Saudarkrokur, Iceland

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Ragnarsson S.,Holar University College | Lindberg J.E.,Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Livestock Science | Year: 2010

The influence of cutting time of mixed grass haylages on energy and nitrogen (N) metabolism, and the coefficients of total tract apparent digestibility (CTTAD) were studied in four mature Icelandic geldings by performing total collection of faeces and urine. The experiment was arranged as 4 × 4 balanced Latin square. The four haylages used were harvested at different times and were considered to be representative in botanical composition for mixed grass haylages in Iceland. The CTTAD of dry matter (DM), organic matter (OM), crude protein, neutral detergent fibre, acid detergent fibre (ADF) and energy were different (p < 0.05) in the haylage batches. The CTTAD of all dietary components and energy decreased with time of cutting. The content of ADF (% in DM) accounted for a major part of the difference in CTTAD of OM (r2 = 0.95) between haylage batches. The urinary nitrogen losses decreased with date of cutting, while the energy losses in urine (as % of digestible energy intake) were unaffected (p > 0.05). The digestible energy content of the haylages studied ranged from 13.4 to 10.8 MJ/kg DM. © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Kotrschal A.,Uppsala University | Rasanen K.,ETH Zurich | Kristjansson B.K.,Holar University College | Senn M.,ETH Zurich | Kolm N.,Uppsala University
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Selection pressures that act differently on males and females produce numerous differences between the sexes in morphology and behaviour. However, apart from the controversial report that males have slightly heavier brains than females in humans, evidence for substantial sexual dimorphism in brain size is scarce. This apparent sexual uniformity is surprising given that sexually distinct selection pressures are ubiquitous and that brains are one of the most plastic vertebrate organs. Here we demonstrate the highest level of sexual brain size dimorphism ever reported in any vertebrate: male three-spined stickleback of two morphs in an Icelandic lake have 23% heavier brains than females. We suggest that this dramatic sexual size dimorphism is generated by the many cognitively demanding challenges that males are faced in this species, such as an elaborate courtship display, the construction of an ornate nest and a male-only parental care system. However, we consider also alternative explanations for smaller brains in females, such as life-history trade-offs. Our demonstration of unprecedented levels of sexual dimorphism in brain size in the three-spined stickleback implies that behavioural and life-history differences among the sexes can have strong effects also on neural development and proposes new fields of research for understanding brain evolution. © 2012 Kotrschal et al.


Parsons K.J.,University of Guelph | Skulason S.,Holar University College | Ferguson M.,University of Guelph
Evolution and Development | Year: 2010

Natural selection requires genetically based phenotypic variation to facilitate its action and cause adaptive evolution. It has become increasingly recognized that morphological development can become canalized likely as a result of selection. However, it is largely unknown how selection may influence canalization over ontogeny and differing environments. Changes in environments or colonization of a novel one is expected to result in adaptive divergence from the ancestral population when selection favors a new phenotypic optimum. In turn, a novel environment may also expose variation previously hidden from natural selection. We tested for changes in phenotypic variation over ontogeny and environments among ecomorphs of Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus) from two Icelandic lakes. Populations represented varying degrees of ecological specialization, with one lake population possessing highly specialized ecomorphs exhibiting a large degree of phenotypic divergence, whereas the other displayed more subtle divergence with more ecological overlap. Here we show that ecomorphs hypothesized to be the most specialized in each lake possess significant reductions in shape variation over ontogeny regardless of environmental treatment suggesting canalized development. However, environments did change the amount of shape variation expressed in these ecomorphs, with novel environments slowing the rate at which variation was reduced over ontogeny. Thus, environmental conditions may play an important role in determining the type and amount of genetically based phenotypic variation exposed to natural selection. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


Kornobis E.,University of Iceland | PAlsson S.,University of Iceland | KristjAnsson B.K.,Holar University College | Svavarsson J.,University of Iceland
Molecular Ecology | Year: 2010

