Publications by authors named "Johan Espunyes"

13 Publications

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Near Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy Analysis to Predict Diet Composition of a Mountain Ungulate Species.

Animals (Basel) 2021 May 18;11(5). Epub 2021 May 18.

Ruminant Research Group, Departament de Ciència Animal i dels Aliments, Facultat de Veterinària, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, 08193 Barcelona, Spain.

The diet composition of ungulates is important to understand not only their impact on vegetation, but also to understand the consequences of natural and human-driven environmental changes on the foraging behavior of these mammals. In this work, we evaluated the use of near infrared reflectance spectroscopy analysis (NIRS), a quick, economic and non-destructive method, to assess the diet composition of the Pyrenean chamois . Fecal samples ( = 192) were collected from two chamois populations in the French and Spanish Pyrenees. Diet composition was initially assessed by fecal cuticle microhistological analysis (CMA) and categorized into four functional groups, namely: woody, herbaceous, graminoid and Fabaceae plants. Regressions of modified partial least squares and several combinations of scattering correction and derivative treatments were tested. The results showed that models based on the second derivative processing obtained the higher determination coefficient for woody, herbaceous and graminoid plants (R, coefficient of determination in calibration, ranged from 0.86 to 0.91). The Fabaceae group, however, was predicted with lower accuracy (R = 0.71). Even though an agreement between NIRS and CMA methods was confirmed by a Bland-Altman analysis, confidence limits of agreement differed by up to 25%. Our results support the viability of fecal NIRS analysis to study spatial and temporal variations of the Pyrenean chamois' diets in summer and winter when differences in the consumption of woody and annual plants are the greatest. This new use for the NIRS technique would be useful to assess the consequences of global change on the feeding behavior of this mountain ungulate and also in other ungulate counterparts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ani11051449DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8158497PMC
May 2021

Wild boar in the city: Phenotypic responses to urbanisation.

Sci Total Environ 2021 Jun 4;773:145593. Epub 2021 Feb 4.

Wildlife Ecology & Health group and Servei d'Ecopatologia de Fauna Salvatge, Departament de Medicina i Cirurgia Animals, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Travessera dels Turons s/n, 08193, Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain. Electronic address:

Urbanisation is a global human-induced environmental change and one of the most important threats to biodiversity. To survive in human-modified environments, wildlife must adjust to the challenging selection pressures of urban areas through behaviour, morphology, physiology and/or genetic changes. Here we explore the effect of urbanisation in a large, highly adaptable and generalist urban adapter species, the wild boar (Sus scrofa, Linnaeus 1758). From 2005 to 2018, we gathered wild boar data and samples from three areas in NE Spain: one urban (Barcelona municipality, n = 445), and two non-urban (Serra de Collserola Natural Park, n = 183, and Sant Llorenç del Munt i Serra de l'Obac Natural Park, n = 54). We investigated whether urbanisation influenced wild boar body size, body mass, body condition, and the concentration of serum metabolites, considering also the effect of age, sex and use of anthropogenic food resources. Wild boars from the urban area had larger body size, higher body mass, better body condition, and a higher triglyceride and lower creatinine serum concentrations than non-urban wild boars. In addition, urban wild boars consumed food from anthropogenic origin more frequently, which suggests that differences in their diet probably induced the biometric and the metabolic changes observed. These responses are probably adaptive and suggest that wild boars are thriving in the urban environment. Our results show that urbanisation can change the morphological and physiological traits of a large mammal urban adapter, which may have consequences in the ecology and response to urban selection pressures by the species. The phenotypic plasticity shown by wild boars provides both further and new evidence on the mechanisms that allow urban adapter species of greater size to respond to urbanisation, which is expected to continue growing globally over the coming decades.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.145593DOI Listing
June 2021

A survey of shared pathogens at the domestic-wild ruminants' interface in Doñana National Park (Spain).

Transbound Emerg Dis 2021 Apr 26. Epub 2021 Apr 26.

Grupo de Investigación en Sanidad Animal y Zoonosis (GISAZ), Departamento de Anatomía y Anatomía Patológica Comparadas y Toxicología, Facultad de Veterinaria, Universidad de Córdoba (UCO), Córdoba, Spain.

