Publications by authors named "Daniel Frynta"

55 Publications

Specificity of spiders among fear- and disgust-eliciting arthropods: Spiders are special, but phobics not so much.

PLoS One 2021 23;16(9):e0257726. Epub 2021 Sep 23.

National Institute of Mental Health, Klecany, the Czech Republic.

To investigate a specificity of spiders as a prototypical fear- and disgust-eliciting stimuli, we conducted an online experiment. The respondents rated images of 25 spiders, 12 non-spider chelicerates, and 10 other arthropods on a fear and disgust 7-point scale. The evaluation of 968 Central European respondents confirmed the specificity of spiders among fear- and disgust-eliciting arthropods and supported the notion of spiders as a cognitive category. We delineated this category as covering extant spider species as well as some other chelicerates bearing a physical resemblance to spiders, mainly whip spiders and camel spiders. We suggested calling this category the spider-like cognitive category. We discussed evolutionary roots of the spider-like category and concluded that its roots should be sought in fear, with disgust being secondary of the two emotions. We suggested other chelicerates, e.g., scorpions, might have been important in formation and fixation of the spider-like category. Further, we investigated an effect of respondent's sensitivity to a specific fear of spiders on evaluation of the stimuli. We found that suspected phobic respondents were in their rating nearly identical to those with only high fear of spiders and similar to those with only moderate fear of spiders. We concluded that results based on healthy respondents with elevated fear should also be considered relevant for arachnophobia research.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0257726PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8460016PMC
September 2021

Cytogenetically Elusive Sex Chromosomes in Scincoidean Lizards.

Int J Mol Sci 2021 Aug 12;22(16). Epub 2021 Aug 12.

Department of Ecology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, 12844 Prague, Czech Republic.

The lizards of the species-rich clade Scincoidea including cordylids, gerrhosaurids, skinks, and xantusiids, show an almost cosmopolitan geographical distribution and a remarkable ecological and morphological divergence. However, previous studies revealed limited variability in cytogenetic traits. The sex determination mode was revealed only in a handful of gerrhosaurid, skink, and xantusiid species, which demonstrated either ZZ/ZW or XX/XY sex chromosomes. In this study, we explored the karyotypes of six species of skinks, two species of cordylids, and one gerrhosaurid. We applied conventional and molecular cytogenetic methods, including C-banding, fluorescence in situ hybridization with probes specific for telomeric motifs and rDNA loci, and comparative genomic hybridization. The diploid chromosome numbers are rather conserved among these species, but the chromosome morphology, the presence of interstitial telomeric sequences, and the topology of rDNA loci vary significantly. Notably, XX/XY sex chromosomes were identified only in , where, in contrast to the X chromosome, the Y chromosome lacks accumulations of rDNA loci. We confirm that within the lizards of the scincoidean clade, sex chromosomes remained in a generally poor stage of differentiation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijms22168670DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8395508PMC
August 2021

Does reproductive mode affect sexually-selected coloration? Evaluating UV-blue spots in parthenogenetic and bisexual lizards of the genus .

Curr Zool 2021 Apr 17;67(2):201-213. Epub 2020 Jul 17.

Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Viničná 7, Prague, 12843, Czech Republic.

Sexual selection often leads to evolution of conspicuous signals, raising the chances of attracting not only potential mates, but also predators. In lacertid lizards, ultraviolet (UV)-blue spots on flanks and shoulders represent such a trait. Some level of correlation between male and female ornamentation is also known to exist. Therefore, the phenotype of females may change in the absence of sexual selection. We tested this hypothesis on a complex of parthenogenetic and bisexual lizards of the genus . We evaluated area, counts, and chromatic properties (UV opponency, saturation) of UV-blue spots and compared the values between the clones and their bisexual progenitor species. We found a fair heterogeneity between the parthenogenetic species, but no general tendency toward higher crypsis or conspicuousness. Values of the parthenogens were not significantly different from the values of sexual females. A possible explanation is that the changes in selective forces associated with parthenogenetic reproduction are too small to affect the resulting pattern of selective pressures on the studied traits, or that the phenotypes of the parthenogens result from the unique combination of parental genomes and are conserved by clonal reproduction.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cz/zoaa039DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8026159PMC
April 2021

The Ultimate List of the Most Frightening and Disgusting Animals: Negative Emotions Elicited by Animals in Central European Respondents.

Animals (Basel) 2021 Mar 9;11(3). Epub 2021 Mar 9.

National Institute of Mental Health, Topolová 748, 250 67 Klecany, Czech Republic.

Animals have always played an important role in our everyday life. They are given more attention than inanimate objects, which have been adaptive during the evolution of mankind, with some animal species still presenting a real threat to us. In this study, we focused on the species usually evaluated as the scariest and most disgusting in the animal kingdom. We analyzed which characteristics (e.g., weight, potential threat for humans) influence their evaluation in a nonclinical Central European WEIRD population (Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic). The tested animals were divided into two separated sets containing 34 standardized photos evoking predominantly one negative emotion, fear or disgust. The pictures were ranked according to their emotional intensity by 160 adult respondents with high inter-rater agreement. The most fear-eliciting species are mostly large vertebrates (e.g., carnivorans, ungulates, sharks, crocodiles), whereas smaller fear-evoking vertebrates are represented by snakes and invertebrates are represented by arachnids. The most disgust-evoking animals are human endo- and ectoparasites or animals visually resembling them. Humans emotionally react to fear-evoking animals that represent a real threat; however, identifying truly dangerous disgust-evoking animals might be harder. The results also support a somewhat special position of snakes and spiders.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ani11030747DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7999229PMC
March 2021

Corrigendum to "Spontaneous color preferences in rhesus monkeys: What is the advantage of primate trichromacy?" [Behavioural Processes 174 (2020) 104084].

