• A High-Quality, Long-Read De Novo Genome Assembly to Aid Conservation of Hawaii's Last Remaining Crow Species

      Sutton, Jolene; Helmkampf, Martin; Steiner, Cynthia C.; Bellinger, M. Renee; Korlach, Jonas; Hall, Richard; Baybayan, Primo; Muehling, Jill; Gu, Jenny; Kingan, Sarah; et al. (2018)
      Genome-level data can provide researchers with unprecedented precision to examine the causes and genetic consequences of population declines, which can inform conservation management. Here, we present a high-quality, long-read, de novo genome assembly for one of the world’s most endangered bird species, the ʻAlalā (Corvus hawaiiensis; Hawaiian crow). As the only remaining native crow species in Hawaiʻi, the ʻAlalā survived solely in a captive-breeding program from 2002 until 2016, at which point a long-term reintroduction program was initiated. The high-quality genome assembly was generated to lay the foundation for both comparative genomics studies and the development of population-level genomic tools that will aid conservation and recovery efforts. We illustrate how the quality of this assembly places it amongst the very best avian genomes assembled to date, comparable to intensively studied model systems. We describe the genome architecture in terms of repetitive elements and runs of homozygosity, and we show that compared with more outbred species, the ʻAlalā genome is substantially more homozygous. We also provide annotations for a subset of immunity genes that are likely to be important in conservation management, and we discuss how this genome is currently being used as a roadmap for downstream conservation applications
    • A scoping review into the impact of animal imagery on pro-environmental outcomes

      Thomas-Walters, Laura; McNulty, Claire; Veríssimo, Diogo (2020)
      With the recognition that most global environmental problems are a result of human actions, there is an increasing interest in approaches which have the potential to influence human behaviour. Images have a powerful role in shaping persuasive messages, yet research on the impacts of visual representations of nature is a neglected area in biodiversity conservation. We systematically screened existing studies on the use of animal imagery in conservation, identifying 37 articles. Although there is clear evidence that images of animals can have positive effects on people’s attitudes to animals, overall there is currently a dearth of accessible and comparable published data demonstrating the efficacy of animal imagery. Most existing studies are place and context-specific, limiting the generalisable conclusions that can be drawn. Transdisciplinary research is needed to develop a robust understanding of the contextual and cultural factors that affect how animal images can be used effectively for conservation purposes.
    • A systematic survey of the integration of animal behavior into conservation

      Berger-Tal, Oded; Blumstein, Daniel T.; Carroll, Scott; Fisher, Robert N.; Mesnick, Sarah L.; Owen, Megan A.; Saltz, David; St. Clair, Colleen Cassady; Swaisgood, Ronald R. (2016)
      The role of behavioral ecology in improving wildlife conservation and management has been the subject of much recent debate. We sought to answer 2 foundational questions about the current use of behavioral knowledge in conservation: To what extent is behavioral knowledge used in wildlife conservation and management, and how does the use of animal behavior differ among conservation fields in both frequency and types of use? We searched the literature for intersections between key fields of animal behavior and conservation and created a systematic heat map (i.e., graphical representation of data where values are represented as colors) to visualize relative efforts. Some behaviors, such as dispersal and foraging, were commonly considered (mean [SE] of 1147.38 [353.11] and 439.44 [108.85] papers per cell, respectively). In contrast, other behaviors, such as learning, social, and antipredatory behaviors were rarely considered (mean [SE] of 33.88 [7.62], 44.81 [10.65], and 22.69 [6.37] papers per cell, respectively). In many cases, awareness of the importance of behavior did not translate into applicable management tools. Our results challenge previous suggestions that there is little association between the fields of behavioral ecology and conservation and reveals tremendous variation in the use of different behaviors in conservation. We recommend that researchers focus on examining underutilized intersections of behavior and conservation themes for which preliminary work shows a potential for improving conservation and management, translating behavioral theory into applicable and testable predictions, and creating systematic reviews to summarize the behavioral evidence within the behavior-conservation intersections for which many studies exist.
    • Age-related patterns of neophobia in an endangered island crow: implications for conservation and natural history

