Publications by authors named "Francesca Cagnacci"

28 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Experimental evidence of memory-based foraging decisions in a large wild mammal.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2021 Apr;118(15)

Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge MA 02138.

Many animals restrict their movements to a characteristic home range. This constrained pattern of space use is thought to result from the foraging benefits of memorizing the locations and quality of heterogeneously distributed resources. However, due to the confounding effects of sensory perception, the role of memory in home-range movement behavior lacks definitive evidence in the wild. Here, we analyze the foraging decisions of a large mammal during a field resource manipulation experiment designed to disentangle the effects of memory and perception. We parametrize a mechanistic model of spatial transitions using experimental data to quantify the cognitive processes underlying animal foraging behavior and to predict how individuals respond to resource heterogeneity in space and time. We demonstrate that roe deer () rely on memory, not perception, to track the spatiotemporal dynamics of resources within their home range. Roe deer foraging decisions were primarily based on recent experience (half-lives of 0.9 and 5.6 d for attribute and spatial memory, respectively), enabling them to adapt to sudden changes in resource availability. The proposed memory-based model was able to both quantify the cognitive processes underlying roe deer behavior and accurately predict how they shifted resource use during the experiment. Our study highlights the fact that animal foraging decisions are based on incomplete information on the locations of available resources, a factor that is critical to developing accurate predictions of animal spatial behavior but is typically not accounted for in analyses of animal movement in the wild.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2014856118DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8053919PMC
April 2021

Climate change and anthropogenic food manipulation interact in shifting the distribution of a large herbivore at its altitudinal range limit.

Sci Rep 2021 Apr 7;11(1):7600. Epub 2021 Apr 7.

Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.

Ungulates in alpine ecosystems are constrained by winter harshness through resource limitation and direct mortality from weather extremes. However, little empirical evidence has definitively established how current climate change and other anthropogenic modifications of resource availability affect ungulate winter distribution, especially at their range limits. Here, we used a combination of historical (1997-2002) and contemporary (2012-2015) Eurasian roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) relocation datasets that span changes in snowpack characteristics and two levels of supplemental feeding to compare and forecast probability of space use at the species' altitudinal range limit. Scarcer snow cover in the contemporary period interacted with the augmented feeding site distribution to increase the elevation of winter range limits, and we predict this trend will continue under climate change. Moreover, roe deer have shifted from historically using feeding sites primarily under deep snow conditions to contemporarily using them under a wider range of snow conditions as their availability has increased. Combined with scarcer snow cover during December, January, and April, this trend has reduced inter-annual variability in space use patterns in these months. These spatial responses to climate- and artificial resource-provisioning shifts evidence the importance of these changing factors in shaping large herbivore spatial distribution and, consequently, ecosystem dynamics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-86720-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8027592PMC
April 2021

Knowing your neighbours: How memory-mediated conspecific avoidance influences home ranges.

J Anim Ecol 2020 12;89(12):2746-2749

Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.

In Focus: Ellison, N., Hatchwell, B. J., Biddiscombe, S. J., Napper, C. J., & Potts, J. R. (2020). Mechanistic home range analysis reveals drivers of space use patterns for a non-territorial passerine. Journal of Animal Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.13292. Most animals for which space use has been studied restrict their movements into a constrained spatial area: their home range. The ubiquity of this space-use pattern suggests that home ranges are adaptive in a wide range of ecological contexts, and that they likely arise from general biological mechanisms. In this issue, Ellison et al. use a mechanistic home range analysis (MHRA) to uncover the drivers underlying home range patterns in a passerine that is non-territorial. They show that a model integrating both resource preferences (specifically, an attraction to woodland centre), and memory-mediated conspecific avoidance can capture the space-use patterns observed in a wild population of long-tailed tits Aegithalos caudatus. In doing so, their analysis extends the applicability of MHRA to capturing and predicting home range patterns beyond the previously studied cases where spatially exclusive home ranges emerge from scent mark-mediated avoidance responses to neighbouring groups.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.13374DOI Listing
December 2020

Ecological and Behavioral Drivers of Supplemental Feeding Use by Roe Deer in a Peri-Urban Context.

Animals (Basel) 2020 Nov 10;10(11). Epub 2020 Nov 10.

Department of Biodiversity and Molecular Ecology, Research and Innovation Centre, Fondazione Edmund Mach, Via E. Mach 1, 38010 San Michele all'Adige, Italy.