Behav Processes 2021 Feb 6;183:104297. Epub 2021 Jan 6.

National Institute of Mental Health, Klecany, Czech Republic; Department of Physiology, Third Faculty of Medicine, Charles University in Prague, Prague, Czech Republic; Ethology and Ecology Research Group, Department of Zoology, Faculty of Natural Science, Charles University in Prague, Prague, Czech Republic; Department of Ethology and Companion Animal Science, Faculty of Agrobiology, Food and Natural Resources, Czech University of Life Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic. Electronic address:

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2020.104297DOI Listing
February 2021

Relationship between exploratory activity and adrenocortical activity in the black rat (Rattus rattus).

J Exp Zool A Ecol Integr Physiol 2021 02 7;335(2):286-295. Epub 2021 Jan 7.

Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague, Czechia.

The relationship between physiological and behavioral stress markers is documented in several rodent species. However, there is no information regarding the role of adrenocortical activity in behavior of the black rat (Rattus rattus). Therefore, we hypothesize that the adrenocortical activity of black rats varies between individuals and is related to some of the behaviors in a novel environment. To test this hypothesis, we (i) validated a method for quantifying glucocorticoid metabolites from feces (fGCMs) with an enzyme immunoassay (EIA); (ii) examined variation and diurnal rhythms of feces and GCM production; and (iii) examined the relationship between GCM levels and exploratory behavioral traits. We fulfilled the first aim (i) by successfully performing an ACTH challenge test to validate the use of a 5α-pregnane-3β,11β,21-triol-20-one EIA for measuring fGCMs. Second (ii) we detected considerable consistent interindividual variability in production of both feces and glucocorticoids. The peak production of feces occurred in the first hour of the dark cycle, the peak of fGCMs occurred approximately 3 h later. Lastly, (iii) there was no clear relationship between behavior in the hole board test and GCMs. Grooming, a typical behavioral stress marker, was negatively associated with stress reactivity, while head-dipping in the hole-board test (traditionally considered an exploratory behavior independent of stress) was not correlated with the GCMs. This study offers a first look at GCMs in the black rat, successfully validates a method for their measurement and opens possibilities for future research of the relationship between glucocorticoids and exploratory behavior in this species.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jez.2440DOI Listing
February 2021

Determinate growth is predominant and likely ancestral in squamate reptiles.

Proc Biol Sci 2020 12 23;287(1941):20202737. Epub 2020 Dec 23.

Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague 12844, Czech Republic.

Body growth is typically thought to be indeterminate in ectothermic vertebrates. Indeed, until recently, this growth pattern was considered to be ubiquitous in ectotherms. Our recent observations of a complete growth plate cartilage (GPC) resorption, a reliable indicator of arrested skeletal growth, in many species of lizards clearly reject the ubiquity of indeterminate growth in reptiles and raise the question about the ancestral state of the growth pattern. Using X-ray micro-computed tomography (µCT), here we examined GPCs of long bones in three basally branching clades of squamate reptiles, namely in Gekkota, Scincoidea and Lacertoidea. A complete loss of GPC, indicating skeletal growth arrest, was the predominant finding. Using a dataset of 164 species representing all major clades of lizards and the tuataras, we traced the evolution of determinate growth on the phylogenetic tree of Lepidosauria. The reconstruction of character states suggests that determinate growth is ancestral for the squamate reptiles (Squamata) and remains common in the majority of lizard lineages, while extended (potentially indeterminate) adult growth evolved several times within squamates. Although traditionally associated with endotherms, determinate growth is coupled with ectothermy in this lineage. These findings combined with existing literature suggest that determinate growth predominates in both extant and extinct amniotes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2020.2737DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7779497PMC
December 2020

On the ground and in the heights: Does exploratory activity differ in commensal and non-commensal spiny mice?

Behav Processes 2020 Nov 18;180:104252. Epub 2020 Sep 18.

Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Vinicna 7, 128 43 Prague 2, Czech Republic. Electronic address:

Human settlements represent a specific environment where commensal animals are exposed to different selective pressures than their wild-living conspecifics. Despite the importance of commensal rodents for human health and economy, little is known about how a transition to a commensal way of life changes the behaviour of the animals. We tested twelve populations of spiny mice (Acomys spp.) in two open field-type tests - a vertical test and a hole board test. In the vertical test, a wire mesh for climbing was offered to spiny mice. We used a multipopulation approach using two commensal and ten non-commensal spiny mouse populations to account for inter-population variability. We aimed to investigate whether there are differences in behaviour of commensal and non-commensal populations with special regard to their exploratory activity both on the ground and on the wire mesh. We found that all non-commensal populations behaved similarly despite their long separate evolutionary histories. Contrary, the commensal populations were less exploratory on the ground in both tests. We concluded that this change was associated with their transition to commensalism. This shows that selective pressures of the commensal environment are able to induce noticeable changes in behaviour after a very short evolutionary time.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2020.104252DOI Listing
November 2020

Venomous snakes elicit stronger fear than nonvenomous ones: Psychophysiological response to snake images.