Two endemic groundwater arthropod crustacean species, Crangonyx islandicus and Crymostygius thingvallensis, were recently discovered on the mid-Atlantic volcanic island of Iceland. The extent of morphological differences from closest relatives, endemism, along with the geographic isolation of Iceland and its complete coverage by glaciers 21 000 years ago, suggests that these two species have survived glaciation periods in sub-glacial refugia. Here we provide strong support for this hypothesis by an analysis of mitochondrial genetic variation within Crangonyx islandicus. Our results show that the species is divided into several distinct monophyletic groups that are found along the volcanic zone in Iceland, which have been separated by 0.5 to around 5 million years. The genetic divergence between groups reflects geographic distances between sampling sites, indicating that divergence occurred after the colonization of Iceland. The genetic patterns, as well as the dependency of genetic variation on distances from the tectonic plate boundary and altitude, points to recent expansion from several refugia within Iceland. This presents the first genetic evidence of multicellular organisms as complex as crustacean amphipods which have survived glaciations beneath an ice sheet. This survival may be explained by geothermal heat linked to volcanic activities, which may have maintained favourable habitats in fissures along the tectonic plate boundary in Iceland during glaciations. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


Ragnarsson S.,Holar University College | Jansson A.,Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition | Year: 2011

The aim of the present study was to compare digestibility and metabolic response in Icelandic and Standardbred horses fed two grass haylages harvested at different stages of maturity. Six horses of each breed were used in a 24-day change-over design. A total collection of faeces was made on days 15-17 and 22-24. Blood samples were collected on day 24 of each period and analysed for total plasma protein (TPP), plasma urea, non-esterified fatty acids, cortisol and insulin concentration. There were no differences in digestibility coefficients of crude protein, neutral detergent fibre or energy between breeds but organic matter digestibility was higher in the Standardbred horses. On both haylages, the Icelandic horses gained weight whereas the Standardbred horses lost weight. The Icelandic horses had higher TPP, plasma insulin and lower plasma urea concentrations. Our results indicate that the Icelandic horse may be more prone to maintain positive energy balance in relation to the Standardbred horse, but there were no indication of a better digestive capacity in the Icelandic horses. © 2010 Blackwell Verlag GmbH.


Steingrimsson S.O.,Concordia University at Montréal | Steingrimsson S.O.,Holar University College | Grant J.W.A.,Concordia University at Montréal
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology | Year: 2011

Patterns of space use provide key insights into how animals exploit local resources and are linked to both the fitness and distribution of individuals. We studied territory size, mobility, and foraging behavior of young-of-the-year Atlantic salmon Salmo salar in relation to several key environmental factors in Catamaran Brook, New Brunswick, Canada. The 50 study fish were all multiple central-place foragers (i.e., alternated among several sit-and-wait foraging stations) and showed great variability in territory size and the total distance traveled within the territories. Territory size increased with the mean distance traveled between consecutive foraging stations, the number of stations visited, and the mean foraging radius. Fish also varied greatly in how much of the total travel distance was associated with foraging at a station (14.8-91.8%) versus switching among stations (4.6-84.3%). As predicted, fish in slow-flowing waters, where drifting prey were scarce, used larger multiple central-place territories than individuals in faster, more productive waters. Interestingly, however, the most mobile fish did not inhabit slow-running waters as predicted but were found at intermediate (optimal) water current velocities. Hence, our study suggests that among some multiple central-place foragers, increased mobility may not only serve to increase prey encounter rate but may reflect an attempt to patrol territories in favorable habitats. Further studies are needed to determine the generality and the ultimate benefits of multiple central-place space use among stream-dwelling fish and other animals. © 2010 Springer-Verlag.


MacQueen D.J.,University of St. Andrews | Kristjansson B.K.,Holar University College | Paxton C.G.M.,University of St. Andrews | Vieira V.L.A.,University of St. Andrews | Johnston I.A.,University of St. Andrews
Molecular Ecology | Year: 2011

Ecological factors have a major role in shaping natural variation in body size, although the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Icelandic Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus L.) populations represent an ideal model to understand body-size evolution, because adult dwarfism has arisen independently on multiple occasions in response to parallel environmental pressures. The mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway transmits signals from the environment to control cellular growth and is a primary candidate to be under selection for the dwarf phenotype. To test this hypothesis, we modified 'inputs' to this pathway in five dwarf and two generalist populations (with ancestral life history and body-size traits), using a standardized manipulation of food intake in a common environment. The skeletal muscle transcript levels of 21 mTOR-pathway genes were quantified in 274 individuals (∼6000 datapoints), and statistical modelling was used to elucidate sources of variation. Constitutive expression differences between populations were the main component of variation for around three-quarters of the studied genes, irrespective of nutritional-state and body-size phenotype. There was evidence for stabilizing selection acting among populations, conserving the nutritionally dependent regulation of pathway genes controlling muscle atrophy. There were three genes (mTOR, 4E-BP-1 and IGFBP4), where the expression variation between dwarf and generalist populations exceeded the between-population variation. Divergence in the expression of these candidate adaptive genes was most evident during a period of rapid growth following sustained fasting and was directionally consistent with their functions regulating growth and protein synthesis. We concluded that selection has operated efficiently to shape gene expression evolution in Icelandic charr populations and that the regulation of certain mTOR-pathway genes evolved adaptively in locations favouring dwarfism, resulting in reduced muscle protein accretion under growth-favouring conditions. © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


