Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

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Hardouin L.A.,Emirates Center for Wildlife Propagation | Nevoux M.,University of Pretoria | Robert A.,CNRS Science Conservation Center | Gimenez O.,CNRS Center of Evolutionary and Functional Ecology | And 4 more authors.
Oikos | Year: 2012

Avoidance of competition and inbreeding have been invoked as the major ultimate causes of natal dispersal, but proximate factors such as sex, body condition or birth date can also be important. Natal dispersal is expected to be of particular importance to understanding the ecological and evolutionary implications of dispersal strategies, since 1) numerous evidences suggest that individual differences in dispersal strategies are expressed early in life (i.e. at the onset of dispersal movement), 2) ultimate and proximate factors are more likely to act during this stage and 3) this stage is associated with the highest mortality rates in most vertebrates. We analysed the natal dispersal (hereafter, dispersal) behaviour in 100 marked individuals of a lekking species, the North African houbara bustards Chlamydotis undulata undulata, during four years. We investigated the effects of proximate factors on dispersal pattern and distance, as well as the mortality cost associated with movement using multievent models, allowing uncertainty in sex assignment and mixture of live recaptures and dead recoveries. Overall, males exhibited longer dispersal distances than females, contrary to the common pattern in birds. Moreover, males in poorer body condition moved further than those in better condition, whereas distance was independent of body condition in females. Finally, survival rates during dispersal were lower for females than for males and were negatively correlated with the distances covered with a similar distance-survival slope in the two sexes. Collectively, our results suggest that 1) there is substantial dispersal cost in both sexes, 2) dispersal is strongly male-biased, 3) this bias is unlikely to be explained by differential movement costs of each sex, and 4) dispersal differences found across different categories of individuals are in broad agreement with both the inbreeding avoidance and intraspecific competition mechanisms for dispersal. © 2012 The Authors. Oikos © 2012 Nordic Society Oikos.


PubMed | RENECO Wildlife Consultants LLC and French National Institute for Agricultural Research
Type: | Journal: Veterinary research | Year: 2015

Implementation of conservation breeding programs is a key step to ensuring the sustainability of many endangered species. Infectious diseases can be serious threats for the success of such initiatives especially since knowledge on pathogens affecting those species is usually scarce. Houbara bustard species (Chlamydotis undulata and Chlamydotis macqueenii), whose populations have declined over the last decades, have been captive-bred for conservation purposes for more than 15years. Avipoxviruses are of the highest concern for these species in captivity. Pox lesions were collected from breeding projects in North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia for 6years in order to study the diversity of avipoxviruses responsible for clinical infections in Houbara bustard. Molecular and phylogenetic analyses of 113 and 75 DNA sequences for P4b and fpv140 loci respectively, revealed an unexpected wide diversity of viruses affecting Houbara bustard even at a project scale: 17 genotypes equally distributed between fowlpox virus-like and canarypox virus-like have been identified in the present study. This suggests multiple and repeated introductions of virus and questions host specificity and control strategy of avipoxviruses. We also show that the observed high virus burden and co-evolution of diverse avipoxvirus strains at endemic levels may be responsible for the emergence of novel recombinant strains.


Preston B.T.,University of Burgundy | Preston B.T.,CNRS Science Conservation Center | Jalme M.S.,CNRS Science Conservation Center | Hingrat Y.,Reneco Wildlife Consultants LLC | And 2 more authors.
Ecology Letters | Year: 2011

Evolutionary theories of ageing posit that increased reproductive investment occurs at the expense of physiological declines in later life. Males typically invest heavily in costly sexual ornaments and behaviour, but evidence that the expression of these traits can cause senescence is lacking. Long-lived houbara bustards (Chlamydotis undulata) engage in extravagant sexual displays to attract mates and here we show that males investing most in these displays experience a rapid senescent deterioration of spermatogenic function at a younger age. This effect is sufficiently large that the expected links between male 'showiness' and fertility reverse in later life, despite 'showy' males continuing to display at near maximal levels. We show that our results cannot be explained by the selective disappearance of competitive phenotypes and that they are instead consistent with an early vs. late life trade-off in male reproductive competence, highlighting the potential significance of sexual selection in explaining rates of ageing. © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/CNRS.


