonymous, Web-based questionnaire was made available through the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), an online community for veterinarians; VIN News Service; JAVMA News; and monthly e-mail messages to veterinarians in 49 states (Maine was excluded) and Puerto Rico sent through the state’s veterinary medical association, agriculture or livestock department, or health department. The questionnaire asked respondents about their experiences with depression and suicidal behavior, and included standardized questions from the Kessler-6 psychological distress scale that assesses for the presence of serious mental illness. Respondents with nonresponses were included in the denominators when calculating prevalence estimates.

Responses were received from 10,254 currently employed veterinarians (10.3% of all employed U.S. veterinarians). The most commonly reported age category was 30–39 years (28.8%), and 31.3% were male. Thirty-four percent reported practicing veterinary medicine for <10 years, 24.6% for 10–19 years, 21.6% for 20–29 years, and 19.8% for ≥30 years. Most (68.6%) respondents practiced small animal medicine, and 37.8% were practice owners. In comparison, 44.4% of U.S. veterinarians are male, and 66.6% practice small animal medicine exclusively.

Approximately 6.8% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 5.9%–7.7%) of male and 10.9% (CI = 10.2%–11.6%) of female respondents were characterized as having serious psychological distress based on the Kessler-6 psychological distress scale, compared with 3.5% of male and 4.4% of female U.S. adults, respectively (5). Since graduating from veterinary school, 24.5% and 36.7% (CIs = 23.0%–26.0%, 35.6%–37.8%) of male and female respondents reported experiencing depressive episodes, respectively, 14.4% and 19.1% (CIs = 13.2%–15.7%, 18.2%–20.0%) suicidal ideation, and 1.1% and 1.4% (CIs = 0.7%–1.5%, 1.2%–1.7%) suicide attempts. In comparison, male and female U.S. adults had a lower lifetime prevalence of depressive episodes (15.1% and 22.9%, respectively) and suicidal ideation (5.1% and 7.1%) but a higher prevalence of suicide attempts (1.6% and 3.0%).

The findings in this report are subject to at least two limitations. First, the small number of veterinarians who responded compared with the number of those potentially eligible increases the likelihood of nonresponse bias. Second, the possibility exists for social desirability bias. Both of these factors could lead to overestimation or underestimation of the actual prevalence of risk factors for suicide among U.S. veterinarians. Nevertheless, these data suggest that nearly one in 10 U.S. veterinarians might suffer from serious psychological distress and more than one in six might have experienced suicidal ideation since graduation. Additional data, particularly data from representative samples, are needed to further characterize the underlying risk factors for suicidal behavior among veterinarians and identify effective prevention methods.

Recent shifts in the occurrence, cause, and magnitude of animal mass mortality events

January 17, 2015 Comments off

Recent shifts in the occurrence, cause, and magnitude of animal mass mortality events (PDF)
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Mass mortality events (MMEs) are rapidly occurring catastrophic demographic events that punctuate background mortality levels. Individual MMEs are staggering in their observed magnitude: re- moving more than 90% of a population, resulting in the death of more than a billion individuals, or producing 700 million tons of dead biomass in a single event. Despite extensive documentation of individual MMEs, we have no understanding of the major features characterizing the occurrence and magnitude of MMEs, their causes, or trends through time. Thus, no framework exists for contextualizing MMEs in the wake of ongoing global and regional perturbations to natural systems. Here we present an analysis of 727 published MMEs from across the globe, affecting 2,407 animal populations. We show that the magnitude of MMEs has been intensifying for birds, fishes, and marine invertebrat es; invariant for mammals; and decreasing for reptiles and amphibians. These shifts in magnitude proved robust when we accounted for an increase in the occurrence of MMEs since 1940. However, it remains unclear whether the increase in the occurrence of MMEs represents a true pattern or simply a perceived increase. Regardless, the increase in MMEs appears to be associated with a rise in disease emergence, biotoxicity, and events produced by multiple interacting stressors, yet temporal trends in MME causes varied among taxa and may be associated with increased de- tectability. In addition, MMEs with the largest magnitudes were those that resulted from multiple stressors, starvation, and disease. These results advance our understanding of rare demographic processes and their relationship to global and regional perturba- tions to natural systems.