      Greggor, Alison L.; Masuda, Bryce M.; Flanagan, Alison M.; Swaisgood, Ronald R. (2020)
      Theory suggests that the balance between unknown dangers and novel opportunities drives the evolution of species-level neophobia. Juveniles show lower neophobia than adults, within mammals and birds, presumably to help minimize the costs of avoiding beneficial novelty, and adults tend to be more neophobic, to reduce risks and focus on known stimuli. How these dynamics function in island species with fewer dangers from predators and toxic prey is not well understood. Yet, predicting neophobia levels at different age classes may be highly valuable in conservation contexts, such as species' translocation programmes, where responses to novelty can influence the effectiveness of prerelease training and animals' survival postrelease. To better understand how neophobia and its age-related patterns are expressed in an island corvid, we surveyed object neophobia in 84% of the world's critically endangered ‘alal?, Corvus hawaiiensis. Individuals repeatedly demonstrated high neophobia, suggesting that neither captivity nor their island evolution has erased this corvid-typical trait. Unexpectedly, juveniles were exceedingly more neophobic than adults, a pattern in stark contrast to common neophobia predictions and known mammalian and avian studies. We discuss the potential conservation ramifications of this age-structured result within the larger context of neophobia theory. Not only may the expression of neophobia be more complicated than previously thought but predicting such responses may also be important for conservation management that requires exposing animals to novelty.
    • Anthropogenic change alters ecological relationships via interactive changes in stress physiology and behavior within and among organisms

      Hammond, Talisin T.; Ortiz-Jimenez, Chelsea A; Smith, Jennifer E (2020)
      ...Human-induced changes in the stress physiology of one species and the downstream impacts on behavior can therefore interact with the physiological and behavioral responses of other organisms to alter emergent ecological phenomena. Here, we highlight three scenarios in which the stress physiology and behavior of individuals on different sides of an ecological relationship are interactively impacted by anthropogenic change....
    • Applications of animal behavior to conservation

      Swaisgood, Ronald R.; Greggor, Alison L.; Choe, Jae (Academic PressOxford, UK, 2019)
      Animal behavior can influence conservation outcomes, and can be used as a tool for diagnosing anthropogenic impacts and managing species’ recovery. Researchers from disparate backgrounds in animal behavior, most notably behavioral ecology and applied ethology, are using their research to contribute to conservation efforts, including reserve design, human disturbance, and reintroduction programs....
    • Bonobo personality traits are heritable and associated with vasopressin receptor gene 1a variation

      Staes, Nicky; Weiss, Alexander; Helsen, Philippe; Korody, Marisa L.; Eens, Marcel; Stevens, Jeroen M. G. (2016)
      Despite being closely related, bonobos and chimpanzees show remarkable behavioral differences, the proximate origins of which remain unknown. This study examined the link between behavioral variation and variation in the vasopressin 1a receptor gene (Avpr1a) in bonobos. Chimpanzees are polymorphic for a ~360bp deletion (DupB), which includes a microsatellite (RS3) in the 5′ promoter region of Avpr1a. In chimpanzees, the DupB deletion has been linked to lower sociability, lower social sensitivity, and higher anxiety. Chimpanzees and bonobos differ on these traits, leading some to believe that the absence of the DupB deletion in bonobos may be partly responsible for these differences, and to the prediction that similar associations between Avpr1a genotypes and personality traits should be present in bonobos. We identified bonobo personality dimensions using behavioral measures (SociabilityB, BoldnessB, OpennessB, ActivityB) and trait ratings (AssertivenessR, ConscientiousnessR, OpennessR, AgreeablenessR, AttentivenessR, ExtraversionR). In the present study we found that all 10 dimensions have nonzero heritabilities, indicating there is a genetic basis to personality, and that bonobos homozygous for shorter RS3 alleles were lower in AttentivenessR and higher in OpennessB. These results suggest that variations in Avpr1a genotypes explain both within and between species differences in personality traits of bonobos and chimpanzees.
    • Cathemeral

      Eppley, Timothy M.; Donati, Giuseppe; Vonk, Jennifer; Shackelford, Todd (Springer NatureNew York, 2019)
      Within this encyclopedia article, we provide an overview of the term “Cathemeral”. This is applied to the pattern of an organism’s activity that occurs during both the light and dark portions of the 24-h cycle....
    • Challenges of learning to escape evolutionary traps

