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News Article | May 10, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

CORVALLIS, Ore. - The family dog could serve as a partner and ally in efforts to help children with disabilities incorporate more physical activity into their daily lives, a new study from Oregon State University indicates. In a case study of one 10-year-old boy with cerebral palsy and his family's dog, researchers found the intervention program led to a wide range of improvements for the child, including physical activity as well as motor skills, quality of life and human-animal interactions. "These initial findings indicate that we can improve the quality of life for children with disabilities, and we can get them to be more active," said Megan MacDonald, an assistant professor in OSU's College of Public Health and Human Sciences and corresponding author on the study. "And in this case, both are happening simultaneously, which is fantastic." The researchers detailed the child's experience in the adapted physical activity intervention program in a case study just published in the journal Animals. Co-authors are Monique Udell of the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences; Craig Ruaux of the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine; Samantha Ross of the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences; Amanda Tepfer of Norwich University and Wendy Baltzer of Massey University in New Zealand. The research was supported by the Division of Health Sciences at OSU. Children with physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy spend significantly less time participating in physical activity compared to their peers and are considered a health disparity group, meaning they generally face more health concerns than their peers. Researchers designed an adapted physical activity, animal-assisted intervention where the family dog would serve as a partner with the child in physical activities designed to help improve overall physical activity, motor skills and quality of life. The family dog is a good choice for this type of intervention because the animal is already known to the child and there is an existing relationship - and both the dog and the child will benefit from the activities, MacDonald said. Researchers took initial assessments of the child's daily physical activity, motor skills and quality of life before starting the eight-week intervention. A veterinarian examined the dog's fitness for participation and the human-animal interaction between the dog, a year-old Pomeranian, and the child was also assessed. Then the pair began the eight-week intervention, which included a supervised physical activity program once a week for 60 minutes and participation in activities such as brushing the dog with each hand; playing fetch and alternating hands; balancing on a wobble board; and marching on a balancing disc. "The dog would also balance on the wobble board, so it became a challenge for the child - if the dog can do it, I can, too," MacDonald said. "It was so cool to see the relationship between the child and the dog evolve over time. They develop a partnership and the activities become more fun and challenging for the child. It becomes, in part, about the dog and the responsibility of taking care of it." The dog and the child also had "homework," which included brushing the dog, playing fetch and going on daily walks. The child wore an accelerometer to measure physical activity levels at home. At the conclusion of the intervention, researchers re-assessed and found that the child's quality of life had increased significantly in several areas, including emotional, social and physical health, as assessed by the child as well as the parent. In addition, the child's sedentary behavior decreased and time spent on moderate to vigorous activity increased dramatically. "The findings so far are very encouraging," MacDonald said. "There's a chance down the road we could be encouraging families to adopt a dog for the public health benefits. How cool would that be?" The researchers also found that the relationship between the dog and the child improved over the course of the therapy as they worked together on various tasks. The dog's prosocial, or positive, behavior toward the child is a sign of wellbeing for both members of the team, said Udell, who is director of the Human-Animal Interaction Lab at OSU. "A closer child-dog bond increases the likelihood of lasting emotional benefits and may also facilitate long-term joint activity at home, such as taking walks, simply because it is enjoyable for all involved," she said. This study is one of the first to evaluate how a dog's behavior and wellbeing are affected by their participation in animal-assisted therapy, Udell noted. From an animal welfare standpoint, it is promising that the dog's behavior and performance on cognitive and physical tasks improved alongside the child's. Though the case study features only one child, the research team recruited several families with children with disabilities and their dogs to participate in the larger project, which was designed in part to test the design and methodology of the experiment and determine if it could be implemented on a larger scale. Based on the initial results, researchers hope to pursue additional studies involving children with disabilities and their family dogs, if funding can be secured. They would like to examine other benefits such a pairing might have, including the sense of responsibility the child appears to gain during the course of the intervention. "We're also learning a lot from our child participants," MacDonald said. "They're teaching us stuff about friendship with the animal and the responsibility of taking care of a pet, which allows us to ask more research questions about the influence of a pet on the child and their family."