Winter supplemental feeding of ungulates potentially alters their use of resources and ecological interactions, yet relatively little is known about the patterns of feeding sites use by target populations. We used camera traps to continuously monitor winter and spring feeding site use in a roe deer population living in a peri-urban area in Northern Italy. We combined circular statistics with generalized additive and linear mixed models to analyze the diel and seasonal pattern of roe deer visits to feeding sites, and the behavioral drivers influencing visit duration. Roe deer visits peaked at dawn and dusk, and decreased from winter to spring when vegetation regrows and temperature increases. Roe deer mostly visited feeding sites solitarily; when this was not the case, they stayed longer at the site, especially when conspecifics were eating, but maintained a bimodal diel pattern of visits. These results support an opportunistic use of feeding sites, following seasonal cycles and the roe deer circadian clock. Yet, the attractiveness of these artificial resources has the potential to alter intra-specific relationships, as competition for their use induces gatherings and may extend the contact time between individuals, with potential behavioral and epidemiological consequences.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ani10112088DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7698021PMC
November 2020

Preference and familiarity mediate spatial responses of a large herbivore to experimental manipulation of resource availability.

Sci Rep 2020 07 20;10(1):11946. Epub 2020 Jul 20.

Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.

The link between spatio-temporal resource patterns and animal movement behaviour is a key ecological process, however, limited experimental support for this connection has been produced at the home range scale. In this study, we analysed the spatial responses of a resident large herbivore (roe deer Capreolus capreolus) using an in situ manipulation of a concentrated food resource. Specifically, we experimentally altered feeding site accessibility to roe deer and recorded (for 25 animal-years) individual responses by GPS tracking. We found that, following the loss of their preferred resource, roe deer actively tracked resource dynamics leading to more exploratory movements, and larger, spatially-shifted home ranges. Then, we showed, for the first time experimentally, the importance of site fidelity in the maintenance of large mammal home ranges by demonstrating the return of individuals to their familiar, preferred resource despite the presence of alternate, equally-valuable food resources. This behaviour was modulated at the individual level, where roe deer characterised by a high preference for feeding sites exhibited more pronounced behavioural adjustments during the manipulation. Together, our results establish the connections between herbivore movements, space-use, individual preference, and the spatio-temporal pattern of resources in home ranging behaviour.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-68046-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7371708PMC
July 2020

Spatial Aspects of Gardens Drive Ranging in Urban Foxes (): The Resource Dispersion Hypothesis Revisited.

Animals (Basel) 2020 Jul 9;10(7). Epub 2020 Jul 9.

School of Life Sciences, Huxley Building, Keele University, Keele ST5 5BG, UK.

Red foxes are a well-established species of urban ecosystems in the UK and worldwide. Understanding the spatial ecology of foxes in urban landscapes is important for enhancement of urban biodiversity and effective disease management. The Resource Dispersion Hypothesis (RDH) holds that territory (home range) size is linked to distribution and richness of habitat patches such that aggregation of rich resources should be negatively associated with range size. Here, we tested the RDH on a sample of 20 red foxes ( in the city of Brighton and Hove. We focused on residential garden areas, as foxes were associated with these in previous studies. We equipped 12 male and 8 female foxes with GPS collars recording at 15 min intervals during discrete seasons over four years. We regressed fox core area size against garden size, number of garden patches, and edge density within and between patches as extracted from GIS in a series of bivariate linear mixed models. We found that foxes used smaller core areas where gardens were large and well-connected and larger core areas where numerous, smaller gardens were fragmented by internal barriers (e.g., fences, walls) or bisected by other habitats such as managed grassland or built-up areas. Our findings confirm the RDH and help to inform future urban planning for wildlife.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ani10071167DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7401560PMC
July 2020

Wave-like Patterns of Plant Phenology Determine Ungulate Movement Tactics.

Curr Biol 2020 09 2;30(17):3444-3449.e4. Epub 2020 Jul 2.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Pinedale, WY 82941, USA.

Animals exhibit a diversity of movement tactics [1]. Tracking resources that change across space and time is predicted to be a fundamental driver of animal movement [2]. For example, some migratory ungulates (i.e., hooved mammals) closely track the progression of highly nutritious plant green-up, a phenomenon called "green-wave surfing" [3-5]. Yet general principles describing how the dynamic nature of resources determine movement tactics are lacking [6]. We tested an emerging theory that predicts surfing and the existence of migratory behavior will be favored in environments where green-up is fleeting and moves sequentially across large landscapes (i.e., wave-like green-up) [7]. Landscapes exhibiting wave-like patterns of green-up facilitated surfing and explained the existence of migratory behavior across 61 populations of four ungulate species on two continents (n = 1,696 individuals). At the species level, foraging benefits were equivalent between tactics, suggesting that each movement tactic is fine-tuned to local patterns of plant phenology. For decades, ecologists have sought to understand how animals move to select habitat, commonly defining habitat as a set of static patches [8, 9]. Our findings indicate that animal movement tactics emerge as a function of the flux of resources across space and time, underscoring the need to redefine habitat to include its dynamic attributes. As global habitats continue to be modified by anthropogenic disturbance and climate change [10], our synthesis provides a generalizable framework to understand how animal movement will be influenced by altered patterns of resource phenology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.06.032DOI Listing
September 2020

Stay home, stay safe-Site familiarity reduces predation risk in a large herbivore in two contrasting study sites.