A cross-sectional study was carried out to evaluate shared pathogens that can be transmitted by close or non-close contact at the domestic-wild ruminants' interface. During summer-autumn 2015, a total of 138 cattle and 203 wild ruminants (red deer, Cervus elaphus, and fallow deer, Dama dama) were sampled in Doñana National Park (DNP, south-western Spain), a Mediterranean ecosystem well known for the interaction network occurring in the ungulate host community. Pestiviruses, bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV; Bovine orthopneumovirus), bovine herpesvirus 1 (BoHV-1; Bovine alphaherpesvirus 1) and Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTC) were assessed using serological, microbiological and molecular techniques. The overall seroprevalence against viruses in cattle was 2.2% for pestiviruses, 11.6% for BRSV and 27.5% for BoHV-1. No virus-specific antibodies were found in wildlife. MTC incidence in cattle was 15.9%, and MTC seroprevalence in wild ruminants was 14.3%. The same Mycobacterium bovis spoligotypes (SB1232, SB1230 and SB1610) were identified in cattle, red deer and fallow deer. The serological results for the selected respiratory viruses suggest epidemiological cycles only in cattle. Surveillance efforts in multi-host epidemiological scenarios are needed to better drive and prioritize control strategies for shared pathogens.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/tbed.14126DOI Listing
April 2021

Assessing the role of livestock and sympatric wild ruminants in spreading antimicrobial resistant Campylobacter and Salmonella in alpine ecosystems.

BMC Vet Res 2021 Feb 15;17(1):79. Epub 2021 Feb 15.

IRTA, Centre de Recerca en Sanitat Animal (CReSA, IRTA-UAB), Campus de la Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain.

Background: Livestock play an important role as reservoir of enteric pathogens and antimicrobial resistance (AMR), a health and economic concern worldwide. However, little is known regarding the transmission and maintenance of these pathogens at the wildlife-livestock interface. In this study, we assessed the occurrence, genetic diversity and AMR of Campylobacter spp. and Salmonella spp. shed by sympatric free-ranging livestock and a wild herbivore in an alpine ecosystem.

Results: Campylobacter spp. was isolated from 23.3 % of cattle and 7.7 % of sheep but was not isolated from horses nor Pyrenean chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica). Campylobacter jejuni was the most frequent species. A high genetic diversity and certain host specificity of C. jejuni isolates was observed. The main AMR detected in Campylobacter isolates was to nalidixic acid (88.2 %), ciprofloxacin (82.4 %) and tetracycline (82.4 %); only 11.7 % of the isolates were pan-susceptible and 17.6 % were multi-resistant. Salmonella ser. Newport was isolated only from one Pyrenean chamois and was pan-susceptible.

Conclusions: Results show that free-ranging cattle and sheep are spreaders of Campylobacter as well as their AMR strains in the alpine environment. Therefore, contaminated alpine pastures or streams may constitute a source for the dissemination of AMR enteropathogens. However, apparently, alpine wild ungulates such as Pyrenean chamois play a negligible role in the epidemiology of zoonotic enteropathogens and AMR, and are not potential bioindicators of the burden of alpine environments.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12917-021-02784-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7885356PMC
February 2021

Endemic occurrence of Fasciola hepatica in an alpine ecosystem, Pyrenees, Northeastern Spain.

Transbound Emerg Dis 2020 Oct 4. Epub 2020 Oct 4.

Dipartimento di Scienze Veterinarie, Università di Torino, Torino, Italy.