      Greggor, Alison L.; Trimmer, Pete C.; Barrett, Brendan J.; Sih, Andrew (2019)
      Many animals respond well behaviorally to stimuli associated with human-induced rapid environmental change (HIREC), such as novel predators or food sources. Yet others make errors and succumb to evolutionary traps: approaching or even preferring low quality, dangerous or toxic options, avoiding beneficial stimuli, or wasting resources responding to stimuli with neutral payoffs. A common expectation is that learning should help animals adjust to HIREC; however, learning is not always expected or even favored in many scenarios that expose animals to ecological and evolutionary traps. We propose a conceptual framework that aims to explain variation in when learning can help animals avoid and escape traps caused by HIREC. We first clarify why learning to correct two main types of errors (avoiding beneficial options, and not avoiding detrimental options) might be difficult (limited by constraints). We then identify and discuss several key behavioral mechanisms (adaptive sampling, generalization, habituation, reversal learning) that can be targeted to help animals learn to avoid traps. Finally, we discuss how individual differences in neophobia/neophilia and personality relate to learning in the context of HIREC traps, and offer some general guidance for disarming traps. Given how devastating traps can be for animal populations, any breakthrough in mitigating trap outcomes via learning could make the difference in developing effective solutions.
    • Changes in vocal repertoire of the Hawaiian crow, Corvus hawaiiensis, from past wild to current captive populations

      Tanimoto, Ann M.; Hart, Patrick J.; Pack, Adam A.; Switzer, Richard A.; Banko, Paul C.; Ball, Donna L.; Sebastián-González, Esther; Komarczyk, Lisa; Warrington, Miyako H. (2017)
      ...We compared the vocal repertoire of three of the last four wild 'alalā pairs from the early 1990s to three current captive pairs on the Island of Hawai'i to determine how acoustic behaviour has been affected by changes in their social and physical environment. Over 18 h of recordings from wild breeding pairs were analysed and compared with 44 h from captive breeding pairs....
    • Characterizing efforts to reduce consumer demand for wildlife products

      Veríssimo, Diogo; Wan, Anita K. Y. (2019)
      The unsustainable trade in wildlife is a key threat to Earth's biodiversity. Efforts to mitigate this threat have traditionally focused on regulation and enforcement, and there is a growing interest in campaigns to reduce consumer demand for wildlife products....
    • Chemical signals of age, sex and identity in black rhinoceros

      Linklater, W. L.; Mayer, K.; Swaisgood, Ronald R. (2013)
      Olfactory communication may be particularly important to black rhinoceros, Diceros bicornis, because they are solitary living and have comparatively poor eyesight but their populations are structured by inter-and intrasexual relationships. Understanding olfactory functions and processes might achieve better conservation management but their study in rhinoceros remains anecdotal or descriptive….
    • Chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing

      Kühl, Hjalmar S.; Kalan, Ammie K.; Arandjelovic, Mimi; Aubert, Floris; D’Auvergne, Lucy; Goedmakers, Annemarie; Jones, Sorrel; Kehoe, Laura; Regnaut, Sebastien; Tickle, Alexander; et al. (2016)
      The study of the archaeological remains of fossil hominins must rely on reconstructions to elucidate the behaviour that may have resulted in particular stone tools and their accumulation. Comparatively, stone tool use among living primates has illuminated behaviours that are also amenable to archaeological examination, permitting direct observations of the behaviour leading to artefacts and their assemblages to be incorporated. Here, we describe newly discovered stone tool-use behaviour and stone accumulation sites in wild chimpanzees reminiscent of human cairns. In addition to data from 17 mid- to long-term chimpanzee research sites, we sampled a further 34 Pan troglodytes communities. We found four populations in West Africa where chimpanzees habitually bang and throw rocks against trees, or toss them into tree cavities, resulting in conspicuous stone accumulations at these sites. This represents the first record of repeated observations of individual chimpanzees exhibiting stone tool use for a purpose other than extractive foraging at what appear to be targeted trees. The ritualized behavioural display and collection of artefacts at particular locations observed in chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing may have implications for the inferences that can be drawn from archaeological stone assemblages and the origins of ritual sites.
    • Cognition in a changing world: Red-headed gouldian finches enter spatially unfamiliar habitats more readily than do black-headed birds

