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Upton upon Severn, United Kingdom

Fidgett A.L.,Chester Zoo | Gardner L.,The Zoological Society of London
International Zoo Yearbook | Year: 2014

At a time when zoo populations are being relied upon for future progeny and long-term sustainability of our avian populations, nutrition is vitally important. However, diet review, evaluation and change are often met with disinterest and complacency. Link nutrition to poor health, associated veterinary costs, poor egg production and low chick viability and suddenly the subject becomes more important. High standards are expected in other aspects of avian husbandry yet the nutritional composition of the diets often remains unknown. This article highlights advances in nutrition, useful resources, means of keeping feeding records, and tools available to evaluate and review avian diets in nutritional terms. Regularly reviewing diets ensures the nutritional care of birds keeps pace with other areas of husbandry. © 2014 The Zoological Society of London. Source


News Article
Site: http://news.yahoo.com/science/

(Reuters) - A clutch of around 200 rare Montserrat tarantulas have successfully hatched at a British zoo in what keepers hailed on Friday as a first in breeding such spiders. "Invertebrate keepers at the zoo are the first in the world to successfully breed the Montserrat tarantulas, marking a crucial step towards discovering more about the mysterious species," Chester Zoo said in a statement. Little is known about the spiders, which are native to the Montserrat island in the Caribbean. Experts had observed the adult tarantulas for three years and now hope to uncover more about the species.


News Article
Site: http://www.reuters.com

Tuatara are believed to have been on Earth for 225 million years, before most dinosaur species existed, but until now had only been bred in New Zealand's offshore islands or in a handful of its mainland zoos. Chester Zoo keeper Isolde (PRON: Izz-older) McGeorge has spent 38 years trying to encourage the reptiles to reproduce. The new arrival came in December, weighing 4.21 grams, following a 238 day incubation period. The zoo waited until this week to check the infant's health before going public. "Breeding tuatara is an incredible achievement," said Isolde. "They are notoriously difficult to breed and it's probably fair to say that I know that better than most as it has taken me 38 years to get here. It has taken lots of hard work, lots of stressful moments and lots of tweaking of the conditions in which we keep the animals along the way but it has all been very much worth it." She added: "This animal has been on the planet for over a quarter of a billion years and to be the first zoo to ever breed them outside of their homeland in New Zealand is undoubtedly an amazing event." Tuatara, scientific name Sphenodon punctatus, only reproduce every four years, and McGeorge spent 12 years attempting to help mother Mustard and father Pixie procreate. Around 70 million years ago the species became extinct everywhere except New Zealand. The tuatara is revered in Māori culture and few people are given permission to visit the islands where they reside. It belongs to a group of animals commonly known as beak heads, or Rhynchocephalia. Arguably its most curious feature is a 'third eye' on the top of its head. Despite having a retina, cornea, lens and nerve endings, the eye is not used for seeing. McGeorge says the next challenge is to repeat the zoo's success and help increase numbers of this endangered species.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 508.60K | Year: 2013

Cooperative animal societies, in which adults help to rear offspring that are not their own, have been the focus of intense research because they can help to understand how cooperation can evolve in the face of natural selection for self-interest. However, this research has also revealed great unexplained variation between individuals in how much they contribute to teamwork and how much effort they invest in rearing offspring. A plausible explanation for this variation comes from research on laboratory animals showing that early life conditions have lifelong impacts on adult health and behaviour, suggesting that differences in helping effort among adults could be attributable to variation in their early life developmental experiences and nutrition. Our research will test this hypothesis using our long-term habituated study population of banded mongooses, a highly cooperative mammal which lives in mixed-sex groups of around twenty individuals throughout sub-Saharan Africa. This species is ideal for the task because there is extreme variation among individual group members in how much they contribute to raising communal litters of offspring, and extreme variation among offspring in how much care and food they receive from adults. We have built up a detailed database on the behaviour and reproductive success of over 2200 individuals which enables us to test the lifetime consequences of this variation in early life care, and we can carry out feeding experiments to test whether maternal nutrition during pregnancy has lifelong impacts on their offspring. We will also measure the underlying hormonal mechanisms which control cooperative behaviour, and test how sensitive these hormonal mechanisms are to early life experiences and maternal nutrition in utero. The output of the research will be an improved understanding of the causes of individual variation in cooperative behaviour, and improved knowledge of mammalian development in populations exposed to natural predators and pathogens.


