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Epidemiologically, metabolic disorders have garnered much attention, perhaps due to the predominance of obesity. The early postnatal life represents a critical period for programming multifactorial metabolic disorders of adult life. Though altricial rodents are prime subjects for investigating neonatal programming, there is still no sufficiently generalised literature on their usage and methodology. This review focuses on establishing five approach-based models of neonatal rodents adopted for studying metabolic phenotypes. Here, some modelled interventions that currently exist to avoid or prevent metabolic disorders are also highlighted. We also bring forth recommendations, guidelines and considerations to aid research on neonatal programming. It is hoped that this provides a background to researchers focused on the aetiology, mechanisms, prevention and treatment of metabolic disorders.
Understanding the role of species traits in mediating ecological interactions and shaping community structure is a key question in ecology. In this sense, parasite population parameters allow us to estimate the functional importance of traits in shaping the strength of interactions among hosts and parasites in a network. The aim of this study was to survey and analyse the small mammal-helminth network in a forest reserve of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest in order to understand (i) how functional traits (type of parasite life cycle, site of infection in their host, host and parasite body length, host diet, host locomotor habit and host activity period) and abundance influence host–parasite interactions, (ii) whether these traits explain species roles, and (iii) if this relationship is consistent across different parasite population parameters (presence and absence, mean abundance and prevalence). Networks were modular and their structural patterns did not vary among the population parameters. Functional traits and abundance shaped the interactions observed between parasites and hosts. Host species abundance, host diet and locomotor habit affected their centrality and/or vulnerability to parasites. For helminths, infection niche was the main trait determining their central roles in the networks.
The aim of the study is to test a hypothesis for the phylogenetic relationships among mammalian hymenolepidid tapeworms, based on partial (D1–D3) nuclear 28S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes, by estimating new molecular phylogenies for the group based on partial mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase I (COI) and nuclear 18S rRNA genes, as well as a combined analysis using all three genes. New sequences of COI and 18S rRNA genes were obtained for Coronacanthus integrus, C. magnihamatus, C. omissus, C. vassilevi, Ditestolepis diaphana, Lineolepis scutigera, Spasskylepis ovaluteri, Staphylocystis tiara, S. furcata, S. uncinata, Vaucherilepis trichophorus and Neoskrjabinolepis sp. The phylogenetic analyses confirmed the major clades identified by Haukisalmi et al. (Zoologica Scripta 39: 631–641, 2010): Ditestolepis clade, Hymenolepis clade, Rodentolepis clade and Arostrilepis clade. While the Ditestolepis clade is associated with soricids, the structure of the other three clades suggests multiple evolutionary events of host switching between shrews and rodents. Two of the present analyses (18S rRNA and COI genes) show that the basal relationships of the four mammalian clades are branching at the same polytomy with several hymenolepidids from birds (both terrestrial and aquatic). This may indicate a rapid radiation of the group, with multiple events of colonizations of mammalian hosts by avian parasites.
Resource depression and garden hunting are major topics of archaeological interest, with important implications for understanding cultural and environmental change. Garden hunting is difficult to study using traditional zooarchaeological approaches, but isotopic analyses of animals may provide a marker for where and when people exploited nondomesticated animals that fed on agricultural resources. To realize the full potential of isotopic approaches for reconstructing garden hunting practices—and the impacts of agriculture on past nondomesticated animal populations more broadly—a wider range of species, encompassing many “ecological perspectives,” is needed. We use bone-collagen isotopic compositions of animals (n = 643, 23 taxa, 39 sites) associated with the Late Woodland (~AD 900−1650) in what is now southern Ontario to test hypotheses about the extent to which animals used maize, an isotopically distinctive plant central to subsistence practices of Iroquoian-speaking peoples across the region. Results show that although some taxa—particularly those that may have been hard to control—had substantial access to maize, most did not, regardless of the animal resource requirements of local populations. Our findings suggest that this isotopic approach to detecting garden hunting will be more successful when applied to smaller-scale societies.
Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus Lam.) is an exotic invasive plant species in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest that causes changes in the environment through the release of allelopathic substances and has high fruit production. We aimed to understand the potential effects of the jackfruit on the non-volant small mammal assemblage in an area protected by law, in the municipality of Cariacica – Espírito Santo, south-eastern Brazil. We sampled the small mammals assemblage using live traps in 18 sites, eight with jackfruit and 10 without. We ordinated the assemblage and tested possible differences in species richness and abundance according to the jackfruit density. We recorded 31 species of non-volant small mammals, with 13 species endemic to the Atlantic Forest. Jackfruit species can affect both positively and negatively the studied assemblage of non-volant small mammals. For species with a frugivory habit, jackfruit has a positive effect favouring these species. On the other hand, for insectivorous species, jackfruit represents an impact inhibiting the presence of these species in an area with high jackfruit density. The results presented are the first step in understanding the effect of this invasive species on a small mammals assemblage and initiating a monitoring of these species in areas affected by jackfruits. Furthermore, management of jackfruits in this protected area is required.
Chigger mites (Trombiculidae) are temporary habitat-specific ectoparasites that often occur on rodents. Little ecological data are available on chiggers associated with rodents in South Africa. The study aims were to (1) record the chigger species associated with rodents in the savanna, (2) assess if chigger species display parasitope preference on the rodent body and (3) compare the distribution of chigger species in natural, agricultural and urban habitats. Rodents (n = 314) belonging to eight genera were trapped in the savanna biome during 2014 and 2015. Twelve chigger species, of which five are recently described species, were recorded from 161 rodent hosts. The data include three new country locality records. Microtrombicula mastomyia was the most prevalent species across sampling seasons and habitat types. Significant parasitope preference was recorded for two species, with the ear, face and tail base some of the preferred attachment sites. Sampling season and habitat type had a significant effect on chigger communities with summer and agricultural habitats recording the highest species richness, while the highest species diversity was recorded in natural habitats. The study contributes to our current knowledge regarding rodent-associated chigger diversity and distribution in South Africa and further highlights the importance of environmental characteristics in shaping chigger communities.
Mount Oku, in the Northwest Region of Cameroon, is known for its rodent diversity. It is located in an area with a high human population density (up to 400/km2), resulting in intense pressure on natural resources. Threats to biodiversity include overgrazing by cattle and goats in grassland areas and montane forests, firewood harvesting, agriculture, bee keeping, debarking of Prunus trees for medicinal uses, and bushmeat hunting. We used data from interviews with 106 local hunters to provide insights into rodent trapping in Oku village. Trapping took place primarily in closed canopy forest. The majority of hunters (88.8%) set at least 100 traps per week, with a mean of 38 rodents trapped per hunter per week. The two most captured species were the Vulnerable Hartwig's praomys Praomys hartwigi and the Endangered Mount Oku rat Lamottemys okuensis, both of which have declining populations. Rodents were harvested mainly for household consumption and/or local trade, but 65.1% of interviewees also used P. hartwigi for traditional medicine. Our findings suggest that rodent trapping in Oku village requires conservation attention, and that further quantitative studies are needed to assess its sustainability.
Hymenolepis nana, typically a parasite found in conventionally established mouse colonies, has zoonotic potential characterized by autoinfection and direct life cycle. The objective of this study was to determine the rate of parasite infection in laboratory mice. The hymenolepidide cestode infected 40% of the 50 mice sampled. The rate of infection in males (52%) was higher than in females (28%). Morphological studies on the cestode parasite showed that worms had a globular scolex with four suckers, a retractable rostellum with 20–30 hooks, and a short unsegmented neck. In addition, the remaining strobila consisted of immature, mature, and gravid proglottids, irregularly alternating genital pores, lobulated ovaries, postovarian vitelline glands, and uteri with up to 200 eggs in their gravid proglottids. The parasite taxonomy was confirmed by using molecular characterization based on the sequence analysis of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (mtCOX1) gene. The parasite recovered was up to 80% identical to other species in GenBank. High blast scores and low divergence were noted between the isolated parasite and previously described H. nana (gb| AP017666.1). The phylogenetic analysis using the COX1 sequence places this hymenolepidid species of the order Cyclophyllidea.
Currently, descriptive information on the host range and geographic distribution of helminth parasites associated with naturally occurring rodents in South and southern Africa is scant. Therefore, we embarked on a countrywide study to: (1) identify gastrointestinal helminths and their host range, and (2) provide baseline data on the geographic distribution of helminths across the country. Altogether, 55 helminth taxa were recovered from at least 13 rodent species (n = 1030) at 26 localities across South Africa. The helminth taxa represented 25 genera (15 nematodes, nine cestodes and one acanthocephalan). Monoxenous nematodes were the most abundant and prevalent group, while the occurrence of heteroxenous nematodes and cestodes was generally lower. The study recorded several novel helminth–host associations. Single-host-species infections were common, although multiple-host-species infections by helminth species were also recorded. Monoxenous nematodes and some cestodes were recovered countrywide, whereas heteroxenous nematodes were restricted to the eastern regions of South Africa. The study highlights the as yet unexplored diversity of helminth species associated with naturally occurring rodent species and provides initial data on their geographical distribution in South Africa.