J Anim Ecol 2020 06 4;89(6):1329-1339. Epub 2020 Apr 4.

Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.

Restricting movements to familiar areas should increase individual fitness as it provides animals with information about the spatial distribution of resources and predation risk. While the benefits of familiarity for locating resources have been reported previously, the potential value of familiarity for predation avoidance has been accorded less attention. It has been suggested that familiarity should be beneficial for anti-predator behaviour when direct cues of predation risk are unclear and do not allow prey to identify well-defined spatial refuges. However, to our knowledge, this hypothesis has yet to be tested. Here, we assessed how site familiarity, measured as the intensity of use of a given location, is associated with the probability of roe deer Capreolus capreolus being killed by two predators with contrasting hunting tactics, the Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx and human hunters. While risk of human hunting was confined to open habitats, risk of lynx predation was more diffuse, with no clear refuge areas. We estimated cause-specific mortality rates in a competing risk framework for 212 GPS-collared roe deer in two ecologically distinct areas of Central Europe to test the hypothesis that the daily risk of being killed by lynx or hunters should be lower in areas of high familiarity. We found strong evidence that site familiarity reduces the risk of being predated by lynx, whereas the evidence that the risk of being hunted is linked to site familiarity was weak. We suggest that local knowledge about small-scale differences in predation risk and information about efficient escape routes affect an individual's ability to avoid or escape an attack by an ambush predator. Our study emphasizes the role of site familiarity in determining the susceptibility of prey to predation. Further research will be required to understand better how a cognitive map of individual spatial information is beneficial for avoiding predation in the arms race that drives the predator-prey shell game.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.13202DOI Listing
June 2020

Fear of the dark? Contrasting impacts of humans versus lynx on diel activity of roe deer across Europe.

J Anim Ecol 2020 01 26;89(1):132-145. Epub 2019 Dec 26.

CEFS, Université de Toulouse, INRA, Castanet-Tolosan, France.

Humans, as super predators, can have strong effects on wildlife behaviour, including profound modifications of diel activity patterns. Subsequent to the return of large carnivores to human-modified ecosystems, many prey species have adjusted their spatial behaviour to the contrasting landscapes of fear generated by both their natural predators and anthropogenic pressures. The effects of predation risk on temporal shifts in diel activity of prey, however, remain largely unexplored in human-dominated landscapes. We investigated the influence of the density of lynx Lynx lynx, a nocturnal predator, on the diel activity patterns of their main prey, the roe deer Capreolus capreolus, across a gradient of human disturbance and hunting at the European scale. Based on 11 million activity records from 431 individually GPS-monitored roe deer in 12 populations within the EURODEER network (http://eurodeer.org), we investigated how lynx predation risk in combination with both lethal and non-lethal human activities affected the diurnality of deer. We demonstrated marked plasticity in roe deer diel activity patterns in response to spatio-temporal variations in risk, mostly due to human activities. In particular, roe deer decreased their level of diurnality by a factor of 1.37 when the background level of general human disturbance was high. Hunting exacerbated this effect, as during the hunting season deer switched most of their activity to night-time and, to a lesser extent, to dawn, although this pattern varied noticeably in relation to lynx density. Indeed, in the presence of lynx, their main natural predator, roe deer were relatively more diurnal. Overall, our results revealed a strong influence of human activities and the presence of lynx on diel shifts in roe deer activity. In the context of the recovery of large carnivores across Europe, we provide important insights about the effects of predators on the behavioural responses of their prey in human-dominated ecosystems. Modifications in the temporal partitioning of ungulate activity as a response to human activities may facilitate human-wildlife coexistence, but likely also have knock-on effects for predator-prey interactions, with cascading effects on ecosystem functioning.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.13161DOI Listing
January 2020

Parasites and wildlife in a changing world: The vector-host- pathogen interaction as a learning case.

Int J Parasitol Parasites Wildl 2019 Aug 12;9:394-401. Epub 2019 Jun 12.