See: Mass Die-Offs of Birds and Fish on the Rise (

EU — Cloning of animals

December 12, 2014 Comments off

Cloning of animals
Source: European Parliamentary Research Service

Cloning animals means creating animals by using the genetic material from a cell from another animal. It is a form of asexual reproduction performed in a laboratory. The closest natural analogy to a clone is identical twins. As identical twins, clones and cell donor animals share exactly the same genetic information (DNA). Cloning does not involve any genetic modification. In fact, the clone is a near exact genetic copy of the donor animal. Currently, cloning is used for research purposes in the EU.

At present food from clones is regulated and subject to a European Union (EU) authorisation under the Regulation (EC) No 258/97 on Novel Food. According to this regulation, food products from cloned animals have been subject to a pre-market authorisation. Member States report that no cloning is taking place on their territory for food production, so no application has been submitted so far and therefore no authorisation granted.

Patterns of Brain Activation when Mothers View Their Own Child and Dog: An fMRI Study

November 24, 2014 Comments off

Patterns of Brain Activation when Mothers View Their Own Child and Dog: An fMRI Study
Source: PLoS ONE

Neural substrates underlying the human-pet relationship are largely unknown. We examined fMRI brain activation patterns as mothers viewed images of their own child and dog and an unfamiliar child and dog. There was a common network of brain regions involved in emotion, reward, affiliation, visual processing and social cognition when mothers viewed images of both their child and dog. Viewing images of their child resulted in brain activity in the midbrain (ventral tegmental area/substantia nigra involved in reward/affiliation), while a more posterior cortical brain activation pattern involving fusiform gyrus (visual processing of faces and social cognition) characterized a mother’s response to her dog. Mothers also rated images of their child and dog as eliciting similar levels of excitement (arousal) and pleasantness (valence), although the difference in the own vs. unfamiliar child comparison was larger than the own vs. unfamiliar dog comparison for arousal. Valence ratings of their dog were also positively correlated with ratings of the attachment to their dog. Although there are similarities in the perceived emotional experience and brain function associated with the mother-child and mother-dog bond, there are also key differences that may reflect variance in the evolutionary course and function of these relationships.

UK — Dangerous dogs: tough new law to help prevent attacks

November 17, 2014 Comments off

Dangerous dogs: tough new law to help prevent attacks
Source: Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs; Home Office

Tough new legal powers to help prevent thousands of dog attacks every year will be given to police forces and local authorities from Monday 20 October.

For the first time, police and local authorities will be able to demand that owners take action to prevent a dog attack or risk fine of up to £20,000. If a complaint has been made about a dog to the council or police, its owners could be ordered to do any or all of the following:

  • Attend dog training classes
  • Muzzle the dog or require it to be on a lead in public
  • Require the dog to be microchipped and/or neutered
  • Repair fencing to prevent the dog leaving the property

Launched today, the Dealing with irresponsible dog ownership: practitioner’s manual will guide police forces and local authorities in the use of their new legal powers to prevent dog attacks.

Social Network Analysis Shows Direct Evidence for Social Transmission of Tool Use in Wild Chimpanzees

October 30, 2014 Comments off

Social Network Analysis Shows Direct Evidence for Social Transmission of Tool Use in Wild Chimpanzees
Source: PLoS Biology

Social network analysis methods have made it possible to test whether novel behaviors in animals spread through individual or social learning. To date, however, social network analysis of wild populations has been limited to static models that cannot precisely reflect the dynamics of learning, for instance, the impact of multiple observations across time. Here, we present a novel dynamic version of network analysis that is capable of capturing temporal aspects of acquisition—that is, how successive observations by an individual influence its acquisition of the novel behavior. We apply this model to studying the spread of two novel tool-use variants, “moss-sponging” and “leaf-sponge re-use,” in the Sonso chimpanzee community of Budongo Forest, Uganda. Chimpanzees are widely considered the most “cultural” of all animal species, with 39 behaviors suspected as socially acquired, most of them in the domain of tool-use. The cultural hypothesis is supported by experimental data from captive chimpanzees and a range of observational data. However, for wild groups, there is still no direct experimental evidence for social learning, nor has there been any direct observation of social diffusion of behavioral innovations. Here, we tested both a static and a dynamic network model and found strong evidence that diffusion patterns of moss-sponging, but not leaf-sponge re-use, were significantly better explained by social than individual learning. The most conservative estimate of social transmission accounted for 85% of observed events, with an estimated 15-fold increase in learning rate for each time a novice observed an informed individual moss-sponging. We conclude that group-specific behavioral variants in wild chimpanzees can be socially learned, adding to the evidence that this prerequisite for culture originated in a common ancestor of great apes and humans, long before the advent of modern humans.


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