Charge R.,CNRS Science Conservation Center | Charge R.,Emirates Center for Wildlife Propagation | Charge R.,University of Jyväskylä | Teplitsky C.,CNRS Science Conservation Center | And 4 more authors.
Journal of Animal Ecology | Year: 2013

The investment into extravagant sexual display and competitive sperm are two essential components of pre- and post-copulatory sexual selection. Even though the selective forces acting on sexual display and sperm characteristics have been extensively studied in recent years, the genetic architecture underlying the expression of these traits has been rarely explored. Here, we estimated the genetic variances and covariances of traits linked with ejaculate size and quality, and sexual display in the houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata undulata, Jacquin 1784). Using a very large pedigree-based data set, we show that sexual signalling and ejaculate size (but not ejaculate quality) are heritable and genetically positively correlated. The matrix of genetic covariances also provided support for some across-sex correlations: male and female gamete numbers are positively correlated, and more surprisingly, male display and female gamete numbers are also positively correlated. These results can have important implications for the understanding of the evolution of sperm traits and sexual display in animals. © 2012 The Authors. Journal of Animal Ecology © 2012 British Ecological Society.


Charge R.,French Natural History Museum | Charge R.,Emirates Center for Wildlife Propagation | Charge R.,University of Jyväskylä | Sorci G.,CNRS Biogeosciences Laboratory | And 5 more authors.
Evolutionary Applications | Year: 2014

Supportive breeding is one of the last resort conservation strategies to avoid species extinction. Management of captive populations is challenging because several harmful genetic processes need to be avoided. Several recommendations have been proposed to limit these deleterious effects, but empirical assessments of these strategies remain scarce. We investigated the outcome of a genetic management in a supportive breeding for the Houbara Bustard. At the phenotypic level, we found an increase over generations in the mean values of gamete production, body mass and courtship display rate. Using an animal model, we found that phenotypic changes reflected genetic changes as evidenced by an increase in breeding values for all traits. These changes resulted from selection acting on gamete production and to a lesser extent on courtship display. Selection decreased over years for female gametes, emphasizing the effort of managers to increase the contribution of poor breeders to offspring recruited in the captive breeding. Our results shed light on very fast genetic changes in an exemplary captive programme that follows worldwide used recommendations and emphasizes the need of more empirical evidence of the effects of genetic guidelines on the prevention of genetic changes in supportive breeding. © 2014 The Authors.


Frenette-Dussault C.,Université de Sherbrooke | Shipley B.,Université de Sherbrooke | Leger J.-F.,Emirates Center for Wildlife Propagation | Meziane D.,University Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah | Hingrat Y.,RENECO Wildlife Consultants LLC
Journal of Vegetation Science | Year: 2012

Questions: (1) How do community-weighted mean (CWM) trait values of 23 functional traits measured on 34 plant species vary along a gradient of aridity under grazed and ungrazed conditions in an arid steppe? (2) How does variation in our CWM trait values differ from those of more mesic grasslands? Location: Eastern Morocco. Methods: We measured relative abundance and functional traits along a short aridity gradient over two consecutive years at five heavily grazed sites, each with an exclosure preventing grazing. We analysed the relationship between aridity, grazing, and the expression of CWM trait values using ordination methods and a fourth-corner analysis. Results: Unconstrained and constrained ordinations identified three distinct suites of temporally consistent functional traits that co-varied with aridity and grazing, and the fourth-corner analysis identified a number of significant but weak trait-environment associations. Grazing selected for short, fast-growing annual species with high SLA, high pastoral value and low seed mass, while aridity selected for species possessing succulent leaves with high δ 13C leaf content, spines, low LDMC and short stature, although the relative importance of precipitation and grazing changed between years. Conclusions: Although distinct from more mesic grasslands, our study sites exhibited patterns of trait correlations that were similar to the worldwide leaf economics spectrum. These correlation patterns represented three groups that were reminiscent of Grime's C-S-R model. Direct ordinations supported this interpretation. Temporal variation in our results was due in part to precipitation fluctuations. Our results also indicated selection for a grazing avoidance strategy under heavy grazing. Integrating plant functional traits in conservation and management of arid ecosystems represents a novel and challenging task to ensure more sustainable use of these lands. © 2011 International Association for Vegetation Science.


Frenette-Dussault C.,Université de Sherbrooke | Shipley B.,Université de Sherbrooke | Meziane D.,University Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah | Hingrat Y.,RENECO Wildlife Consultants LLC
Journal of Ecology | Year: 2013

Global climate change is possibly one of the most important challenges for current and future human populations due to its wide-ranging effects on ecosystems. Global prediction models suggest that in some areas of the world (e.g. Northern Africa, Central America) an increase in aridity might strongly disturb agricultural production and affect food security. To counterbalance these negative effects, reliable predictive models are needed to anticipate ecosystem changes. We tested the ability of the Community Assembly by Trait-based Selection (CATS) model that is based on the principle of maximum entropy and trait-based environmental filtering, to predict actual and future plant community composition in the arid steppes of eastern Morocco. Specifically, we asked whether this model was adequate for predicting actual community composition, based on predicted community-weighted mean (CWM) traits, and what would be the changes in community composition under various scenarios of climate change for the period 2080-2099. The CATS model could predict > 90% of actual community composition if the actual CWM traits were known but only ̃40% if the CWM values were predicted from estimated aridity and grazing values. The predictions of community composition for 2080-2099 suggested that, regardless of the climate change scenario considered, the dominant group in grazed and ungrazed sites would shift from ruderal species to stress-tolerant sub-shrubs, which would constitute up over 80% of total community composition in some cases. Synthesis. Our findings suggest that effects of climate change will strongly modify plant community structure in arid steppes, possibly accentuating the process of desertification, and reducing the pastoral value of the vegetation. Future research efforts should concentrate on the identification of strong trait-environment relationships to improve model predictions. © 2012 The Authors. Journal of Ecology © 2012 British Ecological Society.