Department of Biodiversity and Molecular Ecology, Research and Innovation Centre, Fondazione Edmund Mach, 38010, San Michele all'Adige, Trento, Italy.

In the Anthropocene context, changes in climate, land use and biodiversity are considered among the most important anthropogenic factors affecting parasites-host interaction and wildlife zoonotic diseases emergence. Transmission of vector borne pathogens are particularly sensitive to these changes due to the complexity of their cycle, where the transmission of a microparasite depends on the interaction between its vector, usually a macroparasite, and its reservoir host, in many cases represented by a wildlife vertebrate. The scope of this paper focuses on the effect of some major, fast-occurring anthropogenic changes on the vectorial capacity for tick and mosquito borne pathogens. Specifically, we review and present the latest advances regarding two emerging vector-borne viruses in Europe: Tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) and West Nile virus (WNV). In both cases, variation in vector to host ratio is critical in determining the intensity of pathogen transmission and consequently infection hazard for humans. Forecasting vector-borne disease hazard under the global change scenarios is particularly challenging, requiring long term studies based on a multidisciplinary approach in a One-Health framework.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijppaw.2019.05.011DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6630057PMC
August 2019

Truly sedentary? The multi-range tactic as a response to resource heterogeneity and unpredictability in a large herbivore.

Oecologia 2018 05 2;187(1):47-60. Epub 2018 Apr 2.

CEFS, Université de Toulouse, INRA, Castanet Tolosan, France.

Much research on large herbivore movement has focused on the annual scale to distinguish between resident and migratory tactics, commonly assuming that individuals are sedentary at the within-season scale. However, apparently sedentary animals may occupy a number of sub-seasonal functional home ranges (sfHR), particularly when the environment is spatially heterogeneous and/or temporally unpredictable. The roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) experiences sharply contrasting environmental conditions due to its widespread distribution, but appears markedly sedentary over much of its range. Using GPS monitoring from 15 populations across Europe, we evaluated the propensity of this large herbivore to be truly sedentary at the seasonal scale in relation to variation in environmental conditions. We studied movement using net square displacement to identify the possible use of sfHR. We expected that roe deer should be less sedentary within seasons in heterogeneous and unpredictable environments, while migratory individuals should be seasonally more sedentary than residents. Our analyses revealed that, across the 15 populations, all individuals adopted a multi-range tactic, occupying between two and nine sfHR during a given season. In addition, we showed that (i) the number of sfHR was only marginally influenced by variation in resource distribution, but decreased with increasing sfHR size; and (ii) the distance between sfHR increased with increasing heterogeneity and predictability in resource distribution, as well as with increasing sfHR size. We suggest that the multi-range tactic is likely widespread among large herbivores, allowing animals to track spatio-temporal variation in resource distribution and, thereby, to cope with changes in their local environment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00442-018-4131-5DOI Listing
May 2018

Moving in the Anthropocene: Global reductions in terrestrial mammalian movements.

Science 2018 Jan;359(6374):466-469

U.S. Geological Survey, Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003, USA.

Animal movement is fundamental for ecosystem functioning and species survival, yet the effects of the anthropogenic footprint on animal movements have not been estimated across species. Using a unique GPS-tracking database of 803 individuals across 57 species, we found that movements of mammals in areas with a comparatively high human footprint were on average one-half to one-third the extent of their movements in areas with a low human footprint. We attribute this reduction to behavioral changes of individual animals and to the exclusion of species with long-range movements from areas with higher human impact. Global loss of vagility alters a key ecological trait of animals that affects not only population persistence but also ecosystem processes such as predator-prey interactions, nutrient cycling, and disease transmission.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aam9712DOI Listing
January 2018

A framework for modelling range shifts and migrations: asking when, whither, whether and will it return.

J Anim Ecol 2017 Jul 25;86(4):943-959. Epub 2017 May 25.

Department of Biology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, 20742, USA.