News Article
Site: http://www.scientificamerican.com

I figured that this event should be marked in some way that’s different from usual. Combine it with the fact that my annual reviews always tend to be over-long and that I’m over-committed and unable to find time for blog-writing this month anyway, and the result is… a whole month dedicated to 10 years of Tet Zoo. If this quantity of gratuitous introspection and self-congratulation is too retchingly egoistic for you to handle, go away and check back next month. It’s a big deal for me and I can’t ignore it. Here’s how the whole thing is going to pan out. To begin with, I’m going to review the events and adventures of 2015. I’m then going to review the blog’s taxonomic coverage during 2015. This is the part where I beat myself up for not writing enough about amphibians and turtles and berate myself for being too focused on charismatic megafauna. And then I’ll finish things by musing about the role of Tet Zoo in the blogosphere. Some of this might be interesting, but at least there’ll be lots of pictures. To work. Some things were due to happen in 2015. The writing of two… three… four books. More fieldwork in Romania. Four conferences in the UK, all of which I was (in some way) involved with, assorted technical research projects, continual progress at the Tet Zoo patreon project (THANK YOU PATRONS!) and the TetZoopodcats podcasts… During February I attended (and spoke at) the SRA (= Scholarly Research of the Anomalous) conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. As I’m sure you already know, there’s a lot of science to do on anomalous phenomena no matter whether there’s validity in them or not – human belief systems, our perceptive abilities, the way we interpret data, ideas, concepts and so on are all rewarding areas of study regardless of whether sea monsters, bigfoot or UFOs exist. Highlights included Roger Musson on the Bala earthquake – yes, this is the same event as the Berwyn Mountain UFO incident – Bettina Bildhauer on monster beliefs of the Middle Ages, Mike Dash’s ‘Our Artist Pictures What the Witness Saw’ and Charles Paxton on eyewitness reliability and re-enactments of the Patterson film. My own talk was on the evolution of ideas about sea monsters: I’d talk more about it, but now is not the time and I think it’s covered in my new cryptozoology book anyway (on which more later). Thanks to Gordon Rutter and Charles Paxton for the invitation and for organising a great conference. I took advantage of my time in Edinburgh to visit the zoo. Bad weather (driving rain) meant that it wasn’t the best of outdoor experiences I’ve had, but at least I had close-up views of such animals as giant panda, binturong (yeah, sleeping), one-horned rhino, drill, douroucouli and cassowary. March saw the publication of a collaborative paper on a small azhdarchid pterosaur vertebra from Romania (Vremir et al. 2015). This is a significant specimen since it provides evidence for a new, small, relatively short-necked azhdarchid taxon that lived alongside the also small but long-necked Eurazhdarcho and the gigantic Hatzegopteryx. Incidentally, the published version of this paper does not reflect the look or feel of previous drafts – I’m not happy with the very text-heavy look of the final product… pages and pages of text and nothing else. A few other interesting things happened in March. I started work on a new dinosaur-themed book (co-authored with Paul Barrett of The Natural History Museum, London), caught up (briefly) with Steve Backshall while attending a talk he gave for the Winchester College Natural History Society, and went to a talk by Christine Janis on kangaroo anatomy. And I was absolutely thrilled to receive a review copy of Gordon Grigg and David Kirshner’s incredible Biology and Evolution of Crocodylians (Grigg & Kirshner 2015), one of the most significant zoological books of our time. My initial thoughts on the book are here and I still have to write a proper, long review for publication. By the end of March, I’d done enough work on The Big Book (aka The Vertebrate Fossil Record) to have another draft ready for sharing and viewing. I suppose at this stage that the book was over 50% complete. Already it was 553 pages long. April started with the pivotal Tet Zoo article on how the Chromatic Truthometer has shown the world that cetaceans are not the blacks, grey and browns so often assumed but, actually, multi-coloured beasts of many hues. I was in Romania at the time, doing fieldwork. I saw European bison Bison bonasus (captive, not wild), Syrian woodpecker Dendrocopus/Picoides syriacus, Valachian sheep (article