News Article | May 11, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Whole genome sequencing (WGS), which is the process of determining an organism's complete DNA sequence, can be used to identify DNA anomalies that cause disease. Identifying disease-causing DNA abnormalities allows clinicians to better predict an effective course of treatment for the patient. Now, in a series of recent studies, scientists at the University of Missouri are using whole genome sequencing through the 99 Lives Cat Genome Sequencing Consortium to identify genetic variants that cause rare diseases, such as progressive retinal atrophy and Niemann-Pick type 1, a fatal disorder in domestic cats. Findings from the study could help feline preservationists implement breeding strategies in captivity for rare and endangered species such as the African black-footed cat. The 99 Lives project was established at Mizzou by Leslie Lyons, the Gilbreath-McLorn Endowed Professor of Comparative Medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine, to improve health care for cats through research. The database has genetically sequenced more than 50 felines and includes DNA from cats with and without known genetic health problems. The goal of the database is to identify DNA that causes genetic disorders and have a better understanding of how to treat diseases. In the first study, Lyons and her team used the 99 Lives consortium to identify a genetic mutation that causes blindness in the African black-footed cat, an endangered species often found in U.S. zoos. The team sequenced three cats ? two unaffected parents and an affected offspring ? to determine if the mutation was inherited or spontaneous. The genetic mutation identified was located the IQCB1 gene and is associated with progressive retinal atrophy, an inherited degenerative retinal disorder that leads to blindness. The affected cat had two copies of the genetic mutation, indicating that it was an inherited disorder. "African black-footed cats are closely related to domestic cats, so it was a good opportunity to use the 99 Lives database," Lyons said. "When sequencing DNA, we are looking for the high priority variants, or genetic mutations that result in disease. Variants in the IQCB1 gene are known to cause retinal degeneration in humans. We evaluated each gene of the African black-footed cat, one at a time, to look for the genetic mutation that is associated with vision loss." In another study representing the first time precision medicine has been applied to feline health, Lyons and her team used whole genome sequencing and the 99 Lives consortium to identify a lysosomal disorder in a 36-week-old silver tabby kitten that was referred to the MU Veterinary Health Center. The kitten was found to have two copies of a mutation in the NPC1 gene, which causes Niemman-Pick type 1, a fatal disorder. The NCP1 gene identified is not a known variant in humans; it is a rare mutation to the feline population. "Genetics of the patient is a critical aspect of an individual's health care for some diseases," Lyons said. "Continued collaboration with geneticists and veterinarians could lead to the rapid discovery of undiagnosed genetic conditions in cats. The goal of genetic testing is to identify disease early, so that effective and proactive treatment can be administered to patients." Identification of both the IQCB1 gene in the African black-footed cat and the NCP1 in the silver tabby will help to diagnose other cats and allow them to receive appropriate treatment. Using results of the black-footed cat study, zookeepers will be implementing species survival plans to help manage the cats in captivity in North America. The study, "Early-Onset Progressive Retina Atrophy Associated with an IQCB1 Variant in the African Black-Footed Cates (Felis nigripes)," recently was published in Scientific Reports. Funding was provided by the University of Missouri, College of Veterinary Medicine Clinician Scientific Grant. The study, "Precision Medicine in Cats: Novel Niemann-Pick Type C1 Diagnosed by Whole-Genome sequencing," recently was published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.