Frenette-Dussault C.,Université de Sherbrooke | Shipley B.,Université de Sherbrooke | Hingrat Y.,RENECO Wildlife Consultants LLC
Functional Ecology | Year: 2013

Animal ecology could benefit from a well-defined trait-based framework, mostly applied in plant ecology, to further develop predictions of animal communities under various environmental conditions. We extended the functional approach to a multitrophic system by combining plant and ant traits in relation to environmental conditions to study the relationships between these three components. We sampled plant and ant abundances along an aridity gradient in grazed and ungrazed conditions in the arid steppes of eastern Morocco. We measured five plant functional traits related to water stress and grazing resistance and six ant functional traits related to body size, dispersal and behaviour. We related each component (environment, vegetation and ants) using Mantel partial correlations to uncover the causal structure between components and using a fourth-corner analysis to describe the effects of the environment and vegetation on ant communities. Results indicated that vegetation had a direct effect on ant community composition while the environment only had an indirect effect on ant community composition through vegetation structure. This result was consistent when looking at both the taxonomic and functional composition of communities, but correlations were stronger when based on taxonomic composition. Aridity was the variable most significantly linked with ant functional traits Synthesis. The use of functional traits in animal ecology is relatively new, and an increase in trait-based community ecology studies that include more than one trophic level would be beneficial in identifying trait-based patterns in multitrophic communities. This new approach could become very useful in identifying mechanistic explanations of multitrophic community assembly and making predictions about their evolution under changing environmental conditions. It could also be of practical use in conservation biology in assessing habitat quality. © 2013 The Authors. Functional Ecology © 2013 British Ecological Society.


Monnet A.-C.,French Natural History Museum | Monnet A.-C.,Emirates Center for Wildlife Propagation | Hardouin L.A.,French Natural History Museum | Hardouin L.A.,Emirates Center for Wildlife Propagation | And 4 more authors.
Oikos | Year: 2015

Despite the increasing use of species distribution models for predicting current or future animal distribution, only a few studies have linked the gradient of habitat suitability (HS) to demographic parameters. While such approaches can improve the reliability of models, they can help to better predict the response of species to changes in HS over space and time, as induced by ongoing global change. Here, we tested whether the spatial variation in HS along the individual movement path is related to survival, using extensive tracking data collected from captive-bred individuals translocated to reinforce the wild populations of houbara bustard. We first modelled and mapped the HS from presence data of wild individuals using niche models in a consensus framework. We further analysed survival of released individuals using capture-recapture modelling and its links to HS, as the trend in suitability from the release sites along movements. We found that the survival of released individuals was related to changes in HS along their movements. For instance, individuals which moved to sites of lower HS than their release sites have lower survival probabilities than the others, independently of the HS of the release sites and daily movement rate. Our results provide an empirical support of the relationship between HS and survival, a major fitness component. © 2014 The Authors.


PubMed | National Polytechnic Institute of Toulouse and RENECO Wildlife Consultants LLC
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Transboundary and emerging diseases | Year: 2015

Infectious diseases can be serious threats for the success of reinforcement programmes of endangered species. Houbara Bustard species (Chlamydotis undulata and Chlamydotis macqueenii), whose populations declined in the last decades, have been captive-bred for conservation purposes for more than 15years in North Africa and the Middle East. Field observations show that pox disease, caused by avipoxviruses (APV), regularly emerges in conservation projects of Houbara Bustard, despite a very strict implementation of both vaccination and biosecurity. Data collected from captive flocks of Houbara Bustard in Morocco from 2006 through 2013 and in the United Arab Emirates from 2011 through 2013 were analysed, and molecular investigations were carried out to define the virus strains involved. Pox cases (n=2311) were observed during more than half of the year (88% of the months in Morocco, 54% in the United Arab Emirates). Monthly morbidity rates showed strong variations across the time periods considered, species and study sites: Four outbreaks were described during the study period on both sites. Molecular typing revealed that infections were mostly due to canarypox-like viruses in Morocco while fowlpox-like viruses were predominant in the United Arab Emirates. This study highlights that APV remain a major threat to consider in bird conservation initiatives.

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