Fasciola hepatica is a liver parasite of ruminants whose distribution is determined by its intermediate host, the freshwater snail Galba truncatula. In Europe, F. hepatica is mostly associated with lowlands. Infection from sympatric domestic reservoirs is rarely reported in wild mountain ungulates. This study explores F. hepatica in a multi-host system in a European alpine area. Serum samples (n = 1,209) from Pyrenean chamois (Rupicapra p. pyrenaica), European mouflon (Ovis aries musimon), domestic sheep (Ovis aries) and domestic cattle (Bos taurus) were collected in the National Game Reserve of Freser-Setcases (NGRFS) in Catalonia, Northeastern Spain, from 2008 to 2019, and tested for antibodies against F. hepatica. During the same period, the livers of 214 chamois hunted in the NGRFS were inspected for F. hepatica and associated pathological changes. Finally, 907 freshwater snails were collected in summer 2016 between 1559 and 2,224 metres above sea level (asl) in the NGRFS, and F. hepatica DNA sought by PCR. Antibodies against F. hepatica were detected in all four species, with a higher prevalence in cattle and sheep than in chamois. Fasciola hepatica and hepatic lesions were concurrently observed in 13/214 of the chamois livers inspected (6.1%, CI95 2.9%-9.3%). Fasciola hepatica DNA was detected in one out of the 907 snails (0.1%, Cl95 0.1% - 0.3%; Ct value 33.3) and collected at 2054 m asl. Fasciola hepatica was consistently detected in a high mountain multi-host system, suggesting that its life cycle is completed and that it occurs endemically at the highest elevation reported in Europe. Transhumant livestock are the likely source in this alpine ecosystem, which according to rare occurrence of F. hepatica DNA in G. truncatula is still a suboptimal habitat for F. hepatica life cycle. Studying parasites at their highest distribution range can be useful to monitor climate change in seasonal mountain environments.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/tbed.13865DOI Listing
October 2020

Peste des Petits Ruminants at the Wildlife-Livestock Interface in the Northern Albertine Rift and Nile Basin, East Africa.

Viruses 2020 03 7;12(3). Epub 2020 Mar 7.

Department of Pathobiology and Population Sciences, Royal Veterinary College, London NW1 0TU, UK, (M.B.).

In the recent past, peste des petits ruminants (PPR) emerged in East Africa causing outbreaks in small livestock across different countries, with evidences of spillover to wildlife. In order to understand better PPR at the wildlife-livestock interface, we investigated patterns of peste des petits ruminants virus (PPRV) exposure, disease outbreaks, and viral sequences in the northern Albertine Rift. PPRV antibodies indicated a widespread exposure in apparently healthy wildlife from South Sudan (2013) and Uganda (2015, 2017). African buffaloes and Uganda kobs <1-year-old from Queen Elizabeth National Park (2015) had antibodies against PPRV N-antigen and local serosurvey captured a subsequent spread of PPRV in livestock. Outbreaks with PPR-like syndrome in sheep and goats were recorded around the Greater Virunga Landscape in Kasese (2016), Kisoro and Kabale (2017) from western Uganda, and in North Kivu (2017) from eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This landscape would not be considered typical for PPR persistence as it is a mixed forest-savannah ecosystem with mostly sedentary livestock. PPRV sequences from DRC (2017) were identical to strains from Burundi (2018) and confirmed a transboundary spread of PPRV. Our results indicate an epidemiological linkage between epizootic cycles in livestock and exposure in wildlife, denoting the importance of PPR surveillance on wild artiodactyls for both conservation and eradication programs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/v12030293DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7150925PMC
March 2020

Comparing the accuracy of PCR-capillary electrophoresis and cuticle microhistological analysis for assessing diet composition in ungulates: A case study with Pyrenean chamois.

PLoS One 2019 22;14(5):e0216345. Epub 2019 May 22.

Wildlife Ecology & Health Group (WE&H) and Servei d'Ecopatologia de Fauna Salvatge (SEFaS), Departament de Medicina i de Cirurgia Animals, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona UAB, Bellaterra, Spain.

The study of diet composition is required to understand the interactions between animal and plant ecosystems. Different non-invasive techniques applied on faecal samples have commonly been used for such purposes, with cuticle microhistological analysis (CMA) and emerging DNA-based methods being the most relevant. In this work, we refined and optimized a qualitative DNA-based approach combining PCR amplification of long trnL(UAA) and ITS2 fragments and capillary electrophoresis (PCR-CE), instead of short trnL(UAA) fragments and massive sequencing technologies commonly reported. To do so, we developed a controlled diet assay using a stabled Pyrenean chamois specimen (Rupicapra pyrenaica pyrenaica), which included representative herbaceous and shrubby plant species. We also assessed the impact of sample freshness on the diet determination of this mountain caprinae by exposing faecal samples to the outdoor environment for three weeks. Faecal samples from both experiments were analysed by qualitative PCR-CE and semi-quantitative CMA in order to compare the pros and cons of both approaches. Our results show that all of the offered plant species were detected by both methodologies although CMA over-detected shrubs compared to herbaceous species. At the same time, sample degradation due to sustained climate exposure is a limiting factor for molecular analysis, but not for CMA. Taken all together, our results suggest that the qualitative information obtained by CMA and PCR-CE can be interchangeable when faecal samples are fresh (less than one week after deposition) but, afterwards, molecular analysis underestimates diet composition probably due to DNA degradation. CMA, however, can accurately be used at least three weeks after defecation. Moreover, by combining the results of simultaneous PCR amplification of two complementary genes, this optimized PCR-CE methodology provides a reliable, feasible and more affordable alternative for multiple and routine analyses of complex samples. Neither CMA nor PCR-CE seems to solve comprehensively the quatification of herbivore diets and thus further research needs to be done.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0216345PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6530829PMC
January 2020