An ancient sink hole in eastern Tennessee holds the clues to an important transitional time in the evolutionary history of snakes. Among the fossilized creatures found there, according to a new paper co-authored by a University of Pennsylvania paleontologist, is a new species of snake that lived 5 million years ago. Steven Jasinski, lead author of the new study, is a doctoral student in Penn's Department of Earth and Environmental Science in the School of Arts & Sciences and acting curator of paleontology and geology at the State Museum of Pennsylvania. He is completing his Ph.D. under Peter Dodson, a professor of paleontology in Arts & Sciences and professor of anatomy in the School of Veterinary Medicine at Penn. The fossils come from the Gray Fossil Site near East Tennessee State University, where Jasinski and co-author David Moscato pursued their master's degrees. This study, published in the Journal of Herpetology, involved many hours of close examination of hundreds of dark mineral-stained snake fossils. In the end, the biggest surprise was the discovery of vertebrae that don't match any known species of snake, living or extinct. The researchers named the new genus and species Zilantophis schuberti. "Snakes don't have arms or legs, but they have high numbers of vertebrae," Jasinski said. "These are often the bones that paleontologists use to identify fossil snakes." Zilantophis bore uniquely broad wing-shaped projections on the sides of its vertebrae. In life, these were likely attachment sites for back muscles. These features are what inspired the name of the new genus, derived from Zilant, a winged serpent in Russian mythology. The species name, schuberti, honors Blaine Schubert, executive director of East Tenneessee State's Don Sundquist Center of Excellence in Paleontology and advisor to both authors during their studies there. The name roughly translates to "Schubert's Winged Snake" or "Schubert's Winged Serpent." "It's about as large around as your pointer finger," said Jasinski. "This animal was probably living in leaf litter, maybe doing a bit of digging and either eating small fish or more likely insects. It was too small to be eating a normal-sized rodent." "These snake vertebrae are tiny," Moscato said. "Before we can study them, they have to be meticulously separated from the sediment and other bones. This work is done by dedicated museum workers, students and volunteers." Based on features of its vertebrae, this new species is thought to be most closely related to rat snakes (Pantherophis) and kingsnakes (Lampropeltis), both of which are relatively common in North America today. The Gray Fossil Site is one of the richest fossil localities in the United States, particularly from the Neogene period, which spans from 23 million to 2.58 million years ago. Based on the extinct species found there, researchers estimate it to be between 7 and 4.5 million years old, straddling the boundary between the Miocene (23 to 5.33 million years ago) and Pliocene (5.33 to 2.58 million years ago) epochs. It is one of the only sites of this age in the entire eastern U.S., making it an important window into a poorly-known part of prehistory. At the time that Zilantophis dwelled there, the site was a sinkhole surrounded by forest, attracting a variety of animals. The local fauna included ancient representatives of familiar North American creatures such as bears, beavers and salamanders. Others were more exotic, including unique species of rhinoceros, alligator and the site's famous red panda. "This is a time when the world was moving in the direction of a modern climate and modern fauna," Jasinski said. The snakes, too, were a mix of familiar and strange. In addition to the new species, there were ancient species of garter snake (Thamnophis), water snake (Nerodia), rat snake (Pantherophis), pine snake (Pituophis) and whip snake (Masticophis), among others. In total, the researchers identified seven different snake genera at the site, many of which are still found in east Tennessee today. "Back in its day, the Gray Fossil Site was a great environment for living animals to thrive and for dead animals to fossilize," Moscato said. "This makes for a paleontology goldmine, positively packed with bones." This is the first survey of snakes at this fossil site, and it focused specifically on identifying snakes of the family Colubridae, the largest snake family, which includes about two-thirds of all known living snake species. "The Miocene was a time when the snake fauna of North America was undergoing significant changes," Jasinski said. In earlier times, boas, a group known for their robust vertebrae, were widespread and common across northern ecosystems, but as time went on the boas gradually retreated while colubrids, typically smaller than boas, took over. This shift coincided with continent-wide environmental change, including the replacement of forests with grasslands and the spread of small mammals that may have provided a food supply that fueled the expansion of colubrids. "Zilantophis is part of this period of change," Jasinski said. "It helps show that colubrids were diversifying at this time, including forms that did not make it to the present day." The find and continued investigations in this site help fill in details about the rich biodiversity of an ancient ecosystem as it underwent a shift in climate -- details that can inform our understanding of the future as well. "Snakes are important parts of their ecosystems, both today and in the past," Jasinski said. "Every fossil helps tell a story, and all those pieces of evidence give scientists a clearer picture of the past, as well as tools to predict how living communities may respond to changes in the future." The study was supported by the National Science Foundation (Grant 0958985), Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at East Tennessee State University and the Don Sundquist Center of Excellence in Paleontology.