In order to analyse the effect of hosts’ relationships and the helminthic load on the switching of parasites between native and introduced hosts, we sampled rodents belonging to two suborders from Central Chile. We compared the number of helminthic species shared between murids (introduced) and cricetid (native, same suborder) rodents to those shared between murids and hystricomorphs (native, different suborder), and we assessed the association between parasitic presence, abundance and geographical dispersion in source hosts to the presence and abundance in recipient hosts. Introduced rodent species shared more helminth species with cricetid rodents than with non-cricetids. Presence and abundance in recipient hosts was not associated with the prevalence and mean abundance in source hosts’ population. The mean abundance of parasites in source hosts throughout the territory and wider dispersion was positively associated with the likelihood of being shared with a recipient host. Closer relationships between native and introduced hosts and high parasitic abundance and dispersion could facilitate host switching of helminths between native and introduced rodents. This work provides the first documentation of the importance of parasitic abundance and dispersion on the switching of parasites between native and introduced hosts.
Babesiosis is an emerging tick-transmitted zoonosis prevalent in large parts of the world. This study was designed to determine the rates of Babesia microti infection among small rodents in Yunnan province, where human cases of babesiosis have been reported. Currently, distribution of Babesia in its endemic regions is largely unknown. In this study, we cataloged 1672 small wild rodents, comprising 4 orders, from nine areas in western Yunnan province between 2009 and 2011. Babesia microti DNA was detected by polymerase chain reaction in 4·3% (72/1672) of the rodents analyzed. The most frequently infected rodent species included Apodemus chevrieri and Niviventer fulvescens. Rodents from forests and shrublands had significantly higher Babesia infection rates. Genetic comparisons revealed that Babesia was most similar to the Kobe- and Otsu-type strains identified in Japan. A variety of rodent species might be involved in the enzootic maintenance and transmission of B. microti, supporting the need for further serological investigations in humans.
Schistosomiasis in China has been substantially reduced due to an effective control programme employing various measures including bovine and human chemotherapy, and the removal of bovines from endemic areas. To fulfil elimination targets, it will be necessary to identify other possible reservoir hosts for Schistosoma japonicum and include them in future control efforts. This study determined the infection prevalence of S. japonicum in rodents (0–9·21%), dogs (0–18·37%) and goats (6·9–46·4%) from the Dongting Lake area of Hunan province, using a combination of traditional coproparasitological techniques (miracidial hatching technique and Kato-Katz thick smear technique) and molecular methods [quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) and droplet digital PCR (ddPCR)]. We found a much higher prevalence in goats than previously recorded in this setting. Cattle and water buffalo were also examined using the same procedures and all were found to be infected, emphasising the occurrence of active transmission. qPCR and ddPCR were much more sensitive than the coproparasitological procedures with both KK and MHT considerably underestimating the true prevalence in all animals surveyed. The high level of S. japonicum prevalence in goats indicates that they are likely important reservoirs in schistosomiasis transmission, necessitating their inclusion as targets of control, if the goal of elimination is to be achieved in China.
Environmental fluctuations are expected to require special adaptations only if they are associated with a decrease in fitness. We compared reproductive performance between fleas fed on alternating (preferred and non-preferred) hosts and fleas fed solely on either a preferred or a non-preferred host to determine whether (1) host alternation incurs an immediate negative effect, and, if yes, then (2) whether this effect is greater in a host specialist (Parapulex chephrenis) than in host generalists (Xenopsylla conformis and Synosternus cleopatrae). We also compared flea performance under alternating host regimes with different host order (initial feeding on either a preferred or a non-preferred host). An immediate negative effect of alternating hosts on reproductive performance was found in P. chephrenis only. These fleas produced 44·3% less eggs that were 3·6% smaller when they fed on alternating hosts as compared with a preferred host. In contrast, X. conformis and S. cleopatrae appeared to be able to adapt their reproductive strategy to host alternation by producing higher quality offspring (on average, 3·1% faster development and 2·1% larger size) without compromising offspring number. However, the former produced eggs that were slightly, albeit significantly, smaller when it fed on alternating hosts as compared with a preferred host. Moreover, host order affected reproductive performance in host generalists (e.g. 2·8% larger eggs when the first feeding was performed on a non-preferred host), but not in a host specialist. We conclude that immediate effects of environmental fluctuation on parasite fitness depend on the degree of host specialization.