Experimental infection with high- and low-virulence strains of border disease virus (BDV) in Pyrenean chamois (Rupicapra p. pyrenaica) sheds light on the epidemiological diversity of the disease.

Transbound Emerg Dis 2019 Jul 29;66(4):1619-1630. Epub 2019 Apr 29.

Wildlife Ecology & Health group (WE&H), Servei d' Ecopatologia de Fauna Salvatge (SEFaS), Departament de Medicina i Cirurgia Animals, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Bellaterra, Spain.

Since 2001, Pyrenean chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica pyrenaica) populations have been affected by border disease virus (BDV) causing mortalities of more than 80% in some areas. Field studies carried out in France, Andorra, and Spain have shown different epidemiological scenarios in chamois populations. This study was designed to confirm the presence of BDV strains of a high and low virulence in free-ranging chamois populations from Pyrenees and to understand the implications of these findings to the diverse epidemiological scenarios. An experimental infection of Pyrenean chamois with a high-virulence (Cadí-6) and low-virulence (Freser-5) BDV strains was performed. Pregnant and non-pregnant animals with and without antibodies against BDV were included in each group. Cadí-6 BDV strain was confirmed to be of high virulence for seronegative adults and their foetuses. The antibody negative chamois infected with Freser-5 BDV strain did not show symptoms, presented less viral distribution and RNA load in tissues than Cadí-6 group, and cleared the virus from the serum. However, foetuses died before the end of the experiment and RNA virus was detected in sera and tissues although with lower RNA load than the Cadí-6 group. Chamois from both groups presented lesions in brain but the ones infected with the low-virulence Freser-5 BDV strain were mild and most likely transient. In both groups, seropositive pregnant females and all but one of their foetuses did not present viraemia or viral RNA in tissues. The existence of a low-virulence strain has been confirmed experimentally and related to chamois population infection dynamics in the area where it was isolated. Such strain may persist in the chamois population through PI animals and may induce cross-protection in chamois against high-virulence strains. This study demonstrates that viral strain diversity is a significant factor in the heterogeneity of epidemiological scenarios in Pyrenean chamois populations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/tbed.13195DOI Listing
July 2019

Effects of boom and bust grazing management on vegetation and health of beef cattle used for wildfire prevention in a Mediterranean forest.

Sci Total Environ 2019 May 4;665:18-22. Epub 2019 Feb 4.

Departamento de Biología Animal, Biología Vegetal y Ecología, Botánica, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona (UAB), Bellaterra, 08193 Barcelona, Spain; CREAF, Cerdanyola del Vallès, 08193 Barcelona, Spain. Electronic address:

Humans and wildfires have historically driven landscape structure in the Mediterranean basin. The Iberian Peninsula is not an exception to that rule, and therefore, farmers, researchers, and governments seek alternative tools to minimize the loss of biodiversity and wildfire risks. Extensive livestock including beef cattle is currently promoted as a suitable management tool by European agro-environmental policies yet pieces of evidence exist regarding the reciprocal effects between cows and Mediterranean woody vegetation. In this work, we performed a field manipulation to evaluate whether free-ranging beef cattle without supplementary feeding, at high density (2 livestock units (LU)/ha) for a short period of time i.e. "boom and bust grazing" management, are able to adapt their grazing preferences to the Mediterranean woody vegetation without health impairment, and prevent from bush encroachment and wildfires. For our purposes, a native herd of 14 adult cows was kept captive without supplementary feeding in a 14 ha enclosure covered by Mediterranean vegetation for two months (April-June 2016). Plant and cattle fecal and blood samples were collected to assess diet composition (plant cuticle microhistological analysis), fecal nitrogen and protein contents of consumed plants, and the nutritional status (non-esterified fatty acids) of cattle. Our results showed that cattle adapted their feeding habits toward a more woody diet including potentially flammable taxa but with some detrimental effects on health status. Hence, cattle cannot control woody vegetation for long periods of time without supplementary feeding. Further research should be oriented to explore other alternative approaches to minimize the health impairment of cattle used for control flammable vegetation in Mediterranean regions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.02.037DOI Listing
May 2019

Different effects of alpine woody plant expansion on domestic and wild ungulates.