A new study, published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, found that some types of conservation action could increase the abundance of ticks, which transmit diseases like Lyme disease. The research – led by the University of Glasgow in collaboration with Scottish Natural Heritage, the James Hutton Institute and Public Health England – examined how conservation management activities could affect tick populations, wildlife host communities, the transmission of the Borrelia bacteria that can cause Lyme disease and, ultimately, the risk of contracting Lyme disease. The study found that managing the environment for conservation and biodiversity has many positive effects, including benefits for human health and wellbeing from spending time in nature; however the researchers suggested that there should be consideration of disease vectors such as ticks and mosquitoes in conservation management decisions. Lead author Dr Caroline Millins, from the University of Glasgow's School of Veterinary Medicine and Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine (BAHCM), said: "We identified several widespread conservation management practices which could affect Lyme disease risk: the management of deer populations, woodland regeneration, urban greening and control of invasive species. "We found that some management activities could lead to an increased risk of Lyme disease by increasing the habitat available for wildlife hosts and the tick vector. These activities were woodland regeneration and biodiversity policies which increase the amount of forest bordering open areas as well as urban greening. "However, if deer populations are managed alongside woodland regeneration projects, this can reduce tick populations and the risk of Lyme disease." Deer are often key to maintaining tick populations, but do not become infected with the bacteria. Previous research by co-author Lucy Gilbert of The James Hutton Institute has shown that greatly reducing deer densities by exclusion fencing or culling can reduce tick density and therefore Lyme disease risk. Senior author Dr Roman Biek, University of Glasgow's BAHCM, said: "Widespread management activities can potentially teach us a lot about how changes to the environment can affect the chances of humans coming into contact with ticks and with the pathogens ticks transmit. We recommend that monitoring ticks and pathogens should accompany conservation measures such as woodland regeneration and urban greening projects. This will allow appropriate guidelines and mitigation strategies to be developed, while also helping us to better understand the processes leading to higher Lyme disease risk." Co-author Professor Des Thompson, Principal Adviser on Science and Biodiversity with Scottish Natural Heritage, commented: "This is the sort of vital research we need to act on in order to advise Government on the best practices for enhancing wildlife whilst minimising risks to human health. The Scottish Government's 2020 plan for Scotland's Biodiversity requires this integrated approach, bringing human health and wildlife management sectors together." Explore further: Lyme disease researchers seek consensus as number of cases grows More information: Caroline Millins et al. Effects of conservation management of landscapes and vertebrate communities on Lyme borreliosis risk in the United Kingdom, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2017). DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2016.0123


News Article | May 12, 2017
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

An ancient sink hole in eastern Tennessee holds the clues to an important transitional time in the evolutionary history of snakes. Among the fossilized creatures found there, according to a new paper co-authored by a University of Pennsylvania paleontologist, is a new species of snake that lived 5 million years ago. Steven Jasinski, lead author of the new study, is a doctoral student in Penn’s Department of Earth and Environmental Science in the School of Arts & Sciences and acting curator of paleontology and geology at the State Museum of Pennsylvania. He is completing his Ph.D. under Peter Dodson, a professor of paleontology in Arts & Sciences and professor of anatomy in the School of Veterinary Medicine at Penn. The fossils come from the Gray Fossil Site near East Tennessee State University, where Jasinski and co-author David Moscato pursued their master’s degrees. This study, published in the Journal of Herpetology, involved many hours of close examination of hundreds of dark mineral-stained snake fossils. In the end, the biggest surprise was the discovery of vertebrae that don’t match any known species of snake, living or extinct. The researchers named the new genus and species Zilantophis schuberti. “Snakes don’t have arms or legs, but they have high numbers of vertebrae,” Jasinski said. “These are often the bones that paleontologists use to identify fossil snakes.” Zilantophis bore uniquely broad wing-shaped projections on the sides of its vertebrae. In life, these were likely attachment sites for back muscles. These features are what inspired the name of the new genus, derived from Zilant, a winged serpent in Russian mythology. The species name, schuberti, honors Blaine Schubert, executive director of East Tenneessee State’s Don Sundquist Center of Excellence in Paleontology and advisor to both authors during their studies there. The name roughly translates to “Schubert’s Winged Snake” or “Schubert’s Winged Serpent.” “It’s about as large around as your pointer finger,” said Jasinski. “This animal was probably living in leaf litter, maybe doing a bit of digging and either eating small fish or more likely insects. It was too small to be eating a normal-sized rodent.” “These snake vertebrae are tiny,” Moscato said. “Before we can study them, they have to be meticulously separated from the sediment and other bones. This work is done by dedicated museum workers, students and volunteers.” Based on features of its vertebrae, this new species is thought to be most closely related to rat snakes (Pantherophis) and kingsnakes (Lampropeltis), both of which are relatively common in North America today. The Gray Fossil Site is one of the richest fossil localities in the United States, particularly from the Neogene period, which spans from 23 million to 2.58 million years ago. Based on the extinct species found there, researchers estimate it to be between 7 and 4.5 million years old, straddling the boundary between the Miocene (23 to 5.33 million years ago) and Pliocene (5.33 to 2.58 million years ago) epochs. It is one of the only sites of this age in the entire eastern U.S., making it an important window into a poorly-known part of prehistory. At the time that Zilantophis dwelled there, the site was a sinkhole surrounded by forest, attracting a variety of animals. The local fauna included ancient representatives of familiar North American creatures such as bears, beavers and salamanders. Others were more exotic, including unique species of rhinoceros, alligator and the site’s famous red panda. “This is a time when the world was moving in the direction of a modern climate and modern fauna,” Jasinski said. The snakes, too, were a mix of familiar and strange. In addition to the new species, there were ancient species of garter snake (Thamnophis), water snake (Nerodia), rat snake (Pantherophis), pine snake (Pituophis) and whip snake (Masticophis), among others. In total, the researchers identified seven different snake genera at the site, many of which are still found in east Tennessee today. “Back in its day, the Gray Fossil Site was a great environment for living animals to thrive and for dead animals to fossilize,” Moscato said. “This makes for a paleontology goldmine, positively packed with bones.” This is the first survey of snakes at this fossil site, and it focused specifically on identifying snakes of the family Colubridae, the largest snake family, which includes about two-thirds of all known living snake species. “The Miocene was a time when the snake fauna of North America was undergoing significant changes,” Jasinski said. In earlier times, boas, a group known for their robust vertebrae, were widespread and common across northern ecosystems, but as time went on the boas gradually retreated while colubrids, typically smaller than boas, took over. This shift coincided with continent-wide environmental change, including the replacement of forests with grasslands and the spread of small mammals that may have provided a food supply that fueled the expansion of colubrids. “Zilantophis is part of this period of change,” Jasinski said. “It helps show that colubrids were diversifying at this time, including forms that did not make it to the present day.” The find and continued investigations in this site help fill in details about the rich biodiversity of an ancient ecosystem as it underwent a shift in climate — details that can inform our understanding of the future as well. “Snakes are important parts of their ecosystems, both today and in the past,” Jasinski said. “Every fossil helps tell a story, and all those pieces of evidence give scientists a clearer picture of the past, as well as tools to predict how living communities may respond to changes in the future.”