The aim of this study was to evaluate the performance of cavy (Galea spixii) epididymal sperm following addition to TES or TRIS extenders and using a thermal resistance test (TRT), as well as fluorescence analysis as a complementary method to predict the viability of these gametes. Nine testicle–epididymis complexes were used for sperm collection using a flotation method. Epididymis tails were sliced and one was immersed in 3 ml of TRIS buffer, and the other in 3 ml of TES, for 5 min. After sperm recovery, the samples were subjected to a TRT which involved incubation in a water bath at 37°C for 3 h. During incubation, sample parameters were assessed at 0, 15, 30, 60, 90, 120, 150 or 180 min intervals. Results indicated that the TRIS diluent was more efficient than TES (P < 0.05) for the maintenance of sperm parameters in Spix's yellow-toothed cavies over the whole TRT, maintaining sperm longevity for an extended time. In conclusion, we indicate the use of TRIS diluent for recovery and maintenance of longevity of epididymal sperm from cavies (G. spixii).
The presence of general intelligence poses a major evolutionary puzzle, which has led to increased interest in its presence in nonhuman animals. The aim of this review is to critically evaluate this question and to explore the implications for current theories about the evolution of cognition. We first review domain-general and domain-specific accounts of human cognition in order to situate attempts to identify general intelligence in nonhuman animals. Recent studies are consistent with the presence of general intelligence in mammals (rodents and primates). However, the interpretation of a psychometric g factor as general intelligence needs to be validated, in particular in primates, and we propose a range of such tests. We then evaluate the implications of general intelligence in nonhuman animals for current theories about its evolution and find support for the cultural intelligence approach, which stresses the critical importance of social inputs during the ontogenetic construction of survival-relevant skills. The presence of general intelligence in nonhumans implies that modular abilities can arise in two ways, primarily through automatic development with fixed content and secondarily through learning and automatization with more variable content. The currently best-supported model, for humans and nonhuman vertebrates alike, thus construes the mind as a mix of skills based on primary and secondary modules. The relative importance of these two components is expected to vary widely among species, and we formulate tests to quantify their strength.
Bartonella infection was explored in wild animals from Israel. Golden jackals (Canis aureus), red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), rock hyraxes (Procavia capensis), southern white-breasted hedgehogs (Erinaceus concolor), social voles (Microtus socialis), Tristram's jirds (Meriones tristrami), Cairo spiny mice (Acomys cahirinus), house mice (Mus musculus) and Indian crested porcupines (Hystrix indica) were sampled and screened by molecular and isolation methods. Bartonella-DNA was detected in 46 animals: 9/70 (13%) golden jackals, 2/11 (18%) red foxes, 3/35 (9%) rock hyraxes, 1/3 (33%) southern white-breasted hedgehogs, 5/57 (9%) Cairo spiny mice, 25/43 (58%) Tristram's jirds and 1/6 (16%) house mice. Bartonella rochalimae and B. rochalimae-like were widespread among jackals, foxes, hyraxes and jirds. This report represents the first detection of this zoonotic Bartonella sp. in rock hyraxes and golden jackals. Moreover, DNA of Bartonella vinsonii subsp. berkhoffii, Bartonella acomydis, Candidatus Bartonella merieuxii and other uncharacterized genotypes were identified. Three different Bartonella strains were isolated from Tristram's jirds, and several genotypes were molecularly detected from these animals. Furthermore, this study reports the first detection of Bartonella infection in a southern hedgehog. Our study indicates that infection with zoonotic and other Bartonella species is widespread among wild animals and stresses their potential threat to public health.
