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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 (AllGov.com)

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.

Animal transportation networks

September 24, 2014 Comments off

Animal transportation networks
Source: Journal of the Royal Society Interface

Many group-living animals construct transportation networks of trails, galleries and burrows by modifying the environment to facilitate faster, safer or more efficient movement. Animal transportation networks can have direct influences on the fitness of individuals, whereas the shape and structure of transportation networks can influence community dynamics by facilitating contacts between different individuals and species. In this review, we discuss three key areas in the study of animal transportation networks: the topological properties of networks, network morphogenesis and growth, and the behaviour of network users. We present a brief primer on elements of network theory, and then discuss the different ways in which animal groups deal with the fundamental trade-off between the competing network properties of travel efficiency, robustness and infrastructure cost. We consider how the behaviour of network users can impact network efficiency, and call for studies that integrate both network topology and user behaviour. We finish with a prospectus for future research.

AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals: 2013 Edition

September 16, 2014 Comments off

AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals: 2013 Edition
Source: American Veterinary Medical Association

Animal issues are no longer socially invisible. During the past half-century, efforts to ensure the respectful and humane treatment of animals have garnered global attention. Concern for the welfare of animals is reflected in the growth of animal welfare science and ethics. The former is evident in the emergence of academic programs, scientific journals, and funding streams committed either partially or exclusively to the study of how animals are impacted by various environments and human interventions. The latter has seen the application of numerous ethical approaches (eg, rights-based theories, utilitarianism, virtue ethics, contractarianism, pragmatic ethics) to assessing the moral value of animals and the nature of the human-animal relationship. The proliferation of interest in animal use and care, at the national and international levels, is also apparent in recent protections accorded to animals in new and amended laws and regulations, institutional and corporate policies, and purchasing and trade agreements. Changing societal attitudes toward animal care and use have inspired scrutiny of some traditional and contemporary practices applied in the management of animals used for agriculture, research and teaching, companionship, and recreation or entertainment and of animals encountered in the wild. Attention has also been focused on conservation and the impact of human interventions on terrestrial and aquatic wildlife and the environment. Within these contexts, stakeholders look to veterinarians to provide leadership on how to care well for animals, including how to relieve unnecessary pain and suffering.

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