Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

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Charruau P.,University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna | Fernandes C.,University of Lisbon | Orozco-Terwengel P.,University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna | Peters J.,Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich | And 12 more authors.
Molecular Ecology | Year: 2011

The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) has been described as a species with low levels of genetic variation. This has been suggested to be the consequence of a demographic bottleneck 10 000-12 000 years ago (ya) and also led to the assumption that only small genetic differences exist between the described subspecies. However, analysing mitochondrial DNA and microsatellites in cheetah samples from most of the historic range of the species we found relatively deep phylogeographic breaks between some of the investigated populations, and most of the methods assessed divergence time estimates predating the postulated bottleneck. Mitochondrial DNA monophyly and overall levels of genetic differentiation support the distinctiveness of Northern-East African cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus soemmeringii). Moreover, combining archaeozoological and contemporary samples, we show that Asiatic cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) are unambiguously separated from African subspecies. Divergence time estimates from mitochondrial and nuclear data place the split between Asiatic and Southern African cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus jubatus) at 32 000-67 000 ya using an average mammalian microsatellite mutation rate and at 4700-44 000 ya employing human microsatellite mutation rates. Cheetahs are vulnerable to extinction globally and critically endangered in their Asiatic range, where the last 70-110 individuals survive only in Iran. We demonstrate that these extant Iranian cheetahs are an autochthonous monophyletic population and the last representatives of the Asiatic subspecies A. j. venaticus. We advocate that conservation strategies should consider the uncovered independent evolutionary histories of Asiatic and African cheetahs, as well as among some African subspecies. This would facilitate the dual conservation priorities of maintaining locally adapted ecotypes and genetic diversity. © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


PubMed | Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Dubai Falcon Hospital, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, National Museum of Natural History and 53 more.
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Science (New York, N.Y.) | Year: 2014

To better determine the history of modern birds, we performed a genome-scale phylogenetic analysis of 48 species representing all orders of Neoaves using phylogenomic methods created to handle genome-scale data. We recovered a highly resolved tree that confirms previously controversial sister or close relationships. We identified the first divergence in Neoaves, two groups we named Passerea and Columbea, representing independent lineages of diverse and convergently evolved land and water bird species. Among Passerea, we infer the common ancestor of core landbirds to have been an apex predator and confirm independent gains of vocal learning. Among Columbea, we identify pigeons and flamingoes as belonging to sister clades. Even with whole genomes, some of the earliest branches in Neoaves proved challenging to resolve, which was best explained by massive protein-coding sequence convergence and high levels of incomplete lineage sorting that occurred during a rapid radiation after the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction event about 66 million years ago.


Vamberger M.,Museum of Zoology Museum fur Tierkunde | Stuckas H.,Museum of Zoology Museum fur Tierkunde | Ayaz D.,Ege University | Gracia E.,University Miguel Hernández | And 5 more authors.
Organisms Diversity and Evolution | Year: 2013

The West Asian stripe-necked terrapin Mauremys caspica is widespread throughout the Middle East - a region for which only few phylogeographic studies are available. Due to landscape alteration, pollution and intensification of water management, M. caspica is increasingly threatened. However, genetic diversity among and within populations is poorly known, impeding the identification of management units. Using a nearly rangewide sampling, we analyzed 14 microsatellite loci and mtDNA sequences in order to gain insight into the population structure and history of M. caspica. In agreement with a previous study, we found two clusters of mitochondrial haplotypes, with one cluster distributed in the east and the other in the west of the range. However, our microsatellite data suggested a more pronounced geographical structuring. When null alleles were coded as recessive with structure 2.3.2, three clusters were revealed, with one cluster matching roughly the range of the western mitochondrial cluster, and the composite ranges of the two other microsatellite clusters correspond to the distribution of the eastern mitochondrial cluster. Naïve structure analyses without correction for null alleles were congruent with respect to the two eastern microsatellite clusters, but subdivided the western cluster into two units, with an additional geographical divide corresponding to the 'Anatolian diagonal' - a well-known high mountain barrier impeding exchange between western and eastern taxa. In naïve analyses, the westernmost microsatellite cluster (from Central Anatolia) is quite isolated from the others, and its distinctness is also supported by fixation indices resembling the values among the other three clusters. One of the two eastern clusters is distributed in the Caucasus region plus Iran, and terrapins from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain constitute the second eastern cluster, supporting the view that these endangered populations are native. Coalescent-based analyses of our microsatellite data reveal for all four clusters bottlenecks 4,000-20,000 years ago, suggesting that climatic fluctuations of the Late Pleistocene and Holocene played an important role in shaping current genetic diversity. We propose that each of the four identified clusters, including the Central Anatolian one, should be treated as a distinct management unit. The presence of non-native terrapins in the animal trade of Bahrain highlights the danger of genetic pollution of the endangered Arabian populations. Further sampling is needed to elucidate the situation in southern and central Iran and Iraq. Our results confirm that genetic data do not support the validity of any of the three morphologically defined subspecies of M. caspica, and we propose that their usage be abandoned. © 2012 Gesellschaft für Biologische Systematik.