Many animals undertake movements that are longer scaled and more directed than their typical home ranging behaviour. These movements include seasonal migrations (e.g. between breeding and feeding grounds), natal dispersal, nomadic range shifts and responses to local environmental disruptions. While various heuristic tools exist for identifying range shifts and migrations, none explicitly model the movement of the animals within a statistical framework that facilitates quantitative comparisons. We present the mechanistic range shift analysis (MRSA), a method to estimate a suite of range shift parameters: times of initiation, duration of transitions, centroids and areas of respective ranges. The method can take the autocorrelation and irregular sampling that is characteristic of much movement data into account. The mechanistic parameters suggest an intuitive measure, the range shift index, for the extent of a range shift. The likelihood based estimation further allows for statistical tests of several relevant hypotheses, including a range shift test, a stopover test and a site fidelity test. The analysis tools are provided in an R package (marcher). We applied the MRSA to a population of GPS tracked roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) in the Italian Alps between 2005 and 2008. With respect to seasonal migration, this population is extremely variable and difficult to classify. Using the MRSA, we were able to quantify the behaviours across the population and among individuals across years, identifying extents, durations and locations of seasonal range shifts, including cases that would have been ambiguous to detect using existing tools. The strongest patterns were differences across years: many animals simply did not perform a seasonal migration to wintering grounds during the mild winter of 2006-2007, even though some of these same animals did move extensively in other, harsher winters. For seasonal migrants, however, site fidelity across years was extremely high, even after skipping an entire seasonal migration. These results suggest that for roe deer behavioural plasticity and tactical responses to immediate environmental cues are reflected in the decision of whether rather than where to migrate. The MRSA also revealed a trade-off between the probability of migrating and the size of a home range.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.12674DOI Listing
July 2017

How many routes lead to migration? Comparison of methods to assess and characterize migratory movements.

J Anim Ecol 2016 Jan 1;85(1):54-68. Epub 2015 Dec 1.

Biodiversity and Molecular Ecology Department, Research and Innovation Centre, Fondazione Edmund Mach, Via Mach 1, 38010, San Michele all'Adige, TN, Italy.

Decreasing rate of migration in several species as a consequence of climate change and anthropic pressure, together with increasing evidence of space-use strategies intermediate between residency and complete migration, are very strong motivations to evaluate migration occurrence and features in animal populations. The main goal of this paper was to perform a relative comparison between methods for identifying and characterizing migration at the individual and population level on the basis of animal location data. We classified 104 yearly individual trajectories from five populations of three deer species as migratory or non-migratory, by means of three methods: seasonal home range overlap, spatio-temporal separation of seasonal clusters and the Net Squared Displacement (NSD) method. For migratory cases, we also measured timing and distance of migration and residence time on the summer range. Finally, we compared the classification in migration cases across methods and populations. All methods consistently identified migration at the population level, that is, they coherently distinguished between complete or almost complete migratory populations and partially migratory populations. However, in the latter case, methods coherently classified only about 50% of the single cases, that is they classified differently at the individual-animal level. We therefore infer that the comparison of methods may help point to 'less-stereotyped' cases in the residency-to-migration continuum. For cases consistently classified by all methods, no significant differences were found in migration distance, or residence time on summer ranges. Timing of migration estimated by NSD was earlier than by the other two methods, both for spring and autumn migrations. We suggest three steps to identify improper inferences from migration data and to enhance understanding of intermediate space-use strategies. We recommend (i) classifying migration behaviours using more than one method, (ii) performing sensitivity analysis on method parameters to identify the extent of the differences and (iii) investigating inconsistently classified cases as these may often be ecologically interesting (i.e. less-stereotyped migratory behaviours).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.12449DOI Listing
January 2016

Analysis and visualisation of movement: an interdisciplinary review.

Mov Ecol 2015 10;3(1). Epub 2015 Mar 10.

Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.

The processes that cause and influence movement are one of the main points of enquiry in movement ecology. However, ecology is not the only discipline interested in movement: a number of information sciences are specialising in analysis and visualisation of movement data. The recent explosion in availability and complexity of movement data has resulted in a call in ecology for new appropriate methods that would be able to take full advantage of the increasingly complex and growing data volume. One way in which this could be done is to form interdisciplinary collaborations between ecologists and experts from information sciences that analyse movement. In this paper we present an overview of new movement analysis and visualisation methodologies resulting from such an interdisciplinary research network: the European COST Action "MOVE - Knowledge Discovery from Moving Objects" (http://www.move-cost.info). This international network evolved over four years and brought together some 140 researchers from different disciplines: those that collect movement data (out of which the movement ecology was the largest represented group) and those that specialise in developing methods for analysis and visualisation of such data (represented in MOVE by computational geometry, geographic information science, visualisation and visual analytics). We present MOVE achievements and at the same time put them in ecological context by exploring relevant ecological themes to which MOVE studies do or potentially could contribute.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s40462-015-0032-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4395897PMC
April 2015

A one night stand? Reproductive excursions of female roe deer as a breeding dispersal tactic.

Oecologia 2014 Oct 17;176(2):431-43. Epub 2014 Jul 17.

