2015 Vol. 36, No. 2

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The study of mutualistic plant and animal networks is an emerging field of ecological research. We reviewed progress in this field over the past 30 years. While earlier studies mostly focused on network structure, stability, and biodiversity maintenance, recent studies have investigated the conservation implications of mutualistic networks, specifically the influence of invasive species and how networks respond to habitat loss. Current research has also focused on evolutionary questions including phylogenetic signal in networks, impact of networks on the coevolution of interacting partners, and network influences on the evolution of interacting species. We outline some directions for future research, particularly the evolution of specialization in mutualistic networks, and provide concrete recommendations for environmental managers.
Many ecological studies and conservation management plans employ noninvasive scat sampling based on the assumption that species' scats can be correctly identified in the field. However, in habitats with sympatric similarly sized carnivores, misidentification of scats is frequent and can lead to bias in research results. To address the scat identification dilemma, molecular scatology techniques have been developed to extract DNA from the donor cells present on the outer lining of the scat samples. A total of 100 samples were collected in the winter of 2009 and 2011 in Taxkorgan region of Xinjiang, China. DNA was extracted successfully from 88% of samples and genetic species identification showed that more than half the scats identified in the field as snow leopard (Panthera uncia) actually belonged to fox (Vulpes vulpes). Correlation between scat characteristics and species were investigated, showing that diameter and dry weight of the scat were significantly different between the species. However it was not possible to define a precise range of values for each species because of extensive overlap between the morphological values. This preliminary study confirms that identification of snow leopard feces in the field is misleading. Research that relies upon scat samples to assess distribution or diet of the snow leopard should therefore employ molecular scatology techniques. These methods are financially accessible and employ relatively simple laboratory procedures that can give an indisputable response to species identification from scats.
Food resources play an important role in the regulation of animals' physiology and behavior. We investigated the effect of short-term food restriction on metabolic thermogenesis of Chinese bulbuls (Pycnonotus sinensis) by measuring changes in body mass, body fat, basic metabolic rate (BMR), and organ mass of wild-caught Chinese bulbuls from Wenzhou, China. Short-term food restriction induced a significant decrease in body mass and body fat but body mass returned to normal levels soon after food was no longer restricted. Food restriction caused a significant reduction in BMR after 7 days (P<0.05), which returned to normal levels after food restriction ceased. Log total BMR was positively correlated with log body mass (r2=0.126, P<0.05). The dry masses of livers and the digestive tract were higher in birds that had been subject to temporary food restriction than in control birds and those subject to continual food restriction (P<0.001 and P<0.05, respectively). There was also significant differences in the dry mass of the lungs (P<0.05), heart (P<0.01), and spleen (P<0.05) in birds subject to short-term food restriction compared to control birds and those subject to continual food restriction. BMR was positively correlated with body and organ (heart, kidney and stomach) mass. These results suggest that the Chinese bulbul adjusts to restricted food availability by utilizing its energy reserves, lowering its BMR and changing the weight of various internal organs so as to balance total energy requirements. These may all be survival strategies that allow birds to cope with unpredictable variation in food abundance.
Here, we conducted a survey to examine the diversity, distribution and habitat association of small mammals from August 2011 to February 2012 incorporating both wet and dry seasons in Aridtsy forest, Awi Zone, Ethiopia. Using Sherman live traps and snap traps in four randomly selected trapping grids, namely, natural forest, bushland, grassland and farmland, a total of 468 individuals comprising eight species of small mammals (live traps) and 89 rodents of six species (snap traps) were trapped in 2352 and 1200 trap nights, respectively. The trapped small mammals included seven rodents and one insectivore: Lophuromys flavopuntatus (30.6%), Arvicanthis dembeensis (25.8%), Stenocephalemys albipes (20%), Mastomys natalensis (11.6%), Pelomys harringtoni (6.4%), Acomys cahirinus (4.3%), Lemniscomys zebra (0.2%) and the greater red musk shrew (Crocidura flavescens, 1.1%). Analysis showed statistically significant variations in the abundance and habitat preferences of small mammals between habitats during wet and dry seasons.
Reproduction is the highest energy demand period for small mammals, during which both energy intake and expenditure are increased to cope with elevated energy requirements of offspring growth and somatic protection. Oxidative stress life history theory proposed that reactive oxygen species (ROS) were produced in direct proportion to metabolic rate, resulting in oxidative stress and damage to macromolecules. In the present study, several markers of oxidative stress and antioxidants activities were examined in brain, liver, kidneys, skeletal muscle and small intestine in non-lactating (Non-Lac) and lactating (Lac) KM mice. Uncoupling protein (ucps) gene expression was examined in brain, liver and muscle. During peak lactation, gross energy intake was 254% higher in Lac mice than in Non-Lac mice. Levels of H2O2 of Lac mice were 17.7% higher in brain (P<0.05), but 21.1% (P<0.01) and 14.5% (P<0.05) lower in liver and small intestine than that of Non-Lac mice. Malonadialdehyde (MDA) levels of Lac mice were significantly higher in brain, but lower in liver, kidneys, muscle and small intestine than that of Non-Lac mice. Activity of glutathione peroxidase (GSH-PX) was significantly decreased in brain and liver in the Lac group compared with that in the Non-Lac group. Total antioxidant capacity (T-AOC) activity of Lac mice was significantly higher in muscle, but lower in kidneys than Non-Lac mice. Ucp4 and ucp5 gene expression of brain was 394% and 577% higher in Lac mice than in Non-Lac mice. These findings suggest that KM mice show tissue-dependent changes in both oxidative stress and antioxidants. Activities of antioxidants may be regulated physiologically in response to the elevated ROS production in several tissues during peak lactation. Regulations of brain ucp4 and ucp5 gene expression may be involved in the prevention of oxidative damage to the tissue.
Gender and genetic strain are two prominent variants that influence drug abuse. Although certain sex-related behavioral responses have been previously characterized in ICR mice, little is known about the effects of sex on morphine-induced behavioral responses in this outbred strain. Therefore, in this study, we investigated the sex differences of morphine-induced locomotion, anxiety-like and social behaviors in ICR mice. After morphine or saline exposure for four consecutive days (twice daily), increased locomotion, more time spent in the central area, as well as attenuated rearing and self-grooming behaviors were found in morphine-treated females in an open field; no differences were found in locomotion and the time spent in the central area between male and female controls. When interacting with the same-sex individuals, female controls were engaged in more social investigation, following, body contacting and self-grooming behaviors than controls; morphine exposure reduced contacting and self-grooming behaviors in females; in contrast, these effects were not found in males. These results indicate that female ICR mice are more prosocial and are more susceptible to morphine exposure than males.