Knight M.H.,Park Planning and Development | Knight M.H.,Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University | Seddon P.J.,University of Otago | Al Midfa A.,Breeding Center for Endangered Arabian Wildlife
Zoology in the Middle East | Year: 2011

This paper summarizes the status of and opportunities for transboundary conservation areas (TBCAs) in the Arabian Peninsula. Although there has been limited development of TBCAs in the Peninsula, the concept is seen regionally as valuable to: encourage collaboration and cooperation between conservation partners; provide a shared vision; enable joint and effective ecosystem management in a larger system; encourage social, economic and ecological partnerships; facilitate the development of a sustainable sub-regional economic base; and increase international cooperation at multiple inter-govemment levels. Three potential sites have been identified, each focused around a charismatic species for the region: The conservation of dugongs in the marine environment from the Gulf of Bahrain to the United Arab Emirates (UAE); the conservation of Endangered Arabian Oryx Oryx leucoryx in the UAE-Saudi Arabia-Oman border area; and the conservation of Critically Endangered Arabian Leopard Panthera pardus nimr in the Yemen-Oman terrestrial borders. There has been a call for a champion, such as the Sharjah government, to drive the process at the inter-govemment level, with representatives of relevant conservation authorities facilitating activities at the local level. © Kasparek Verlag, Heidelberg.


Soorae P.,Environment Agency | Els J.,Breeding Center for Endangered Arabian Wildlife | Gardner D.,74 Joondanna Drive | El Alqamy H.,Environment Agency
Zoology in the Middle East | Year: 2013

Records of the Arabian Toad (Duttaphrynus arabicus) and the Dhofar Toad (Duttaphrynus dhufarensis) in the UAE and adjacent areas of northern Oman are mapped and some recent observations presented. The Arabian Toad is more widely distributed in more mesic habitats and benefits from the increase in artificially irrigated habitats. The Dhofar Toad is able to live in drier areas but its distribution pattern suggests it may be outcompeted by the Arabian Toad in wetter areas with greater availability of surface water. © 2013 Taylor & Francis.


Carranza S.,University Pompeu Fabra | Simo-Riudalbas M.,University Pompeu Fabra | Jayasinghe S.,Breeding Center for Endangered Arabian Wildlife | Wilms T.,Allwetterzoo Munster | Els J.,Breeding Center for Endangered Arabian Wildlife
PeerJ | Year: 2016

Background. The Hajar Mountains of Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the highest mountain range in Eastern Arabia. As a result of their old geological origin, geographical isolation, complex topography and local climate, these mountains provide an important refuge for endemic and relict species of plants and animals with strong Indo-Iranian affinities. Among vertebrates, the rock climbing nocturnal geckos of the genus Asaccus represent the genus with the highest number of endemic species in the Hajar Mountains. Recent taxonomic studies on the Zagros populations of Asaccus have shown that this genus is much richer than it was previously thought and preliminary morphological and molecular data suggest that its diversity in Arabia may also be underestimated. Methods. A total of 83 specimens originally classified as Asaccus caudivolvulus (including specimens of the two new species described herein), six other Asaccus species from the Hajar and the Zagros Mountains and two representatives of the genus Haemodracon were sequenced for up to 2,311 base pairs including the mitochondrial 12S and cytb and the nuclear c-mos, MC1R and ACM4 genes. Phylogenetic relationships were inferred using both Bayesian and maximum-likelihood approaches and the former method was also used to calibrate the phylogenetic tree. Haplotype networks and phylogenetic trees were inferred from the phased nuclear genes only. Sixty-one alcohol-preserved adult specimens originally classified as Asaccus caudivolvulus from the northern Hajar Mountains were examined for 13 morphometric and the five meristic variables using multivariate methods and were also used to diagnose and describe the two new species. Results. The results of the molecular and morphological analyses indicate that the species originally classified as Asaccus caudivolvulus is, in fact, an assemblage of three different species that started diversifying during the Mid-Miocene. The molecular phylogenies consistently recovered the Hajar endemic A. montanus as sister taxon to all the other Asaccus species included in the analyses, rendering the Arabian species of Asaccus polyphyletic. Discussion. Using this integrative approach we have uncovered a very old diversification event that has resulted in a case of microendemicity, where three morphologically and ecologically similar medium-sized lizard species coexist in a very short and narrow mountain stretch. Asaccus caudivolvulus is restricted to a small coastal area of the UAE and at risk from heavy development, while the two new species described herein are widely distributed across the northern tip of the Hajar Mountains and seem to segregate in altitude when found in close proximity in the Musandam Peninsula (Oman). Similarly to other integrative analyses of Hajar reptiles, this study highlights the high level of diversity and endemicity of this arid mountain range, underscoring its status as one of the top hotspots of reptile diversity in Arabia. © 2016 Carranza et al.