      Mettke-Hofmann, Claudia; Eccles, Georgina R.; Greggor, Alison L.; Bethell, Emily J. (Frontiers Media SA, 2020)
      Human activities are increasingly confronting animals with unfamiliar environmental conditions. For example, habitat change and loss often lead to habitat fragmentation, which can create barriers of unsuitable and unfamiliar habitat affecting animal movements and survival. When confronted with habitat changes, animals’ cognitive abilities play an important, but often neglected part in dealing with such change. Animals must decide whether to approach and investigate novel habitats (spatial neophilia) or whether to avoid them (spatial neophobia) due to potential danger. For species with strict habitat preferences, such as the Gouldian finch (Erythrura gouldiae), which is an open habitat specialist, understanding these novelty responses may be especially important for predicting responses to habitat changes. The Gouldian finch is a polymorphic species, with primarily red or black head colors, which are linked to differing behavioral phenotypes, including novelty reactions. Here we investigate responses to novel habitats (open, dense) in the Gouldian finch, manipulating the color composition of same-sex pairs. Two experiments, each consisting of novel open and novel dense habitat, tested birds in opposite head color combinations in the two experiments. We measured the number of approaches birds made (demonstrating conflict between approach and avoidance), and their entry latency to novel habitats. Gouldian finches showed more approach attempts (stronger approach-avoidance conflict) towards the dense as compared to the open habitat, confirming their open habitat preferences. Black-headed birds also hesitated longer to enter the dense habitat as compared to the open habitat, particularly in experiment 1, appearing less neophilic than red-headed birds, which showed similar entry latencies into both habitat types. This is surprising as black-headed birds were more neophilic in other contexts. Moreover, there was some indication that pairings including at least one black-headed bird had a stronger approach-avoidance conflict than pairings of pure red-headed birds. Results suggest that the black-headed birds use a cognitive strategy typical for residents, whereas red-headed birds use a cognitive strategy known for migrants/nomads, which may cognitively complement each other. However, as 70% of the population in the wild are black-headed, the spatial wariness we document could be widespread, which may negatively affect population persistence as habitats change.
    • Communal roosting sites are potential ecological traps: experimental evidence in a Neotropical harvestman

      Grether, Gregory F.; Levi, Abrahm; Antaky, Carmen; Shier, Debra M. (2014)
      Situations in which animals preferentially settle in low-quality habitat are referred to as ecological traps, and species that aggregate in response to conspecific cues, such as scent marks, that persist after the animals leave the area may be especially vulnerable. We tested this hypothesis on harvestmen (Prionostemma sp.) that roost communally in the rainforest understory….
    • Conservation translocations: a review of common difficulties and promising directions

      Berger-Tal, Oded; Blumstein, D. T.; Swaisgood, Ronald R. (2020)
      Translocations are a common conservation and management strategy, but despite their popularity, translocations are a high-cost endeavor with a history of failures. It is therefore imperative to maximize their success by learning from our collective experience....
    • Contextual influences on animal decision-making: Significance for behavior-based wildlife conservation and management

      Owen, Megan A.; Swaisgood, Ronald R.; Blumstein, Daniel T. (2017)
      Survival and successful reproduction require animals to make critical decisions amidst a naturally dynamic environmental and social background (i.e. “context”). However, human activities have pervasively, and rapidly, extended contextual variation into evolutionarily novel territory, potentially rendering evolved animal decision-making mechanisms and strategies maladaptive. We suggest that explicitly focusing on animal decision-making (ADM), by integrating and applying findings from studies of sensory ecology, cognitive psychology, behavioral economics and eco-evolutionary strategies, may enhance our understanding of, and our ability to predict how, human-driven changes in the environment and population demography will influence animal populations. Fundamentally, the decisions animals make involve evolved mechanisms, and behaviors emerge from the combined action of sensory integration, cognitive mechanisms and strategic rules of thumb, and any of these processes may have a disproportionate influence on behavior. Although there is extensive literature exploring ADM, it generally reflects a canalized, discipline-specific approach that lacks a unified conceptual framework. As a result, there has been limited application of ADM theory and research findings into predictive models that can enhance management outcomes, even though it is likely that the relative resilience of species to rapid environmental change is fundamentally a result of how ADM is linked to contextual variation. Here, we focus on how context influences ADM, and highlight ideas and results that may be most applicable to conservation biology.
    • Cues from a common predator cause survival-linked behavioral adjustments in Mojave Desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii)

      Nafus, Melia G.; Germano, Jennifer M.; Swaisgood, Ronald R. (2017)
      Animals are expected to engage in behavioral decision-making that minimizes their risk of predation; these decisions can cause non-lethal predator effects to behavior and spatial use. Our goal was to determine whether non-lethal effects of a common predator, coyotes (Canis latrans), could affect the behavior of a declining reptile, the Mojave Desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), hereafter tortoise....
    • Developing effective tools for conservation behaviorists: Reply to Greggor et al.

      Schakner, Zachary A.; Petelle, Matthew B.; Berger-Tal, Oded; Owen, Megan A.; Blumstein, Daniel T. (2014)
      Many conservation and management problems can benefit from mechanistic insights into how animals respond to stimuli and learn about biologically important events . The growing attention toward using cognition to solve real world conservation/management issues is exciting and promising….