News Article | May 8, 2017
Site: www.prweb.com

Activ4Pets, provider of online and mobile platforms that give pet parents easy access to their pet’s health information along with web-based veterinary consultations, is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Kevin Ross Kimber, M.S., D.V.M. as its new Chief Veterinary Medical Officer. Dr. Kimber brings over 15 years of veterinary experience to Activ4Pets and will provide progressive veterinary leadership for Activ4Pets ‘s Mobile health platform, including guidance on best practices for Activ4Pets preventative pet health care resources to help pet parents be more proactive about their pet’s well-being. Dr. Kimber will serve as the Chief Veterinary Medical Officer of Activ4Pets and well as its sister company, Activ4Vets, which provides staffing and peer consultation services to veterinary professionals. Dr. Kimber holds a Masters in Zoology from Cornell University, graduating from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2001. A member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Dr. Kimber is licensed to practice Veterinary Medicine in New York and Minnesota, with licensure pending in Florida. Dr. Kimber’s expertise include Small Animal and Exotic Medicine with clinical interests in dermatology, internal medicine, preventive medicine, infectious diseases and epidemiology, behavior, dentistry, nutrition, and ophthalmology. Dr. Kimber has published on a wide variety of topics in journals such as the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine and the Journal of Wildlife Diseases, and he has held positions in a variety of local, state, and international education and research programs. He has clinical experience in rural, urban, and suburban small animal and exotic animal practices. “We are incredibly pleased to welcome Dr. Kimber to the Activ4Pets family,” said Florent Monssoh CEO and founder of Activ4Pets. “His wealth of experience in veterinary medicine and his commitment to the care of both pets and their owners will be invaluable in guiding Activ4Pets toward its goal of providing accessible, affordable, and quality veterinary care to pet parents everywhere.” Dr. Kimber will help forward Activ4Pets mission of bringing reliable, widely available, and cost effective veterinary care to pet parents across the nation. The first telemedicine platform for veterinary care, Activ4Pets is designed to address some of the biggest concerns facing pet parents when it comes to the health of their pets including rising vet costs, the complications of maintaining and accessing health records (especially during travel or with new vets), and keeping up with checkups, medications, and vaccinations. “The telemedicine model has been used for several years in human medicine, with positive results from the patient and the provider viewpoint,” said Dr. Kimber. I’m excited to join the wonderful team at Activ4Pets in bringing this powerful model to veterinary medicine and help bring busy pet parents convenient, affordable, accessible pet care tools. The maintenance of centralized records will also aid researchers in gathering real-world data regarding common diseases in pets, and will prove clinically invaluable to pets, pet parents, and their veterinarian.” Activ4Pets allows pet parents to track their pet’s entire medical history, medication and appointment information, as well as find location based information on groomers, sitters, pet friendly locations, emergency care, etc. all through the easy to use Activ4Pets App or through the Activ4Pets web platform. What’s more, Active4pets offers e-consults with licensed veterinarians through a simple web-chat format, allowing pet parents to save on money and travel for simple routine problems or questions, while simultaneously providing expert advice whenever they need it, wherever they may be – even when they are outside the practice range of their regular veterinarian. Activ4Pets is the first company of its kind, enabling pet owners to access their pet's complete health history and even consult with their veterinarian online – all via an easy to use web or mobile app based platform. The platform is accessible anytime, anywhere on the planet. With Activ4Pets you are never more than a click away from your pet's wellness information.