PLoS One 2020 19;15(8):e0236999. Epub 2020 Aug 19.

National Institute of Mental Health, Klecany, Czech Republic.

Snakes have been important ambush predators of both primates and human hunter-gatherers throughout their co-evolutionary history. Viperid snakes in particular are responsible for most fatal venomous snakebites worldwide and thus represent a strong selective pressure. They elicit intense fear in humans and are easily recognizable thanks to their distinctive morphotype. In this study, we measured skin resistance (SR) and heart rate (HR) in human subjects exposed to snake pictures eliciting either high fear (10 venomous viperid species) or disgust (10 nonvenomous fossorial species). Venomous snakes subjectively evaluated as frightening trigger a stronger physiological response (higher SR amplitude) than repulsive non-venomous snakes. However, stimuli presented in a block (more intense stimulation) do not trigger a stronger emotional response compared to sequentially presented stimuli (less intense stimulation). There are significant interindividual differences as subjects with high fear of snakes confronted with images of viperid snakes show stronger, longer-lasting, and more frequent changes in SR and higher HR compared to low-fear subjects. Thus, we show that humans demonstrate a remarkable ability to discriminate between dangerous viperids and harmless fossorial snakes, which is also reflected in distinct autonomous body responses.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0236999PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7437868PMC
October 2020

Faster detection of snake and spider phobia: revisited.

Heliyon 2020 May 14;6(5):e03968. Epub 2020 May 14.

National Institute of Mental Health, Topolová 748, 250 67, Klecany, Czech Republic.

Snake and spider phobia are one of the most prevalent anxiety disorders, yet quick and reliable measures are rather scarce. Recently, attempts have been made to shorten two widespread measures of snake and spider fear, the Snake Questionnaire (SNAQ) and Spider Questionnaire (SPQ). The new 12-item scales demonstrate very good psychometric qualities in terms of internal consistency and discriminatory power. Using the same approach on a bigger sample from another cultural background, we aimed to verify psychometric properties of the short scales. In total, 2 644 Czechs completed the SNAQ, 1 816 of which also completed the SPQ. The item response theory revealed that nine and seven items on the shorter SNAQ and SPQ, respectively, were identical with the Hungarian study. The 12-item scales show excellent reliability (α = 0.84 and 0.91) and highly correlate with scores on the full versions (r = 0.81 and 0.89) as well as with fear and disgust ratings of snake and spider images. Thus, despite slight discrepancies in the selected items, we confirm that the shorter SNAQ and SPQ keep considerable diagnostic strengths and can be used in the clinical practice as reliable, easy-to- administer, and fast screening tools for snake and spider phobia.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2020.e03968DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7229493PMC
May 2020

Spontaneous color preferences in rhesus monkeys: What is the advantage of primate trichromacy?

Behav Processes 2020 May 13;174:104084. Epub 2020 Feb 13.

National Institute of Mental Health, Klecany, the Czech Republic; Department of Physiology, Third Faculty of Medicine, Charles University in Prague, Prague, the Czech Republic; Ethology and Ecology Research Group, Department of Zoology, Faculty of Natural Science, Charles University in Prague, Prague, the Czech Republic; Department of Ethology and Companion Animal Science, Faculty of Agrobiology, Food and Natural Resources, Czech University of Life Sciences, Prague, the Czech Republic. Electronic address:

Color perception and color signaling play an important role in various aspects of animal behavior. However, in mammals, trichromatic vision characterized by three retinal photopigments tuned to peak short, middle and long wavelengths is limited only to some primate species. In Old and New World primates a second photopigment has appeared repeatedly during phylogeny, allowing red colors to be distinguished from yellows and greens. Several hypotheses aspire to explain the adaptive benefits of trichromatic vision for primates. The predominant one is foraging adaptation for facilitation visual detection of fruits or young leaves. Alternative explanations are based on the function of red color in aposematic signaling or its role in socio-sexual communication. We tested spontaneous color preference in macaque monkeys (Macaca mulatta) for both food and non-food objects in a laboratory environment. We hypothesized that preference for or avoidance of red color together with the context of such behavior may help us to understand what the adaptive advantage leading to a rapid expansion of a gene for a second pigment in the long-wavelength region was. We found neither preference nor avoidance toward red color in non-food objects, but we found a significant preference for red color in food; therefore, we suggest that the results support the foraging hypothesis in macaque monkeys.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2020.104084DOI Listing
May 2020

Emotional Reaction to Fear- and Disgust-Evoking Snakes: Sensitivity and Propensity in Snake-Fearful Respondents.

Front Psychol 2020 28;11:31. Epub 2020 Jan 28.

Applied Neuroscience and Neuroimaging Research Programme, National Institute of Mental Health, Klecany, Czechia.