CEFS-INRA, B.P. 52627, 31326, Castanet-Tolosan, France,

Breeding dispersal, defined as the net movement between successive breeding sites, remains a poorly understood and seldom reported phenomenon in mammals, despite its importance for population dynamics and genetics. In large herbivores, females may be more mobile during the breeding season, undertaking short-term trips (excursions) outside their normal home range. If fertilisation occurs, leading to gene flow of the male genome, this behaviour could be considered a form of breeding dispersal from a genetic point of view. Here, we investigated ranging behaviour of 235 adult roe deer using intensive GPS monitoring in six populations across Europe within the EURODEER initiative. We show that excursions are common from June to August among females, with 41.8% (vs. 18.1% of males) making at least one excursion. Most individuals performed only one excursion per season and departure dates for females were concentrated in time, centred on the rutting period, suggesting a link with reproduction. The distance females travelled during excursions was significantly greater than the site-specific average diameter of a male home range, while travel speed decreased once they progressed beyond this diameter, indicating search behaviour or interaction with other male(s) outside the resident male's territory. Because adults are normally highly sedentary, the potential for mating with relatives is substantial; hence, we conclude that rut excursions could be an alternative tactic enabling females to avoid mating with a closely related male. To understand better the ultimate drivers at play, it will be crucial to explore the genetic causes and consequences of this behaviour.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00442-014-3021-8DOI Listing
October 2014

Seasonality, weather and climate affect home range size in roe deer across a wide latitudinal gradient within Europe.

J Anim Ecol 2013 Nov 15;82(6):1326-39. Epub 2013 Jul 15.

INRA, UR35 Comportement et Ecologie de la Faune Sauvage, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, B.P. 52627, 31326, Castanet-Tolosan, France.

1. Because many large mammal species have wide geographical ranges, spatially distant populations may be confronted with different sets of environmental conditions. Investigating how home range (HR) size varies across environmental gradients should yield a better understanding of the factors affecting large mammal ecology. 2. We evaluated how HR size of a large herbivore, the roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), varies in relation to seasonality, latitude (climate), weather, plant productivity and landscape features across its geographical range in Western Europe. As roe deer are income breeders, expected to adjust HR size continuously to temporal variation in food resources and energetic requirements, our baseline prediction was for HR size to decrease with proxies of resource availability. 3. We used GPS locations of roe deer collected from seven study sites (EURODEER collaborative project) to estimate fixed-kernel HR size at weekly and monthly temporal scales. We performed an unusually comprehensive analysis of variation in HR size among and within populations over time across the geographical range of a single species using generalized additive mixed models and linear mixed models, respectively. 4. Among populations, HR size decreased with increasing values for proxies of forage abundance, but increased with increases in seasonality, stochastic variation of temperature, latitude and snow cover. Within populations, roe deer HR size varied over time in relation to seasonality and proxies of forage abundance in a consistent way across the seven populations. Thus, our findings were broadly consistent across the distributional range of this species, demonstrating a strong and ubiquitous link between the amplitude and timing of environmental seasonality and HR size at the continental scale. 5. Overall, the variability in average HR size of roe deer across Europe reflects the interaction among local weather, climate and seasonality, providing valuable insight into the limiting factors affecting this large herbivore under contrasting conditions. The complexity of the relationships suggests that predicting ranging behaviour of large herbivores in relation to current and future climate change will require detailed knowledge not only about predicted increases in temperature, but also how this interacts with factors such as day length and climate predictability.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.12105DOI Listing
November 2013

Metagenomic profile of the bacterial communities associated with Ixodes ricinus ticks.

PLoS One 2011 13;6(10):e25604. Epub 2011 Oct 13.

Department of Biodiversity and Molecular Ecology, Research and Innovation Centre, Fondazione Edmund Mach, San Michele all'Adige, Italy.

Assessment of the microbial diversity residing in arthropod vectors of medical importance is crucial for monitoring endemic infections, for surveillance of newly emerging zoonotic pathogens, and for unraveling the associated bacteria within its host. The tick Ixodes ricinus is recognized as the primary European vector of disease-causing bacteria in humans. Despite I. ricinus being of great public health relevance, its microbial communities remain largely unexplored to date. Here we evaluate the pathogen-load and the microbiome in single adult I. ricinus by using 454- and Illumina-based metagenomic approaches. Genomic DNA-derived sequences were taxonomically profiled using a computational approach based on the BWA algorithm, allowing for the identification of known tick-borne pathogens at the strain level and the putative tick core microbiome. Additionally, we assessed and compared the bacterial taxonomic profile in nymphal and adult I. ricinus pools collected from two distinct geographic regions in Northern Italy by means of V6-16S rRNA amplicon pyrosequencing and community based ecological analysis. A total of 108 genera belonging to representatives of all bacterial phyla were detected and a rapid qualitative assessment for pathogenic bacteria, such as Borrelia, Rickettsia and Candidatus Neoehrlichia, and for other bacteria with mutualistic relationship or undetermined function, such as Wolbachia and Rickettsiella, was possible. Interestingly, the ecological analysis revealed that the bacterial community structure differed between the examined geographic regions and tick life stages. This finding suggests that the environmental context (abiotic and biotic factors) and host-selection behaviors affect their microbiome.Our data provide the most complete picture to date of the bacterial communities present within I. ricinus under natural conditions by using high-throughput sequencing technologies. This study further demonstrates a novel detection strategy for the microbiomes of arthropod vectors in the context of epidemiological and ecological studies.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0025604PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3192763PMC
February 2012

