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Deagle B.E.,Australian Antarctic Division | Thomas A.C.,University of British Columbia | Shaffer A.K.,Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium | Trites A.W.,University of British Columbia | Jarman S.N.,Australian Antarctic Division
Molecular Ecology Resources | Year: 2013

A goal of many environmental DNA barcoding studies is to infer quantitative information about relative abundances of different taxa based on sequence read proportions generated by high-throughput sequencing. However, potential biases associated with this approach are only beginning to be examined. We sequenced DNA amplified from faeces (scats) of captive harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) to investigate whether sequence counts could be used to quantify the seals' diet. Seals were fed fish in fixed proportions, a chordate-specific mitochondrial 16S marker was amplified from scat DNA and amplicons sequenced using an Ion Torrent PGM™. For a given set of bioinformatic parameters, there was generally low variability between scat samples in proportions of prey species sequences recovered. However, proportions varied substantially depending on sequencing direction, level of quality filtering (due to differences in sequence quality between species) and minimum read length considered. Short primer tags used to identify individual samples also influenced species proportions. In addition, there were complex interactions between factors; for example, the effect of quality filtering was influenced by the primer tag and sequencing direction. Resequencing of a subset of samples revealed some, but not all, biases were consistent between runs. Less stringent data filtering (based on quality scores or read length) generally produced more consistent proportional data, but overall proportions of sequences were very different than dietary mass proportions, indicating additional technical or biological biases are present. Our findings highlight that quantitative interpretations of sequence proportions generated via high-throughput sequencing will require careful experimental design and thoughtful data analysis. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Seeley K.E.,Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium | Baitchman E.,Zoo New England | Bartlett S.,Zoo New England | Debroy C.,Pennsylvania State University | Garner M.M.,Northwest ZooPath
Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine | Year: 2014

An increase in mortality in a captive flock of budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus) coincided with the isolation of attaching and effacing Escherichia coli from postmortem samples. Common histologic lesions included hepatitis, enteritis, and in one case attaching and effacing lesions along the intestinal tract. Retrospective review of necropsy records and increased sampling led to the identification of several cases of E. coli with the attaching and effacing (eae) virulence gene. Factors such as environment, nutrition, and concomitant pathogens were thought to contribute to mortality in the flock. Although it is not clear whether E. coli was a primary pathogen during the period of increased mortality, the presence of the eae gene combined with associated histologic lesions supports the conclusion that this organism was a significant contributor to mortality. Manipulation of diet, environment, and the addition of probiotic supplementation resulted in a decline in mortality rate and decreased shedding of E. coli based on negative follow-up cultures of intestines, liver, and feces. © Copyright 2014 by American Association of Zoo Veterinarians.

Saunders S.P.,University of Minnesota | Harris T.,Apple Inc | Traylor-Holzer K.,Apple Inc | Beck K.G.,Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium
Animal Reproduction Science | Year: 2014

Understanding factors that influence reproduction and offspring survival in zoo populations is critical for management of threatened and endangered species. Examination of long-term data (1989-2011) compiled from the Association of Zoos and Aquarium's zoo-managed tiger breeding program provides the basis for a more thorough understanding of reproduction and scientifically based decisions for effective population management in this endangered felid. Biological and management-related factors that could influence tiger breeding success and cub survival were evaluated using logistic mixed models. Breeding success improved with female age until approximately age five, then declined thereafter. Experienced female breeders had greater breeding success than inexperienced females. Litter size was most predictive of cub survival, with average-sized litters (3-4 cubs) experiencing the highest proportional survival. Management-related factors, such as whether the breeding institution had a recent tiger litter and whether both animals were already located at the same institution, also influenced breeding success and cub survival. These results highlight the importance of institutional husbandry experience and the need to retain knowledge through staff turnovers to achieve optimal reproductive success. Using fecal estrogen data, frequency of ovarian cyclicity and mean cycle length did not differ by female age or parity; thus, lack of cyclicity and/or increased cycle duration are not likely explanations for declining breeding success with age. These results provide valuable reproductive information that should improve scientific management of zoo-based tiger populations. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.

Noren S.R.,University of California at Santa Cruz | Udevitz M.S.,U.S. Geological Survey | Triggs L.,Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium | Paschke J.,Six Flags Discovery Kingdom | And 2 more authors.
Marine Mammal Science | Year: 2015

Pacific walruses may be unable to meet caloric requirements in the changing Arctic ecosystem, which could affect body condition and have population-level consequences. Body condition has historically been monitored by measuring blubber thickness over the xiphoid process (sternum). This may be an unreliable condition index because blubber at other sites along the body may be preferentially targeted to balance energetic demands. Animals in aquaria provided an opportunity for controlled study of how blubber topography is altered by caloric intake. Morphology, body mass, blubber thickness (21 sites), and caloric intake of five mature, nonpregnant, nonlactating female walruses were measured monthly (12 month minimum). Body condition (mass × standard length-1) was described by a model that included caloric intake and a seasonal effect, and scaled positively with estimates of total blubber mass. Blubber thicknesses (1.91-10.69 cm) varied topographically and were similar to values reported for free-ranging female walruses. Body condition was most closely related to blubber thickness measured dorsomedially in the region of the anterior insertion of the pectoral flippers (shoulders); sternum blubber thickness was a relatively poor indicator of condition. This study demonstrates the importance of validating condition metrics before using them to monitor free-ranging populations. © Published 2014. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.

Lockyear K.M.,Health Unit | MacDonald S.E.,York University | Waddell W.T.,Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium | Goodrowe K.L.,Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium
Theriogenology | Year: 2016

An evaluation of a large database of red wolf fresh ejaculate characteristics (n = 427 ejaculates from 64 wolves) was undertaken to increase knowledge of seminal characteristics in the red wolf and evaluate possible relationships between inbreeding, age, and seminal quality. Phase microscopy analysis of electroejaculates collected over 14 natural breeding seasons was compared with animal ages and inbreeding coefficients. Ejaculate volume increased and sperm concentration and total count decreased as wolves aged (P < 0.01, 0.001, and 0.05, respectively), and the proportion of sperm cell morphological abnormalities was greater in animals with higher coefficients of inbreeding (P < 0.001), particularly for older animals (P < 0.001). Moreover, the mean coefficient of inbreeding of animals that had failed to reproduce given at least one opportunity during their lifetimes was significantly greater than that of wolves with proven fertility, and wolves of proven fertility exhibited higher sperm concentrations and total counts than nonproven wolves. Thus, as the captive red wolf population becomes more inbred, the maximum age of reproduction is likely to decrease; an important finding to consider when projecting population dynamics and determining pairing recommendations. © 2016 Elsevier Inc.

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