Parsons K.J.,University of Guelph | Parsons K.J.,Syracuse University | Sheets H.D.,Canisius College | Skulason S.,Holar University College | Ferguson M.M.,University of Guelph
Journal of Evolutionary Biology | Year: 2011

Phenotypic plasticity is a developmental process that plays a role as a source of variation for evolution. Models of adaptive divergence make the prediction that increasing ecological specialization should be associated with lower levels of plasticity. We tested for differences in the magnitude, rate and trajectory of morphological plasticity in two lake populations of Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus) that exhibited variation in the degree of resource polymorphism. We reared offspring on diet treatments that mimicked benthic and pelagic prey. Offspring from the more divergent population had lower levels of morphological plasticity. Allometry influenced the rate of shape change over ontogeny, with differences in rate among ecomorphs being minimal when allometric variation was removed. However, plasticity in the spatial trajectory of development was extensive across ecomorphs, both with and without the inclusion of allometric variation, suggesting that different aspects of shape development can evolve independently. © 2011 The Authors. Journal of Evolutionary Biology © 2011 European Society For Evolutionary Biology.


Macqueen D.J.,University of St. Andrews | Kristjansson B.K.,Holar University College | Johnston I.A.,University of St. Andrews
Physiological Genomics | Year: 2010

Metazoan akirin genes regulate innate immunity, myogenesis, and carcinogenesis. Invertebrates typically have one family member, while most tetrapod and teleost vertebrates have one to three. We demonstrate an expanded repertoire of eight family members in genomes of four salmonid fishes, owing to paralog preservation after three tetraploidization events. Retention of paralogs secondarily lost in other teleosts may be related to functional diversification and posttranslational regulation. We hypothesized that salmonid akirins would be transcriptionally regulated in fast-twitch skeletal muscle during activation of conserved pathways governing catabolism and growth. The in vivo nutritional state of Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus L.) was experimentally manipulated, and transcript levels for akirin family members and 26 other genes were measured by quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR), allowing the establishment of a similarity network of expression profiles. In fasted muscle, a class of akirins was upregulated, with one family member showing high coexpression with catabolic genes coding the NF-κB p65 subunit, E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes, E3 ubiquitin ligases, and IGF-I receptors. Another class of akirin was upregulated with subsequent feeding, coexpressed with 14-3-3 protein genes. There was no similarity between expression profiles of akirins with IGF hormones or binding protein genes. The level of phylogenetic relatedness of akirin family members was not a strong predictor of transcriptional responses to nutritional state, or differences in transcript abundance levels, indicating a complex pattern of regulatory evolution. The salmonid akirins epitomize the complexity linking the genome to physiological phenotypes of vertebrates with a history of tetraploidization. Copyright © 2010 the American Physiological Society.


Ragnarsson S.,Holar University College | Lindberg J.E.,Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition | Year: 2010

Eight mature Icelandic geldings were used in an experiment arranged as a change-over design to evaluate the effect of feeding level on the digestibility of a high-energy haylage-only diet. The horses were fed a low feeding level 10.7 g dry matter (DM)/kg body weight (BW) (maintenance) and a high feeding level 18.1 g DM/kg BW (1.5 × maintenance) during two 23 days experimental periods. Total collection of faeces was performed for 6 days at the end of each period to determine the coefficient of total tract apparent digestibility (CTTAD). The CTTAD for DM, organic matter, neutral detergent fibre (NDF), acid detergent fibre and energy was higher in horses fed at the low level of feed intake, while feeding level did not affect the CTTAD of crude protein. The largest difference in CTTAD between feeding levels was found for NDF. The content (/kg DM) of digestible energy in the haylage was 11.3 MJ at the low level of feed intake and 10.6 MJ at the high level of feed intake. It can be concluded that feeding level has a large impact on the digestibility and energy value of early cut haylage in Icelandic horses. © 2009 The Authors. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition © 2009 Blackwell Verlag GmbH.

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