The home-range concept: are traditional estimators still relevant with modern telemetry technology?

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 2010 Jul;365(1550):2221-31

Department of Biological Sciences, Idaho State University, 921 South 8th Avenue, Stop 8007, Pocatello, ID 83209, USA.

Recent advances in animal tracking and telemetry technology have allowed the collection of location data at an ever-increasing rate and accuracy, and these advances have been accompanied by the development of new methods of data analysis for portraying space use, home ranges and utilization distributions. New statistical approaches include data-intensive techniques such as kriging and nonlinear generalized regression models for habitat use. In addition, mechanistic home-range models, derived from models of animal movement behaviour, promise to offer new insights into how home ranges emerge as the result of specific patterns of movements by individuals in response to their environment. Traditional methods such as kernel density estimators are likely to remain popular because of their ease of use. Large datasets make it possible to apply these methods over relatively short periods of time such as weeks or months, and these estimates may be analysed using mixed effects models, offering another approach to studying temporal variation in space-use patterns. Although new technologies open new avenues in ecological research, our knowledge of why animals use space in the ways we observe will only advance by researchers using these new technologies and asking new and innovative questions about the empirical patterns they observe.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2010.0093DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2894967PMC
July 2010

Resolving issues of imprecise and habitat-biased locations in ecological analyses using GPS telemetry data.

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 2010 Jul;365(1550):2187-200

SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, 1 Forestry Drive, Syracuse, NY 13210, USA.

Global positioning system (GPS) technologies collect unprecedented volumes of animal location data, providing ever greater insight into animal behaviour. Despite a certain degree of inherent imprecision and bias in GPS locations, little synthesis regarding the predominant causes of these errors, their implications for ecological analysis or solutions exists. Terrestrial deployments report 37 per cent or less non-random data loss and location precision 30 m or less on average, with canopy closure having the predominant effect, and animal behaviour interacting with local habitat conditions to affect errors in unpredictable ways. Home-range estimates appear generally robust to contemporary levels of location imprecision and bias, whereas movement paths and inferences of habitat selection may readily become misleading. There is a critical need for greater understanding of the additive or compounding effects of location imprecision, fix-rate bias, and, in the case of resource selection, map error on ecological insights. Technological advances will help, but at present analysts have a suite of ad hoc statistical corrections and modelling approaches available-tools that vary greatly in analytical complexity and utility. The success of these solutions depends critically on understanding the error-inducing mechanisms, and the biggest gap in our current understanding involves species-specific behavioural effects on GPS performance.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2010.0084DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2894963PMC
July 2010

Wildlife tracking data management: a new vision.

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 2010 Jul;365(1550):2177-85

To date, the processing of wildlife location data has relied on a diversity of software and file formats. Data management and the following spatial and statistical analyses were undertaken in multiple steps, involving many time-consuming importing/exporting phases. Recent technological advancements in tracking systems have made large, continuous, high-frequency datasets of wildlife behavioural data available, such as those derived from the global positioning system (GPS) and other animal-attached sensor devices. These data can be further complemented by a wide range of other information about the animals' environment. Management of these large and diverse datasets for modelling animal behaviour and ecology can prove challenging, slowing down analysis and increasing the probability of mistakes in data handling. We address these issues by critically evaluating the requirements for good management of GPS data for wildlife biology. We highlight that dedicated data management tools and expertise are needed. We explore current research in wildlife data management. We suggest a general direction of development, based on a modular software architecture with a spatial database at its core, where interoperability, data model design and integration with remote-sensing data sources play an important role in successful GPS data handling.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2010.0081DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2894960PMC
July 2010

Animal ecology meets GPS-based radiotelemetry: a perfect storm of opportunities and challenges.

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 2010 Jul;365(1550):2157-62

Research and Innovation Centre, Environment and Natural Resources Area, Edmund Mach Foundation, Trento, Italy.