News Article | May 12, 2017
Site: phys.org

Steven Jasinski, lead author of the new study, is a doctoral student in Penn's Department of Earth and Environmental Science in the School of Arts & Sciences and acting curator of paleontology and geology at the State Museum of Pennsylvania. He is completing his Ph.D. under Peter Dodson, a professor of paleontology in Arts & Sciences and professor of anatomy in the School of Veterinary Medicine at Penn. The fossils come from the Gray Fossil Site near East Tennessee State University, where Jasinski and co-author David Moscato pursued their master's degrees. This study, published in the Journal of Herpetology, involved many hours of close examination of hundreds of dark mineral-stained snake fossils. In the end, the biggest surprise was the discovery of vertebrae that don't match any known species of snake, living or extinct. The researchers named the new genus and species Zilantophis schuberti. "Snakes don't have arms or legs, but they have high numbers of vertebrae," Jasinski said. "These are often the bones that paleontologists use to identify fossil snakes." Zilantophis bore uniquely broad wing-shaped projections on the sides of its vertebrae. In life, these were likely attachment sites for back muscles. These features are what inspired the name of the new genus, derived from Zilant, a winged serpent in Russian mythology. The species name, schuberti, honors Blaine Schubert, executive director of East Tenneessee State's Don Sundquist Center of Excellence in Paleontology and advisor to both authors during their studies there. The name roughly translates to "Schubert's Winged Snake" or "Schubert's Winged Serpent." "It's about as large around as your pointer finger," said Jasinski. "This animal was probably living in leaf litter, maybe doing a bit of digging and either eating small fish or more likely insects. It was too small to be eating a normal-sized rodent." "These snake vertebrae are tiny," Moscato said. "Before we can study them, they have to be meticulously separated from the sediment and other bones. This work is done by dedicated museum workers, students and volunteers." Based on features of its vertebrae, this new species is thought to be most closely related to rat snakes (Pantherophis) and kingsnakes (Lampropeltis), both of which are relatively common in North America today. The Gray Fossil Site is one of the richest fossil localities in the United States, particularly from the Neogene period, which spans from 23 million to 2.58 million years ago. Based on the extinct species found there, researchers estimate it to be between 7 and 4.5 million years old, straddling the boundary between the Miocene (23 to 5.33 million years ago) and Pliocene (5.33 to 2.58 million years ago) epochs. It is one of the only sites of this age in the entire eastern U.S., making it an important window into a poorly-known part of prehistory. At the time that Zilantophis dwelled there, the site was a sinkhole surrounded by forest, attracting a variety of animals. The local fauna included ancient representatives of familiar North American creatures such as bears, beavers and salamanders. Others were more exotic, including unique species of rhinoceros, alligator and the site's famous red panda. "This is a time when the world was moving in the direction of a modern climate and modern fauna," Jasinski said. The snakes, too, were a mix of familiar and strange. In addition to the new species, there were ancient species of garter snake (Thamnophis), water snake (Nerodia), rat snake (Pantherophis), pine snake (Pituophis) and whip snake (Masticophis), among others. In total, the researchers identified seven different snake genera at the site, many of which are still found in east Tennessee today. "Back in its day, the Gray Fossil Site was a great environment for living animals to thrive and for dead animals to fossilize," Moscato said. "This makes for a paleontology goldmine, positively packed with bones." This is the first survey of snakes at this fossil site, and it focused specifically on identifying snakes of the family Colubridae, the largest snake family, which includes about two-thirds of all known living snake species. "The Miocene was a time when the snake fauna of North America was undergoing significant changes," Jasinski said. In earlier times, boas, a group known for their robust vertebrae, were widespread and common across northern ecosystems, but as time went on the boas gradually retreated while colubrids, typically smaller than boas, took over. This shift coincided with continent-wide environmental change, including the replacement of forests with grasslands and the spread of small mammals that may have provided a food supply that fueled the expansion of colubrids. "Zilantophis is part of this period of change," Jasinski said. "It helps show that colubrids were diversifying at this time, including forms that did not make it to the present day." The find and continued investigations in this site help fill in details about the rich biodiversity of an ancient ecosystem as it underwent a shift in climate—details that can inform our understanding of the future as well. "Snakes are important parts of their ecosystems, both today and in the past," Jasinski said. "Every fossil helps tell a story, and all those pieces of evidence give scientists a clearer picture of the past, as well as tools to predict how living communities may respond to changes in the future."