here) and much else, and my colleagues and I succeeded in finding new Cretaceous dinosaur and pterosaur specimens. The Hoser Issue Once More Regular readers will be aware of the effort to minimise the vigorous taxonomic vandalism being practised by independent researcher and snake-keeper Raymond Hoser – I covered this issue at length back in June 2013. Hoser has named hundreds of new, or allegedly new, taxa (including ‘higher’ entities like subfamilies, families and so on) and wants his names to be accepted by the technical community. There are a whole list of reasons why this shouldn’t happen: not only are the names etymological monstrosities, they’re published in-house in a desktop magazine that can’t be considered at all acceptable in terms of technical standards. There have been several efforts over the years to get Hoser’s hundreds of proposed names stricken from the record. Unfortunately, the body that’s supposed to police and monitor taxonomic problems and disputes (the ICZN, the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature) simply won’t make rulings on situations of this sort on its own. Instead, communities of workers are required to resolve messes for themselves before steering the ICZN toward the making of an appropriate final decision. And so it was that a large number of people interested in the Hoser problem ganged together in order to encourage the ICZN to have Hoser’s primary taxonomic vehicle (his Australian Journal of Herpetology) listed as unavailable for the publication of new taxonomic names. The resulting paper – led by Anders Rhodin and involving Roger Bour, Frank Glaw, Colin Groves, Russell Mittermeier, Mark O’Shea, James Parham, Robert Sprackland, Laurie Vitt, E. O. Wilson, Hussam Zaher, myself and many others – was published in March (Rhodin et al. 2015). The aim of publishing an argument such as this is to solicit comments from other members of the community, the weight of consensus then affecting the ICZN’s eventual ruling. It’s Case 3601 and comments can be added here. Hoser is a perfectly sensible and normal individual. Just to prove this, he recently went through my entire twitter feed to find – and respond to – all the mentions of his good self. I’ll be covering the Hoser issue again at some point. The multi-author article denouncing the pterosaurian nature of ‘Thalassodromeus sebesensis’ – it’s actually a partial plastron of the turtle Kallokibotion – saw print in April (Dyke et al. 2015). April also saw Tet Zoo articles on Brontosaurus, on the artisan modification of live monitor lizards (thanks to Memo Kosemen for all his help with that), and my article Some of the Things I Have Gotten Wrong. I mean to do follow-up articles to that one: there are, you see, an awful lot of Things I Have Gotten Wrong, but I haven’t yet found the time. Remember: it’s normal to get things wrong, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that so long as you aim to change your mind and admit your mistakes the more you learn. April 27th was World Tapir Day, and I hastily covered it on Tet Zoo. I like tapirs. Did I mention that there’s a new one? This wasn’t the only perissodactyl-themed day of 2015. The bizarre new membranous-winged maniraptoran dinosaur Yi qi was published late in April and the Tet Zoo take on it proved one of the year’s most popular articles. As I said back then, some of the most interesting things about Yi qi weren’t really covered by other writers or scientists. One is that the possible existence of membranous-winged scansoriopterygids was predicted and in fact even published (in All Your Yesterdays) years prior to 2015. Another is that the ‘screaming dragon of death’ images so prevalent online probably do not accurately reflect what we know about the life appearance of this animal. It probably looked more like a bat-winged parrot. As has been tradition for the past few years, I and colleagues attended the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival during late April and early May. We spoke to people about Mesozoic marine reptiles, dinosaurs and other beasts. I spent time at the coast, photographing pipits, wagtails, pigeons and gulls, as is tradition. I wrote about the pigeons. Significant progress was made on several technical projects during May: on a sauropod-themed manuscript, an azhdarchid one that’s kind of a big deal, and another that involved reinterpreting the Romanian maniraptoran Balaur. I’m sure I’ll mention again that 2015 was one of the most frustrating years I’ve yet endured in that an incredible number of technical papers got to a very advanced stage in the long and tedious process of publication, only