This paper continues our previous study in which we examined the respondents' reaction to two morphologically different snake stimuli categories - one evoking exclusively fear and another evoking exclusively disgust. Here we acquired Likert-type scale scores of fear and disgust evoked by the same snake stimuli by a total of 330 respondents. Moreover, we collected data about the respondents' age, gender, education, snake fear [Snake Questionnaire (SNAQ)], and disgust propensity [Disgust Scale-Revised (DS-R)], and we analyzed the effect of these variables on the emotional scores (with special focus on snake-fearful respondents). In addition, we collected the SNAQ and DS-R scores from the respondents tested in the previous study using the rank-ordering method to directly compare the results of these two approaches. The results showed that non-fearful respondents give high scores of fear to the fear-eliciting snakes and high scores of disgust to the disgust-eliciting snakes, but they give low scores of the other emotional dimension (disgust/fear) to each. In contrast, snake-fearful respondents not only give higher fear and disgust scores to the respective snake stimuli, but they also give high scores of fear to the disgust-eliciting snakes and high scores of disgust to the fear-eliciting snakes. Both Likert-scale scores and rank-ordering data show that the clear border dividing both snake stimuli categories dissolves when evaluated by the snake-fearful respondents.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00031DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6997343PMC
January 2020

Ultraviolet reflectance and pattern properties in leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius).

Behav Processes 2020 Apr 25;173:104060. Epub 2020 Jan 25.

Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Viničná 7, CZ-12844, Prague, Czech Republic.

Complex visual signaling through various combinations of colors and patterns has been well documented in a number of diurnal reptiles. However, there are many nocturnal species with highly sensitive vision, being able to discriminate colors in night conditions, as was shown in geckos. Because of their sensitivity to chromatic signals, including UV (ultraviolet), they may have potential hidden features in their coloration, which may play role in intraspecific communication (e.g. mate choice) or interspecific signals (e.g. antipredatory function). We explored this hypothesis in nocturnal Leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius), a species using visual signals in both antipredation defense and courtship, having ontogenetic color change accompanied by a shift in behavior. We used UV photography and visual modeling in order to compare various aspects of their coloration (luminance, contrast, color proportions) between sexes, age groups and populations. We found that Leopard geckos have considerable UV reflectance in white patches on their tails (and on the head in juveniles). Though, no prominent differences were detected in their coloration between various groups. We hypothesize that the limitation of UV reflectance to the head and tail, which are both actively displayed during defense, especially in juveniles, might potentially boost the effect of antipredation signaling.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2020.104060DOI Listing
April 2020

Universality of indeterminate growth in lizards rejected: the micro-CT reveals contrasting timing of growth cartilage persistence in iguanas, agamas, and chameleons.

Sci Rep 2019 12 12;9(1):18913. Epub 2019 Dec 12.

Specialized laboratory of experimental imaging, Ruská 2411/87, CZ-10000, Prague, Czech Republic.

Squamate reptiles are considered to exhibit indeterminate growth. Nevertheless, current literature disputes the available definitions of this growth type, presents new theoretical models, and questions its universality in cold-blooded vertebrates. We have followed up on our previous research employing micro-CT to explore growth plate cartilage (GPC) in the epiphysis of long bones, which is responsible for longitudinal skeletal growth by the endochondral ossification process. We focused on numerous and highly diversified group of the Iguania clade comprising Acrodonta (agamas and chameleons) and Pleurodonta ("iguanas"). We recorded the absence of GPC in most of the examined adult Pleurodonta specimens and interpret it as an irreversible arrest of skeletal growth. This finding clearly rejects the universality of indeterminate growth in lizards. On the other hand, we found apparent GPC preservation in most of the adult specimens belonging to Acrodonta. This suggests a preserved ability to continue body growth throughout most of their life. We discuss the uncovered disparity between Acrodonta and Pleurodonta and emphasize the importance of GPC degradation timing.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-54573-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6908584PMC
December 2019

Cytogenetic Analysis Did Not Reveal Differentiated Sex Chromosomes in Ten Species of Boas and Pythons (Reptilia: Serpentes).

Genes (Basel) 2019 11 15;10(11). Epub 2019 Nov 15.

Department of Ecology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, 12844 Prague, Czech Republic.

Homologous and differentiated ZZ/ZW sex chromosomes (or derived multiple neo-sex chromosomes) were often described in caenophidian snakes, but sex chromosomes were unknown until recently in non-caenophidian snakes. Previous studies revealed that two species of boas (, ) and one species of python () independently evolved XX/XY sex chromosomes. In addition, heteromorphic ZZ/ZW sex chromosomes were recently revealed in the Madagascar boa ( sp. cf. ) and putatively also in the blind snake . Since the evolution of sex chromosomes in non-caenophidian snakes seems to be more complex than previously thought, we examined ten species of pythons and boas representing the families Boidae, Calabariidae, Candoiidae, Charinidae, Pythonidae, and Sanziniidae by conventional and molecular cytogenetic methods, aiming to reveal their sex chromosomes. Our results show that all examined species do not possess sex-specific differences in their genomes detectable by the applied cytogenetic methods, indicating the presence of poorly differentiated sex chromosomes or even the absence of sex chromosomes. Interestingly, fluorescence hybridization with telomeric repeats revealed extensive distribution of interstitial telomeric repeats in eight species, which are likely a consequence of intra-chromosomal rearrangements.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/genes10110934DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6896069PMC
November 2019

Human evaluation of amphibian species: a comparison of disgust and beauty.

Naturwissenschaften 2019 Jul 1;106(7-8):41. Epub 2019 Jul 1.

Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague, Viničná 7, 128 43, Prague, Czech Republic.

Animals can evoke a wide range of emotions helping us to choose a quick and appropriate reaction towards them: approach or avoidance in general. This work has focused on disgust evoked by amphibians in humans as well as perceived beauty. Due to the high morphological variability of recent amphibian taxa, we examined humans' cognitive categorisation of 101 amphibian photos and the effect of stimuli characteristics on disgust evaluation or beauty perception of individual groups/species. We also explored how respondents' characteristics, e.g. gender, age and disgust sensitivity (DS-R) influence the disgust and beauty evaluation of picture stimuli on a 7-point Likert scale. The scores of disgust and beauty evaluation were strongly negatively correlated, representing the opposite ends of a single axis, further referred to as the index of preference. The most preferred amphibians belonged to anurans, whereas the least preferred ones were mostly worm-like, legless and small-eyed caecilians. Additional analyses of morphologically diverse anurans showed that species with a round body shape, short forelegs, small eyes, warts, pink and grey colouration, or dark and dull colouration were perceived as disgusting or ugly. The effect of gender and age were only marginal; however, people with higher disgust sensitivity rated amphibians as more disgusting and less beautiful, which might support the hypothesis of a possible disgust involvement in animal fears and phobias. This topic has implications not only for the nature conservation decisions of globally endangered amphibians but also for understanding the evolution of disgust and its generalisation to harmless animals.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00114-019-1635-8DOI Listing
July 2019

Scary and nasty beasts: Self-reported fear and disgust of common phobic animals.

Br J Psychol 2020 May 11;111(2):297-321. Epub 2019 Jun 11.

National Institute of Mental Health, Klecany, Czech Republic.

Animal phobias are one of the most prevalent mental disorders. We analysed how fear and disgust, two emotions involved in their onset and maintenance, are elicited by common phobic animals. In an online survey, the subjects rated 25 animal images according to elicited fear and disgust. Additionally, they completed four psychometrics, the Fear Survey Schedule II (FSS), Disgust Scale - Revised (DS-R), Snake Questionnaire (SNAQ), and Spider Questionnaire (SPQ). Based on a redundancy analysis, fear and disgust image ratings could be described by two axes, one reflecting a general negative perception of animals associated with higher FSS and DS-R scores and the second one describing a specific aversion to snakes and spiders associated with higher SNAQ and SPQ scores. The animals can be separated into five distinct clusters: (1) non-slimy invertebrates; (2) snakes; (3) mice, rats, and bats; (4) human endo- and exoparasites (intestinal helminths and louse); and (5) farm/pet animals. However, only snakes, spiders, and parasites evoke intense fear and disgust in the non-clinical population. In conclusion, rating animal images according to fear and disgust can be an alternative and reliable method to standard scales. Moreover, tendencies to overgeneralize irrational fears onto other harmless species from the same category can be used for quick animal phobia detection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bjop.12409DOI Listing
May 2020

Reactions to novel objects in monkeys: what does it mean to be neophobic?

Primates 2019 Jul 4;60(4):347-353. Epub 2019 Jun 4.

National Institute of Mental Health, Topolova 748, 250 67, Klecany, Czech Republic.

Animals' reactions to novel objects vary not only with zoological taxa and their ecology but also in the types of presented stimuli, the context, and individual characteristics. Behavioral reactions can vary from extremely neophobic (avoiding novel objects) to extremely neophilic (intense exploration of novel objects); most often, a mixture of these behavioral patterns appears. In primates, reactions toward novel objects vary according to species, age, sex, population, and the types of objects. Most experiments in this field have used a free exploration design with food or non-food objects. Here, we tested the reactions of captive male rhesus macaques using various stimuli, motivation levels, rewards, and time limits. We found that the monkeys explored and manipulated novel objects in various contexts, with little evidence of a neophobic response; however, environment, types of stimuli, and other parameters of the test can significantly affect monkeys' reactions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10329-019-00731-2DOI Listing
July 2019

Human Attitude toward Reptiles: A Relationship between Fear, Disgust, and Aesthetic Preferences.

Animals (Basel) 2019 05 14;9(5). Epub 2019 May 14.

Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Viničná 7, 128 43 Prague, Czech Republic.

Focusing on one group of animals can bring interesting results regarding our attitudes toward them and show the key features that our evaluation of such animals is based on. Thus, we designed a study of human perception of all reptiles focusing on the relationship between perceived fear, disgust, and aesthetic preferences and differences between snakes and other reptiles. Two sets containing 127 standardized photos of reptiles were developed, with one species per each subfamily. Respondents were asked to rate the animals according to fear, disgust, and beauty on a seven-point Likert scale. Evaluation of reptile species shows that people tend to perceive them as two clearly distinct groups based on their similar morphotype. In a subset of lizards, there was a positive correlation between fear and disgust, while disgust and fear were both negatively correlated with beauty. Surprisingly, a positive correlation between fear and beauty of snakes was revealed, i.e., the most feared species also tend to be perceived as beautiful. Snakes represent a distinct group of animals that is also reflected in the theory of attentional prioritization of snakes as an evolutionary relevant threat.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ani9050238DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6562393PMC
May 2019

Comparing developmental stability in unisexual and bisexual rock lizards of the genus Darevskia.