Glob Chang Biol 2019 05 28;25(5):1808-1819. Epub 2019 Feb 28.

Wildlife Ecology & Health Group (WE&H) and Servei d'Ecopatologia de Fauna Salvatge (SEFaS), Departament de Medicina i Cirurgia Animals, Facultat de Veterinària, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

Changes in land-use and climate affect the distribution and diversity of plant and animal species at different spatiotemporal scales. The extent to which species-specific phenotypic plasticity and biotic interactions mediate organismal adaptation to changing environments, however, remains poorly understood. Woody plant expansion is threatening the extent of alpine grasslands worldwide, and evaluating and predicting its effects on herbivores is of crucial importance. Here, we explore the impact of shrubification on the feeding efficiency of Pyrenean chamois (Rupicapra p. pyrenaica), as well as on the three most abundant coexisting domestic ungulate species: cattle, sheep and horses. We use observational diet composition from May to October and model different scenarios of vegetation availability where shrubland and woodland proliferate at the expense of grassland. We then predicted if the four ungulate species could efficiently utilize their food landscapes with their current dietary specificities measuring their niche breath in each scenario. We observed that the wild counterpart, due to a higher trophic plasticity, is less disturbed by shrubification compared to livestock, which rely primarily on herbaceous plants and will be affected 3.6 times more. Our results suggest that mixed feeders, such as chamois, could benefit from fallow landscapes, and that mountain farmers are at a growing economic risk worldwide due to changing land-use practices and climate conditions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14587DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6522367PMC
May 2019

Seasonal diet composition of Pyrenean chamois is mainly shaped by primary production waves.

PLoS One 2019 23;14(1):e0210819. Epub 2019 Jan 23.

Wildlife Ecology and Health Group (WE&H), and Servei d'Ecopatologia de Fauna Salvatge (SEFaS), Departament de Medicina i Cirurgia Animals, Facultat de Veterinària, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain.

In alpine habitats, the seasonally marked climatic conditions generate seasonal and spatial differences in forage availability for herbivores. Vegetation availability and quality during the growing season are known to drive life history traits of mountain ungulates. However, little effort has been made to understand the association between plant phenology and changes in the foraging strategies of these mountain dwellers. Furthermore, this link can be affected by the seasonal presence of livestock in the same meadows. The objective of this work was to study the seasonal changes in diet composition of Pyrenean chamois (Rupicapra p. pyrenaica) and its relationship to primary production trends in a Mediterranean alpine environment. Moreover, diet composition in two populations with contrasting livestock pressure was compared in order to study the effect of sheep flocks on the feeding behaviour of chamois. From 2009 to 2012, monthly diet composition was estimated by cuticle microhistological analysis of chamois faeces collected in the eastern Pyrenees. The primary production cycle was assessed by remote sensing, using the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index. Additionally, the diet of sheep sharing seasonally the subalpine and alpine meadows with chamois was analysed. Diet selection of chamois and sheep and their overlap was also assessed. Our results show an intra-annual variation in the diet composition of Pyrenean chamois and demonstrate a strong relationship between plant consumption dynamics and phenology in alpine areas. In addition, Calluna vulgaris, Cytisus spp. and Festuca spp., as well as forbs in the summer, are found to be key forage species for Pyrenean chamois. Furthermore, this study couldn't detect differences between both chamois populations despite the presence of sheep flocks in only one area. However, the detection of a shift in the diet of chamois in both areas after the arrival of high densities of multi-specific livestock suggest a general livestock effect. In conclusion, Pyrenean chamois are well adapted to the variations in the seasonal availability of plants in alpine habitats but could be disturbed by the seasonal presence of livestock. Due to the key plants in their diet, we suggest that population management programmes should focus on the preservation of mixed grasslands composed of patches of shrubs and herbs. The effects of climate change and shrub expansion should be studied as they may potentially affect chamois population dynamics through changes in habitat composition and temporal shifts in forage availability.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0210819PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6343923PMC
October 2019

New insights on pestivirus infections in transhumant sheep and sympatric Pyrenean chamois (Rupicapra p. pyrenaica).