to stall or be derailed for one reason or another. Of the projects just listed, only one has made it to completion so far. Such is the nature of the beast when it comes to scientific publishing, but it doesn’t ever make it any easier, especially not when you have to pour your own hard-won free time – or have to take time away from paid work – into getting things done. While staying in north Wales in May, I (and my family) visited both Chester Zoo and the Welsh Mountain Zoo. At both of these fine zoos I did see a great many animals, some of which you can see here. While caving, I (and my son, Will) accidentally discovered a Lesser horseshoe bat colony. Disturbing a bat roost is a criminal offence here in the UK, but of course this only counts when people know that there’s a bat colony there in the first place. Rest assured that we acted in proper fashion. June at Tet Zoo started with an article about turtles. Ah, turtles. I really need to blog about them a whole lot more. Sorry turtles. The final proofs for the paper version of Witton & Naish (2015) were dealt with – another azhdarchid paper... (a digital preprint has been around since 2013). Of course, June was also the month in which a movie called Jurassic World was released. Like everyone else who works on Mesozoic dinosaurs, journalists sought me out for my opinion (I penned an opinion piece for CNN). I don’t rate Jurassic World at all. It’s a dumb film with a lazy storyline, it makes a point of poking fun at you if you have any affection for Jurassic Park, and it deliberately gives us hideous monsters because modern audiences only like dinosaurs, apparently, when they look like saggy-skinned throwbacks from the 1950s. I agree with whomever it was that compared ‘Indominus’ to Rudy from Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. During May I’d already been quoted in the Sunday Times, the Mirror and various other UK papers, my primary lament being that Jurassic World simply could have been so much better as goes an innovative portrayal of Mesozoic animals. But, no. Stick with what’s safe. Cowards. The same sentiments were reflected via Brian Engh’s Build A Better Fake Theropod project, mentioned on Tet Zoo during June. And that’s where we’ll end things for now. More thoughts coming soon. For the previous Tet Zoo birthday articles, see... Dyke, G. J., Vremir, M., Brusatte, S., Bever, G., Buffetaut, E., Chapman, S., Csiki-Sava, Z., Kellner, A. W. A., Martin, E., Naish, D., Norell, M., si, A., Pinheiro, F. L., Prondvai, E., Rabi, M., Rodrigues, T., Steel, L., Tong, H., Vila Nova, B. C. & Witton, M. 2014. Thalassodromeus sebesensis – a new name for an old turtle. Comment on “Thalassodromeus sebesensis, an out of place and out of time Gondwanan tapejarid pterosaur”, Grellet-Tinner and Codrea. Gondwana Research 27, 1680-1682. Grigg, G. & Kirshner, D. 2015. Biology and Evolution of Crocodylians. Comstock Publishing Associates and CSIRO Publications. Rhodin, A. G. J., Kaiser, H., van Dijk, P. P., Wüster, W., O’Shea, M., Archer, M., Auliya, M., Boitani, L., Bour, R., Clausnitzer, V., Contreras-MacBeath, T., Crother, B. I., Daza, J. M., Driscoll, C. A., Flores-Villela, O., Frazier, J., Fritz, U., Gardner, A., Gascon, C., Georges, A., Glaw, F., Grazziotin, F. G., Groves, C. P., Haszprunar, G., Havaš, P., Hero, J. M., Hoffmann, M., Hoogmoed, M. S., Horne, B. D., Iverson, J. B., Jäch, M., Jenkins, C. L., Jenkins, R. K. B., Kiester, A. R., Keogh, J. S., Lacher Jr., T. E., Lovich, J. E., Luiselli, L., Mahler, D. L., Mallon, D., Mast, R., Mcdiarmid, R. W., Measey, J., Mittermeier, R. A., Molur, S., Mossbrugger, V., Murphy, R., Naish, D., Niekisch, M., Ota, J., Parham, J. F., Parr, M. J., Pilcher, N. J., Pine, R. H., Rylands, A. B., Sanderson, J. G., Savage, J., Schleip, W., Scrocchi, G. J., Shaffer, H. B., Smith, E. N., Sprackland, R., Stuart, S. N., Vetter, H., Vitt, L. J., Waller, T., Webb, G., Wilson, E. O., Zaher, H. & Thomson, S. 2015. Comment on Spracklandus Hoser, 2009 (Reptilia, Serpentes, ELAPIDAE): request for confirmation of the availability of the generic name and for the nomenclatural validation of the journal in which it was published. (Case 3601; see BZN 70: 234–237; 71: 30–38, 133–135, 181–182, 252–253). Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature 72 (1): 65-78. Vremir, M., Witton, M., Naish, D., Dyke, G., Brusatte, S. L., Norell, M. & Totoianu, R. 2015. A medium-sized robust-necked azhdarchid pterosaur (Pterodactyloidea: Azhdarchidae) from the Maastrichtian of Pui (Haeg Basin, Transylvania, Romania). American Museum Novitates 3827, 1-16.

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