We examined quantity and quality components of primary seed dispersal for an assemblage of sigmodontine rodents in a high-elevation montane tropical forest in Peru. We collected faecal samples from 134 individuals belonging to seven rodent species from the subfamily Sigmodontinae (Cricetidae) over a 2-y period. We conducted seed viability tests for seeds found in faecal samples. We identified seeds from eight plant families (Bromeliaceae, Annonaceae, Brassicaceae, Ericaceae, Melastomatacae, Myrtaceae, Rosaceae, Solanaceae), nine genera and 13 morphospecies. The most abundant seeds belonged to Gaultheria sp. 1 (46% of total) and Miconia sp. 1 (31% of total), while the most viable seeds belonged to Greigia sp. (84% viability) and Guatteria sp. (80% viability). We utilized relative rodent abundance, seed species diversity, seed abundance and seed viability per rodent species to calculate an index of rodent disperser effectiveness, and found that Thomasomys kalinowskii was the most effective disperser, followed by Akodon torques, Calomys sorellus, Thomasomys oreas, Oligoryzomys andinus and Microryzomys minutus. Plant genera dispersed by sigmodontine rodents overlapped more with bird- and terrestrial-mammal-dispersed plants than with bat-dispersed plants. Future neotropical seed dispersal studies should consider small rodents as potential seed-dispersers, especially in tropical habitats where small-seeded, berry-forming shrubs and trees are present.
Leptospirosis incidence has increased markedly since 1995 in Thailand, with the eastern and northern parts being the most affected regions, particularly during flooding events. Here, we attempt to overview the evolution of human prevalence during the past decade and identify the environmental factors that correlate with the incidence of leptospirosis and the clinical incidence in humans. We used an extensive survey of Leptospira infection in rodents conducted in 2008 and 2009 and the human incidence of the disease from 2003 to 2012 in 168 villages of two districts of Nan province in Northern Thailand. Using an ad-hoc developed land-use cover implemented in a geographical information system we showed that humans and rodents were not infected in the same environment/habitat in the land-use cover. High village prevalence was observed in open habitat near rivers for the whole decade, or in 2008–2009 mostly in rice fields prone to flooding, whereas infected rodents (2008–2009) were observed in patchy habitat with high forest cover, mostly situated on sloping ground areas. We also investigated the potential effects of public health campaigns conducted after the dramatic flood event of 2006. We showed that, before 2006, human incidence in villages was explained by the population size of the village according to the environmental source of infection of this disease, while as a result of the campaigns, human incidence in villages after 2006 appeared independent of their population size. This study confirms the role of the environment and particularly land use, in the transmission of bacteria, emphasized by the effects of the provincial public health campaigns on the epidemiological pattern of incidence, and questions the role of rodents as reservoirs.
Daily activity patterns reflect interactions between circadian mechanisms and environmental stimuli. Among these stimuli, temperature can be an important factor affecting activity budgets. To sample the agouti (Dasyprocta azarae), a systematic camera-trap grid was established with 50 independent sampling sites. A circular kernel function was used to characterize the activity patterns of the agouti population. To evaluate shifts in activity as a function of mean daily temperature, the entire set of records was subdivided into smaller sets covering different temperature ranges. The activity pattern belonging to each set was characterized and compared through the overlap of their full activity (95% isopleth) and activity core (50% isopleth). Based on 400 independent records, agoutis were predominately diurnal. They shifted their activity core, while keeping their activity range (the amount of time a population remains active during the 24-h cycle) constant through the temperature gradient. The agouti demonstrated a unimodal activity pattern at lower temperatures, which became more bimodal at higher temperatures. Nevertheless, it kept its activity range constant, regardless of temperature. These results likely reflect a trade-off between activity time and thermoregulation during the diurnal period and demonstrate how the agouti can change its behaviour to achieve thermal comfort.
We studied the effects of environment- (habitat, season) and host-related (sex, body mass) factors on the occurrence of four species of lice (Insecta:Phthiraptera:Anoplura) on six rodent species (Rodentia:Muridae). We asked how these factors influence the occurrence of lice on an individual host and whether different rodent–louse associations demonstrate consistent trends in these effects. We found significant effects of at least one environment-related and at least one host-related factor on the louse occurrence in five of six host–louse associations. The effect of habitat was significant in two associations with the occurrence of lice being more frequent in lowland than in mountain habitats. The effect of season was significant in five associations with a higher occurrence of infestation during the warm season in four associations and the cold season in one association. Host sex affected significantly the infestation by lice in three associations with a higher frequency of infestation in males. Host body mass affected the occurrence of lice in all five associations, being negative in wood mice and positive in voles. In conclusion, lice were influenced not only by the host- but also by environment-related factors. The effects of the latter could be mediated via life history parameters of a host.