Evol Dev 2019 07 18;21(4):175-187. Epub 2019 Mar 18.

Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic.

Parthenogenetic species are usually considered to be short-lived due to the accumulation of adverse mutations, lack of genetic variability, and inability to adapt to changing environment. If so, one may expect that the phenotype of clonal organisms may reflect such genetic and/or environmental stress. To test this hypothesis, we compared the developmental stability of bisexual and parthenogenetic lizards of the genus Darevskia. We assessed asymmetries in three meristic traits: ventral, preanal, and supratemporal scales. Our results suggest that the amount of ventral and preanal asymmetries is significantly higher in clones compared with their maternal, but not paternal, progenitor species. However, it is questionable, whether this is a consequence of clonality, as it may be considered a mild form of outbreeding depression as well. Moreover, most ventral asymmetries were found in the bisexual species Darevskia valentini. We suggest that greater differences in asymmetry levels among bisexuals may be, for instance, a consequence of the population size: the smaller the population, the higher the inbreeding and the developmental instability. On the basis of the traits examined in this study, the parthenogens do not seem to be of significantly poorer quality.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ede.12286DOI Listing
July 2019

Judging Others by Your Own Standards: Attractiveness of Primate Faces as Seen by Human Respondents.

Front Psychol 2018 11;9:2439. Epub 2018 Dec 11.

RP3 Applied Neurosciences and Brain Imaging, National Institute of Mental Health, Klecany, Czechia.

The aspects of facial attractiveness have been widely studied, especially within the context of evolutionary psychology, which proposes that aesthetic judgements of human faces are shaped by biologically based standards of beauty reflecting the mate quality. However, the faces of primates, who are very similar to us yet still considered non-human, remain neglected. In this paper, we aimed to study the facial attractiveness of non-human primates as judged by human respondents. We asked 286 Czech respondents to score photos of 107 primate species according to their perceived "beauty." Then, we analyzed factors affecting the scores including morphology, colors, and human-likeness. We found that the three main primate groups were each scored using different cues. The proportions of inner facial features and distinctiveness are cues widely reported to affect human facial attractiveness. Interestingly, we found that these factors also affected the attractiveness scores of primate faces, but only within the Catarrhines, i.e., the primate group most similar to humans. Within this group, human-likeness positively affected the attractiveness scores, and facial extremities such as a prolonged nose or exaggerated cheeks were considered the least attractive. On the contrary, the least human-like prosimians were scored as the most attractive group. The results are discussed in the context of the "uncanny valley," the widely discussed empirical rule.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02439DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6297365PMC
December 2018

Beauty ranking of mammalian species kept in the Prague Zoo: does beauty of animals increase the respondents' willingness to protect them?

Naturwissenschaften 2018 Nov 28;105(11-12):69. Epub 2018 Nov 28.

Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague, Viničná 7, 128 44, Prague 2, Czech Republic.

Aesthetic preferences for animals correspond with the species' presence in the worldwide zoos and influence the conservation priorities. Here, we investigated the relationship between the willingness of respondents to protect mammals and some attributed characteristics such as their aesthetic beauty. Further, several methodological aspects of measuring mammalian beauty were assessed. Animal beauty was associated not only with the respondents' willingness to protect the species but also with its attributed dangerousness and usefulness. We found that the most preferred animals were carnivores and ungulates, whilst smaller species of rodents and afrosoricids were unpopular. The main characteristics determining that an animal will be ranked as beautiful were complex fur pattern and body shape. We demonstrated that the position of mammalian species along the 'beauty' axis is surprisingly stable, no matter the form (illustrations vs photographs), context of stimulus presentation (several number of stimuli per family vs one randomly selected species per family), or the method of beauty evaluation (relative order vs Likert's scale).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00114-018-1596-3DOI Listing
November 2018

A gyroscopic advantage: phylogenetic patterns of compensatory movements in frogs.

J Exp Biol 2019 01 18;222(Pt 2). Epub 2019 Jan 18.

Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Viničná 7, CZ-12843 Prague, Czech Republic.

Head and eye compensatory movements known as vestibulo-ocular and vestibulo-cervical reflexes are essential to stay orientated in space while moving. We have used a previously developed methodology focused on the detailed mathematical description of head compensatory movements in frogs without the need for any surgical procedures on the examined specimens. Our comparative study comprising 35 species of frogs from different phylogenetic backgrounds revealed species-specific head compensatory abilities ensuring gaze stabilization. Moreover, we found a strong phylogenetic signal highlighting the great ability of compensatory head movements in families of Pyxicephalidae and Rhacophoridae from the Natatanura group. By contrast, families of Dendrobatidae and Microhylidae exhibited only poor or no head compensatory movements. Contrary to our expectation, the results did not corroborate an ecomorphological hypothesis anticipating a close relationship between ecological parameters and the head compensatory movements. We did not find any positive association between more complex (3D structured, arboreal or aquatic) habitats or more saltatory behavior and elevated abilities of head compensatory movements. Moreover, we found compensatory movements in most basal Archeobatrachia, giving an indication of common ancestry of these abilities in frogs that are variously pronounced in particular families. We hypothesize that the uncovered proper gaze stabilization during locomotion provided by the higher head compensatory abilities can improve or even enable visual perception of the prey. We interpret this completely novel finding as a possible gyroscopic advantage in a foraging context. We discuss putative consequences of such advanced neuromotor skills for diversification and ecological success of the Natatanura group.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1242/jeb.186544DOI Listing
January 2019

New records of one of the least known snakes, Telescopus pulcher (Squamata: Colubridae) from the Horn of Africa.