Global positioning system (GPS) telemetry technology allows us to monitor and to map the details of animal movement, securing vast quantities of such data even for highly cryptic organisms. We envision an exciting synergy between animal ecology and GPS-based radiotelemetry, as for other examples of new technologies stimulating rapid conceptual advances, where research opportunities have been paralleled by technical and analytical challenges. Animal positions provide the elemental unit of movement paths and show where individuals interact with the ecosystems around them. We discuss how knowing where animals go can help scientists in their search for a mechanistic understanding of key concepts of animal ecology, including resource use, home range and dispersal, and population dynamics. It is probable that in the not-so-distant future, intense sampling of movements coupled with detailed information on habitat features at a variety of scales will allow us to represent an animal's cognitive map of its environment, and the intimate relationship between behaviour and fitness. An extended use of these data over long periods of time and over large spatial scales can provide robust inferences for complex, multi-factorial phenomena, such as meta-analyses of the effects of climate change on animal behaviour and distribution.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2010.0107DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2894970PMC
July 2010

Comparison of social networks derived from ecological data: implications for inferring infectious disease dynamics.

J Anim Ecol 2009 Sep 21;78(5):1015-22. Epub 2009 May 21.

Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, 208 Mueller Laboratory, Penn State University, State College, PA 16803, USA.

1. Social network analyses tend to focus on human interactions. However, there is a burgeoning interest in applying graph theory to ecological data from animal populations. Here we show how radio-tracking and capture-mark-recapture data collated from wild rodent populations can be used to generate contact networks. 2. Both radio-tracking and capture-mark-recapture were undertaken simultaneously. Contact networks were derived and the following statistics estimated: mean-contact rate, edge distribution, connectance and centrality. 3. Capture-mark-recapture networks produced more informative and complete networks when the rodent density was high and radio-tracking produced more informative networks when the density was low. Different data collection methods provide more data when certain ecological characteristics of the population prevail. 4. Both sets of data produced networks with comparable edge (contact) distributions that were best described by a negative binomial distribution. Connectance and closeness were statistically different between the two data sets. Only betweenness was comparable. The differences between the networks have important consequences for the transmission of infectious diseases. Care should be taken when extrapolating social networks to transmission networks for inferring disease dynamics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2656.2009.01557.xDOI Listing
September 2009

Anaplasma phagocytophilum groEL gene heterogeneity in Ixodes ricinus larvae feeding on roe deer in Northeastern Italy.

Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis 2009 Apr;9(2):179-84

Centre for Alpine Ecology, Edmund Mach Foundation, Trento, Italy.

Anaplasma phagocytophilum is an emerging tick-borne pathogen with both veterinary and human health implications. The role of wildlife hosts for this pathogen are not well defined, even thought roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) has been suggested to contribute to the occurrence of this tick-borne diseases in Europe. Therefore the aim of the present study was to investigate the potential role of this ungulate species as a reservoir of human pathogenic strains of A. phagocytophilum in a tick-borne diseases endemic area in Northeastern Italy. Ixodes ricinus feeding on roe deer were collected and analyzed for the presence for A. phagocytophilum by a molecular approach targeting 16S rRNA and groEL genes. The mean prevalence of A. phagocytophilum recorded was 5.11%, highlighting the ability of roe deer to infect the I. ricinus larval stage. The results of further genetic characterization of the strains of A. phagocytophilum herein isolated, based on phylogenetic information contained in groEL gene sequences, showed substantial heterogeneity among sequences analyzed. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that the roe deer population of the Trentino region of Italy harbors strains of A. phagocytophilum of unknown pathogenicity for humans.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/vbz.2008.0068DOI Listing
April 2009

Long-lasting systemic bait markers for Eurasian badgers.

J Wildl Dis 2006 Oct;42(4):892-6

Central Science Laboratory, Sand Hutton, York Y041 1LZ, UK.

This study was carried out to assess whether Rhodamine B, ethyl-iophenoxic acid (EtIPA), and propyl-iophenoxic acid (PrIPA) can be used as long-lasting systemic bait markers for free-living badgers (Meles meles). Between June and November 2003, these chemicals were incorporated into bait distributed around badger setts. Serum, hair, and whiskers from individually marked badgers were collected in the following 4 to 24 wk. Rhodamine B was detectable as fluorescent bands up to 24 wk after ingestion of the bait. Individual badgers were found positive for EtIPA and PrIPA up to 20 wk and 18 wk after exposure, respectively. This study indicates that Rhodamine B, PrIPA, and EtIPA could be used as long-lasting markers for badgers.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.7589/0090-3558-42.4.892DOI Listing
October 2006