Whitehouse-Tedd K.M.,Outreach | Whitehouse-Tedd K.M.,Nottingham Trent University | Whitehouse-Tedd K.M.,Breeding Center for Endangered Arabian Wildlife | Lefebvre S.L.,Banfield Pet Hospital | Janssens G.P.J.,Ghent University
PLoS ONE | Year: 2015

Gastrointestinal diseases pose significant risks to captive cheetah survival and welfare. Multiple factors are thought to be associated with these diseases, but to date a comprehensive epidemiological survey of disease risk factors has not been conducted. A survey of diet and health parameters was completed for 184 captive cheetahs in 86 international facilities. Comparisons were made among dietary factors with respect to disease status and observed faecal consistency, incidence of vomiting and diarrhoea in the past 4 weeks. Extremely dry faeces were most common in cheetahs fed carcasses, but was still of low incidence (15%). Contrastingly, cheetahs fed commercially prepared diets had the highest prevalence of liquid faeces "always" or "often" (9%). Cheetahs fed raw meat diets had the highest prevalence of soft faeces with no shape (22%), as well as of firm and dry faeces (40%). No broad category of diet exerted any influence on the health parameters investigated. However, feeding of ribs at least once per week reduced the odds of diarrhoea (P = 0.020) and feeding of long bones (limbs) at least once per week was associated with a lower odds of vomiting (P = 0.008). Cheetahs fed muscle meat at least once per week had reduced odds of suffering from chronic gastritis (P = 0.005) or non-specific gastrointestinal disease (P < 0.001). The only factor identified as increasing the odds of chronic gastritis was feeding of horse "often" or "always" (P = 0.023). The findings of the current study build on existing empirical research to support a recommendation towards a greater inclusion of skeletal components. Current husbandry guidelines advocating the use of supplemented raw meat diets are likewise supported, but the use of horse meat, as well as commercially prepared diets for captive cheetahs, warrants caution until further research is conducted. Copyright: © 2015 Whitehouse-Tedd et al.


Budd J.,Breeding Center for Endangered Arabian Wildlife | Leus K.,Conservation Breeding Specialist Group
Zoology in the Middle East | Year: 2011

Captive breeding has the potential to play a pivotal role in conserving threatened species, among others by providing a healthy "safety net" population with which to buffer dwindling numbers in the wild. The Arabian Leopard Panthera pardus nimr is Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Captive breeding is an essential component of conservation for this species. Many experts are of the opinion that the chances for survival of the Arabian Leopard in the wild are much reduced without the potential for reintroduction of animals. The captive breeding programme has been operating on a regional level since 1999, although the first Arabian Leopards registered in the studbook were caught in 1985. The current living population consists of 42 males, 32 females, and three unsexed leopards; nineteen are wild caught (of which 3 are siblings) and a substantial number of these do not actively participate in the breeding programme. The program focuses on ensuring a genetically sound population that closely resembles the wild population. Current and predicted trends within the population arc compared with recommended trends and graphically illustrated using dedicated population management software, PM2000. © Kasparek Verlag, Heidelberg.


Al Midfa A.,Environment and Protected Areas Authority | Mallon D.,IUCN SSC Antelone Special ist Group | Budd K.,Breeding Center for Endangered Arabian Wildlife
Zoology in the Middle East | Year: 2011

A series of annual conservation workshops on the fauna of the Arabian Peninsula was initiated in 2000 under the patronage of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah. The 10 workshops held to date have brought together many experts from across the region and outside, fostering cooperation and assessing the regional status of several taxonomie groups. The Arabian Leopard has been a major topic and a region-wide conservation strategy has been produced. The workshops have alos produced the first assessment of Arabian freshwater habitats and since 2007 protected areas have formed an important topic. © Kasparek Verlag, Heidelberg.


Jordan B.,Breeding Center for Endangered Arabian Wildlife | Vercammen P.,Breeding Center for Endangered Arabian Wildlife | Cooper K.L.,Harvard University
Cold Spring Harbor Protocols | Year: 2011

The lesser Egyptian jerboa, Jaculus jaculus, is the ideal jerboa species for use as a laboratory model system. As a member of the most derived clade of three-toed jerboas, it shows all of the specialized characteristics for bipedalism, including loss of the lateral digits and fusion and elongation of the metatarsals. It is a small rodent, weighing ~55 g as an adult, and it does not hibernate through the winter as is common with many other jerboa species. It is the first Dipodoid rodent whose genome is to be sequenced, and multiple genomic resources are being generated. The jerboa has been notoriously difficult to breed in captivity with only a small number of zoos and private breeders achieving success. The Harvard University colony of 60 adult animals (half male/half female) has had 36 offspring born in captivity in one year. The jerboa colony at the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife in Sharjah, UAE has been operating since 2007 and has had 180 live births. Here, we outline guidelines for successfully maintaining and breeding a colony of J. jaculus in a laboratory setting. © 2011 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

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