Zootaxa 2018 Aug 29;4462(4):483-496. Epub 2018 Aug 29.

Dříteč 65, 53305, Czech Republic.

Telescopus pulcher is an enigmatic colubrid snake only known from the holotype and paratype specimens described from 'Migiurtinia' in Puntland (Somalia) in 1935. Herein we recorded the third and fourth-ever known specimens of this species from the Toon village, Woqooyi Galbeed Region, and 15 km southeast of Sheikh, Saahil Region, Somaliland. The species is endemic to Somaliland and adjoining parts of Ethiopia and Puntland. Data on morphology and natural history, as well as the first photographs of live specimens are provided. We also provide a detailed description of the paratype. The coloration of the species resembles that of the vipers of the genus Echis and we hypothesize that T. pulcher mimics these common and sympatric vipers in the Horn of Africa.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.4462.4.2DOI Listing
August 2018

Behavioural strategies of three wild-derived populations of the house mouse (Mus m. musculus and M. m. domesticus) in five standard tests of exploration and boldness: Searching for differences attributable to subspecies and commensalism.

Behav Processes 2018 Dec 26;157:133-141. Epub 2018 Sep 26.

Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Vinicna 7 128 44 Prague 2, Czech Republic; National Institute of Mental Health, Topolova 748, 250 67, Klecany, Czech Republic. Electronic address:

Animal populations adopting a commensal way of life, e. g. house mice in buildings and stores, are subject to different selection pressures than those living in a non-commensal environment. This may radically influence their behaviour. This study investigated the effects of a commensal way of life on exploratory behaviour in mice. The focal population was non-commensal Mus musculus musculus from Northern Iran. To assess the effect of commensal way of life on exploratory behaviour, it was compared with commensal M. m. musculus from the Czech Republic and to assess the effect of subspecies, it was compared to non-commensal M. m. domesticus from Eastern Syria. We compared their behaviour in five tests of exploratory behaviour and boldness: an open field test with 1) free exploration and 2) forced exploration, 3) hole-board test, 4) test of vertical activity and 5) elevated plus maze. We detected a significant effect of population on behaviour in all five tests. M. m. domesticus was generally bolder and more active than M. m. musculus. Commensal mice were characterized by a higher level of vertical activity (climbing, rearing, jumping). These results suggest that the specific selection pressures of the commensal lifestyle select mice for higher affinity towards elevated places.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2018.09.008DOI Listing
December 2018

ZW, XY, and yet ZW: Sex chromosome evolution in snakes even more complicated.

Evolution 2018 Jul 4. Epub 2018 Jul 4.

Department of Ecology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague, 128 44, Czech Republic.

Snakes are historically important in the formulation of several central concepts on the evolution of sex chromosomes. For over 50 years, it was believed that all snakes shared the same ZZ/ZW sex chromosomes, which are homomorphic and poorly differentiated in "basal" snakes such as pythons and boas, while heteromorphic and well differentiated in "advanced" (caenophidian) snakes. Recent molecular studies revealed that differentiated sex chromosomes are indeed shared among all families of caenophidian snakes, but that boas and pythons evolved likely independently male heterogamety (XX/XY sex chromosomes). The historical report of heteromorphic ZZ/ZW sex chromosomes in a boid snake was previously regarded as ambiguous. In the current study, we document heteromorphic ZZ/ZW sex chromosomes in a boid snake. A comparative approach suggests that these heteromorphic sex chromosomes evolved very recently and that they are poorly differentiated at the sequence level. Interestingly, two snake lineages with confirmed male heterogamety possess homomorphic sex chromosomes, but heteromorphic sex chromosomes are present in both snake lineages with female heterogamety. We point out that this phenomenon is more common across squamates. The presence of female heterogamety in non-caenophidian snakes indicates that the evolution of sex chromosomes in this lineage is much more complex than previously thought, making snakes an even better model system for the evolution of sex chromosomes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/evo.13543DOI Listing
July 2018

Association Between Fear and Beauty Evaluation of Snakes: Cross-Cultural Findings.

Front Psychol 2018 16;9:333. Epub 2018 Mar 16.

Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague, Czechia.

According to the fear module theory, humans are evolutionarily predisposed to perceive snakes as prioritized stimuli and exhibit a fast emotional and behavioral response toward them. In Europe, highly dangerous snake species are distributed almost exclusively in the Mediterranean and Caspian areas. While the risk of a snakebite is relatively low in Central Europe, Azerbaijan, on the other hand, has a high occurrence of the deadly venomous Levant viper (). We hypothesize that co-habitation with this dangerous snake has shaped the way in which humans evaluate snake species resembling it. For that purpose, we asked respondents from the Czech Republic and Azerbaijan to rank photographs depicting 36 snake species according to perceived fear and beauty. The results revealed a high cross-cultural agreement in both evaluations (fear = 0.683, < 0.0001; beauty: = 0.816, < 0.0001). Snakes species eliciting higher fear tend to be also perceived as more beautiful, yet people are able to clearly distinguish between these two dimensions. Deadly venomous snakes representing a serious risk are perceived as highly fearful. This is especially true for the vipers and allies (pit vipers) possessing a characteristic body shape with a distinct triangular head and thick body, which was found as the most fear evoking by respondents from both countries. Although the attitude toward snakes is more negative among the respondents from Azerbaijan, their fear evaluation is similar to the Czechs. For instance, despite co-habitation with the Levant viper, it was not rated by the Azerbaijanis as more fearful than other dangerous snakes. In conclusion, agreement in the evaluation of snake fear and beauty is cross-culturally high and relative fear attributed to selected snake species is not directly explainable by the current environmental and cultural differences. This may provide some support for the evolutionary hypothesis of preparedness to fear snakes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00333DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5865084PMC
March 2018