Vet Microbiol 2018 Apr 9;217:82-89. Epub 2018 Mar 9.

Wildlife Ecology & Health Group (WE&H) and Servei d'Ecopatologia de Fauna Salvatge (SEFaS), Departament de Medicina i Cirurgia Animals, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), 08193 Bellaterra, Spain.

Border Disease Virus (BDV) causes health and economic impact on livestock and is also of importance in wildlife conservation as it causes high mortality outbreaks in Pyrenean chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica pyrenaica). Pastoral practices are known as a main interspecies pathogen transmission. Hence, the presence of pestivirus in transhumant sheep flocks and sympatric chamois was assessed in areas with different epidemiological scenarios of chamois BDV infections. Moreover, the present study had also the goal to identify if inter-specific infections occurred and when they happened. Five sheep flocks grazing in two alpine areas in the Pyrenees with two different BDV epidemiological scenarios in chamois populations were studied during two transhumant seasons. Sheep were sampled before and after transhumance. Pyrenean chamois sera and spleen samples from both areas where also studied during the same period. Antibodies against BDV were assessed by means of ELISA and VNT. A qRT-PCR was used in order to detect the virus. Seroprevalence in sheep ranged between 0 and 91.1% at the flock level. Chamois were found to have high seroprevalences (52.9-77.7%) in both areas, and four new BDV isolates were sequenced. One sheep farm presented persistent BDV circulation and three showed low BDV circulation. The after-transhumance period was identified as the moment when viral transmission occured in the first farm, associated to BDV strains of domestic origin, according to VNT results. However, the BDV isolate was genetical closely related to previous BDV strains from chamois origin. In another farm, antibodies in two of the three positive sera were associated to infection with a chamois-like BDV strain. Altogether indicates that occasional viral transmission from chamois to sheep may occur.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetmic.2018.03.003DOI Listing
April 2018

Predicting herbivore faecal nitrogen using a multispecies near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy calibration.

PLoS One 2017 28;12(4):e0176635. Epub 2017 Apr 28.

Ruminant Research Group, Departament de Ciència Animal i dels Aliments, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain.

Optimal management of free-ranging herbivores requires the accurate assessment of an animal's nutritional status. For this purpose 'near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy' (NIRS) is very useful, especially when nutritional assessment is done through faecal indicators such as faecal nitrogen (FN). In order to perform an NIRS calibration, the default protocol recommends starting by generating an initial equation based on at least 50-75 samples from the given species. Although this protocol optimises prediction accuracy, it limits the use of NIRS with rare or endangered species where sample sizes are often small. To overcome this limitation we tested a single NIRS equation (i.e., multispecies calibration) to predict FN in herbivores. Firstly, we used five herbivore species with highly contrasting digestive physiologies to build monospecies and multispecies calibrations, namely horse, sheep, Pyrenean chamois, red deer and European rabbit. Secondly, the equation accuracy was evaluated by two procedures using: (1) an external validation with samples from the same species, which were not used in the calibration process; and (2) samples from different ungulate species, specifically Alpine ibex, domestic goat, European mouflon, roe deer and cattle. The multispecies equation was highly accurate in terms of the coefficient of determination for calibration R2 = 0.98, standard error of validation SECV = 0.10, standard error of external validation SEP = 0.12, ratio of performance to deviation RPD = 5.3, and range error of prediction RER = 28.4. The accuracy of the multispecies equation to predict other herbivore species was also satisfactory (R2 > 0.86, SEP < 0.27, RPD > 2.6, and RER > 8.1). Lastly, the agreement between multi- and monospecies calibrations was also confirmed by the Bland-Altman method. In conclusion, our single multispecies equation can be used as a reliable, cost-effective, easy and powerful analytical method to assess FN in a wide range of herbivore species.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0176635PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5409079PMC
September 2017