News Article | May 12, 2017
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

An ancient sink hole in eastern Tennessee holds the clues to an important transitional time in the evolutionary history of snakes. Among the fossilized creatures found there, according to a new paper co-authored by a University of Pennsylvania paleontologist, is a new species of snake that lived 5 million years ago. Steven Jasinski, lead author of the new study, is a doctoral student in Penn’s Department of Earth and Environmental Science in the School of Arts & Sciences and acting curator of paleontology and geology at the State Museum of Pennsylvania. He is completing his Ph.D. under Peter Dodson, a professor of paleontology in Arts & Sciences and professor of anatomy in the School of Veterinary Medicine at Penn. The fossils come from the Gray Fossil Site near East Tennessee State University, where Jasinski and co-author David Moscato pursued their master’s degrees. This study, published in the Journal of Herpetology, involved many hours of close examination of hundreds of dark mineral-stained snake fossils. In the end, the biggest surprise was the discovery of vertebrae that don’t match any known species of snake, living or extinct. The researchers named the new genus and species Zilantophis schuberti. “Snakes don’t have arms or legs, but they have high numbers of vertebrae,” Jasinski said. “These are often the bones that paleontologists use to identify fossil snakes.” Zilantophis bore uniquely broad wing-shaped projections on the sides of its vertebrae. In life, these were likely attachment sites for back muscles. These features are what inspired the name of the new genus, derived from Zilant, a winged serpent in Russian mythology. The species name, schuberti, honors Blaine Schubert, executive director of East Tenneessee State’s Don Sundquist Center of Excellence in Paleontology and advisor to both authors during their studies there. The name roughly translates to “Schubert’s Winged Snake” or “Schubert’s Winged Serpent.” “It’s about as large around as your pointer finger,” said Jasinski. “This animal was probably living in leaf litter, maybe doing a bit of digging and either eating small fish or more likely insects. It was too small to be eating a normal-sized rodent.” “These snake vertebrae are tiny,” Moscato said. “Before we can study them, they have to be meticulously separated from the sediment and other bones. This work is done by dedicated museum workers, students and volunteers.” Based on features of its vertebrae, this new species is thought to be most closely related to rat snakes (Pantherophis) and kingsnakes (Lampropeltis), both of which are relatively common in North America today. The Gray Fossil Site is one of the richest fossil localities in the United States, particularly from the Neogene period, which spans from 23 million to 2.58 million years ago. Based on the extinct species found there, researchers estimate it to be between 7 and 4.5 million years old, straddling the boundary between the Miocene (23 to 5.33 million years ago) and Pliocene (5.33 to 2.58 million years ago) epochs. It is one of the only sites of this age in the entire eastern U.S., making it an important window into a poorly-known part of prehistory. At the time that Zilantophis dwelled there, the site was a sinkhole surrounded by forest, attracting a variety of animals. The local fauna included ancient representatives of familiar North American creatures such as bears, beavers and salamanders. Others were more exotic, including unique species of rhinoceros, alligator and the site’s famous red panda. “This is a time when the world was moving in the direction of a modern climate and modern fauna,” Jasinski said. The snakes, too, were a mix of familiar and strange. In addition to the new species, there were ancient species of garter snake (Thamnophis), water snake (Nerodia), rat snake (Pantherophis), pine snake (Pituophis) and whip snake (Masticophis), among others. In total, the researchers identified seven different snake genera at the site, many of which are still found in east Tennessee today. “Back in its day, the Gray Fossil Site was a great environment for living animals to thrive and for dead animals to fossilize,” Moscato said. “This makes for a paleontology goldmine, positively packed with bones.” This is the first survey of snakes at this fossil site, and it focused specifically on identifying snakes of the family Colubridae, the largest snake family, which includes about two-thirds of all known living snake species. “The Miocene was a time when the snake fauna of North America was undergoing significant changes,” Jasinski said. In earlier times, boas, a group known for their robust vertebrae, were widespread and common across northern ecosystems, but as time went on the boas gradually retreated while colubrids, typically smaller than boas, took over. This shift coincided with continent-wide environmental change, including the replacement of forests with grasslands and the spread of small mammals that may have provided a food supply that fueled the expansion of colubrids. “Zilantophis is part of this period of change,” Jasinski said. “It helps show that colubrids were diversifying at this time, including forms that did not make it to the present day.” The find and continued investigations in this site help fill in details about the rich biodiversity of an ancient ecosystem as it underwent a shift in climate — details that can inform our understanding of the future as well. “Snakes are important parts of their ecosystems, both today and in the past,” Jasinski said. “Every fossil helps tell a story, and all those pieces of evidence give scientists a clearer picture of the past, as well as tools to predict how living communities may respond to changes in the future.”