A comparative study of growth: different body weight trajectories in three species of the genus Eublepharis and their hybrids.

Sci Rep 2018 02 8;8(1):2658. Epub 2018 Feb 8.

Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Viničná 7, CZ-12844, Prague 2, Czech Republic.

An extensive research effort is devoted to the evolution of life-histories and processes underlying the variation in adult body weight; however, in this regard, some animal taxa remain neglected. Here we report rates and timing of growth recorded in two wild-derived populations of a model lizard species, Eublepharis macularius (M, W), other two related species, i.e., E. angramainyu (A) and E. sp. (D), and their between-species hybrids. We detected clear differences among the examined species/populations, which can be interpreted in the terms of "fast - slow" continuum of life-history strategies. The mean asymptotic body size was the highest in A and further decreased in the following order: M, W, and D. In contrast, the growth rate showed an opposite pattern. Counter-intuitively, the largest species exhibited the slowest growth rates. The final body size was determined mainly by the inflexion point. This parameter reflecting the duration of exponential growth increased with mean asymptotic body size and easily overcompensated the effect of decreasing growth rates in larger species. Compared to the parental species, the F and backcross hybrids exhibited intermediate values of growth parameters. Thus, except for the case of the F hybrid of MxA, we failed to detect deleterious effects of hybridization in these animals with temperature sex determination.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-19864-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5805741PMC
February 2018

Development of behavioural profile in the Northern common boa (Boa imperator): Repeatable independent traits or personality?

PLoS One 2017 24;12(5):e0177911. Epub 2017 May 24.

Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic.

Recent studies of animal personality have focused on its proximate causation and ecological and evolutionary significance in particular, but the question of its development was largely overlooked. The attributes of personality are defined as between-individual differences in behaviour, which are consistent over time (differential consistency) and contexts (contextual generality) and both can be affected by development. We assessed several candidates for personality variables measured in various tests with different contexts over several life-stages (juveniles, older juveniles, subadults and adults) in the Northern common boa. Variables describing foraging/feeding decision and some of the defensive behaviours expressed as individual average values are highly repeatable and consistent. We found two main personality axes-one associated with foraging/feeding and the speed of decision, the other reflecting agonistic behaviour. Intensity of behaviour in the feeding context changes during development, but the level of agonistic behaviour remains the same. The juveniles and adults have a similar personality structure, but there is a period of structural change of behaviour during the second year of life (subadults). These results require a new theoretical model to explain the selection pressures resulting in this developmental pattern of personality. We also studied the proximate factors and their relationship to behavioural characteristics. Physiological parameters (heart and breath rate stress response) measured in adults clustered with variables concerning the agonistic behavioural profile, while no relationship between the juvenile/adult body size and personality concerning feeding/foraging and the agonistic behavioural profile was found. Our study suggests that it is important for studies of personality development to focus on both the structural and differential consistency, because even though behaviour is differentially consistent, the structure can change.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0177911PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5443515PMC
September 2017

Consistent individual differences in standard exploration tasks in the black rat (Rattus rattus).

J Comp Psychol 2017 May 20;131(2):150-162. Epub 2017 Mar 20.

Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague.

In a fluctuating environment, the optimal level of exploratory behavior depends on the proportion of current risks and benefits. The exploratory behavior is, therefore, often subjected to heterogenous selection. In populations of commensal rodents living in close proximity of humans, this pressure is further increased by pest management. We hypothesize that the black rat (Rattus rattus) responds to this pressure by either high behavioral flexibility or by development of personality types. The aim of this study was to analyze exploratory behavior and boldness of wild black rats and its changes over time to determine whether exploratory behavior is a personality trait in black rats. Studies on animals with unreduced variability are necessary for determination of normal range of behaviors. The behavior in the open field and hole board tests yielded 1 multivariate variable representing exploratory behavior and 1 representing boldness. The hole board test additionally provided an axis representing exploratory behavior. Exploratory behavior showed moderate to high repeatability, even though we observed a considerable effect of habituation. Exploratory behavior was also strongly correlated across contexts; therefore, our results suggest that the black rat responds to heterogenous selection pressure by developing personality types. We also found a strong effect of litter identity on some aspects of the exploratory behavior. Boldness was less repeatable, which we interpret as high behavioral flexibility in this behavioral trait. In concordance with our hypothesis, the personality types in exploratory behavior, but not in boldness, are possibly maintained by heterogenous selection pressure created by human pest management. (PsycINFO Database Record
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/com0000070DOI Listing
May 2017
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