MINNEAPOLIS, May 9, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- PetChatz and DOGTV are collaborating with the Center for Shelter Dogs at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University on a 12-month study of dogs in two New England animal shelters to determine if the presence of dog-oriented video...


TAMPA, Fla. (May 9, 2017) -- Transmission of mosquito-borne diseases, such as Zika, occur at lower temperatures than previously thought, a recently released study co-authored by two University of South Florida researchers shows. The study, led by Stanford University and published in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, found that transmission of dengue, chikungunya and Zika is highest at around 84 degrees Fahrenheit. Scientists had long considered 90 degrees to be the peak-transmission temperature. The finding is significant, especially as climate change causes temperatures to climb. "This means that future transmission is much more likely to occur in subtropical and even temperate areas, such as the southern United States and northern Mexico," said Jeremy Cohen, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher studying integrative biology. He and Jason Rohr, PhD, an associate professor of integrative biology, are coauthors on the study. From 2015-2016, they collected data on the incidences of dengue, chikungunya and Zika, as well as climate, gross domestic product and tourism, in Latin America and the Caribbean. Their data were used to create a model that shows the potential effects of temperatures and temperature change on the transmission of dengue, chikungunya and Zika around the world, three diseases that are mosquito-vectored and increasing in the United States. "Our findings should help to predict the areas at the greatest risk of dengue, chikungunya and Zika outbreaks," said Rohr. Temperature affects how often mosquitoes bite, the amount of time it takes for them to ingest a virus from one human and inject it into another, and their life cycle. Cohen, Rohr and other members of the research team found that mosquitos posed the greatest risk to humans at 84 degrees and risk declined in cooler and warmer temperatures. "Given that the predominant thinking was that transmission was most likely to peak at very hot temperatures, which would mostly limit the diseases to the tropics, we were certainly surprised that the model and the field data suggested that high rates of transmission could occur at lower temperatures, possibly impacting more northern regions in the future," Cohen said. Pinpointing the optimal temperature for disease transmission is critical for predicting future disease rates and how diseases will spread with climate change, and more effectively implementing mosquito-control measures, said lead author Erin Mordecai of Stanford University. "If we're predicting a 29-degree optimum and another model is predicting a 35-degree optimum, the other model will say that climate change will increase transmission," she said in a Stanford-issued media release, adding that if local temperatures are already near optimal temperature, infections may decline as temperatures rise. In addition to USF and Stanford, researchers on the study represented institutions including Virginia Tech, University of Florida, University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, University of California Los Angeles, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Penn State University and University of Michigan. The study was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation -- Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease.

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