Publications by authors named "Luigi Boitani"

49 Publications

Multiple species-specific molecular markers using nanofluidic array as a tool to detect prey DNA from carnivore scats.

Ecol Evol 2021 Sep 1;11(17):11739-11748. Epub 2021 Aug 1.

Grimsö Wildlife Research Station Department of Ecology Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Riddarhyttan Sweden.

Large carnivore feeding ecology plays a crucial role for management and conservation for predators and their prey. One of the keys to this kind of research is to identify the species composition in the predator diet, for example, prey determination from scat content. DNA-based methods applied to detect prey in predators' scats are viable alternatives to traditional macroscopic approaches, showing an increased reliability and higher prey detection rate. Here, we developed a molecular method for prey species identification in wolf () scats using multiple species-specific marker loci on the cytochrome gene for 18 target species. The final panel consisted of 80 assays, with a minimum of four markers per target species, and that amplified specifically when using a high-throughput Nanofluidic array technology (Fluidigm Inc.). As a practical example, we applied the method to identify target prey species DNA in 80 wolf scats collected in Sweden. Depending on the number of amplifying markers required to obtain a positive species call in a scat, the success in determining at least one prey species from the scats ranged from 44% to 92%. Although we highlight the need to evaluate the optimal number of markers for sensitive target species detection, the developed method is a fast and cost-efficient tool for prey identification in wolf scats and it also has the potential to be further developed and applied to other areas and large carnivores as well.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.7918DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8427573PMC
September 2021

Detecting the effects of predator-induced stress on the global metabolism of an ungulate prey using fecal metabolomic fingerprinting.

Sci Rep 2021 03 17;11(1):6129. Epub 2021 Mar 17.

School of the Environment, Washington State University, Pullman, WA, USA.

Few field tests have assessed the effects of predator-induced stress on prey fitness, particularly in large carnivore-ungulate systems. Because traditional measures of stress present limitations when applied to free-ranging animals, new strategies and systemic methodologies are needed. Recent studies have shown that stress and anxiety related behaviors can influence the metabolic activity of the gut microbiome in mammal hosts, and these metabolic alterations may aid in identification of stress. In this study, we used NMR-based fecal metabolomic fingerprinting to compare the fecal metabolome, a functional readout of the gut microbiome, of cattle herds grazing in low vs. high wolf-impacted areas within three wolf pack territories. Additionally, we evaluated if other factors (e.g., cattle nutritional state, climate, landscape) besides wolf presence were related to the variation in cattle metabolism. By collecting longitudinal fecal samples from GPS-collared cattle, we found relevant metabolic differences between cattle herds in areas where the probability of wolf pack interaction was higher. Moreover, cattle distance to GPS-collared wolves was the factor most correlated with this difference in cattle metabolism, potentially reflecting the variation in wolf predation risk. We further validated our results through a regression model that reconstructed cattle distances to GPS-collared wolves based on the metabolic difference between cattle herds. Although further research is needed to explore if similar patterns also hold at a finer scale, our results suggests that fecal metabolomic fingerprinting is a promising tool for assessing the physiological responses of prey to predation risk. This novel approach will help improve our knowledge of the consequences of predators beyond the direct effect of predation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-85600-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7971053PMC
March 2021

Consequences Matter: Compassion in Conservation Means Caring for Individuals, Populations and Species.

Animals (Basel) 2019 Dec 11;9(12). Epub 2019 Dec 11.

Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, The Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Tubney, Oxfordshire OX13 5QL, UK.

Human activity affecting the welfare of wild vertebrates, widely accepted to be sentient, and therefore deserving of moral concern, is widespread. A variety of motives lead to the killing of individual wild animals. These include to provide food, to protect stock and other human interests, and also for sport. The acceptability of such killing is widely believed to vary with the motive and method. Individual vertebrates are also killed by conservationists. Whether securing conservation goals is an adequate reason for such killing has recently been challenged. Conventional conservation practice has tended to prioritise ecological collectives, such as populations and species, when their interests conflict with those of individuals. Supporters of the 'Compassionate Conservation' movement argue both that conservationists have neglected animal welfare when such conflicts arise and that no killing for conservation is justified. We counter that conservationists increasingly seek to adhere to high standards of welfare, and that the extreme position advocated by some supporters of 'Compassionate Conservation', rooted in virtue ethics, would, if widely accepted, lead to considerable negative effects for conservation. Conservation practice cannot afford to neglect consequences. Moreover, the do-no-harm maxim does not always lead to better outcomes for animal welfare.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ani9121115DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6941047PMC
December 2019

Skin marks in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) interacting with artisanal fishery in the central Mediterranean Sea.

PLoS One 2019 5;14(2):e0211767. Epub 2019 Feb 5.

Filicudi WildLife Conservation, Stimpagnato Filicudi, Lipari (ME), Italy.

Skin marks occur frequently in many cetacean species across the globe revealing a broad spectrum of causes, including social interactions, infectious diseases and injuries produced by anthropogenic factors. The current study used photo-id data from 2005-2014 to estimate the skin mark pattern on resident bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from the Aeolian Archipelago (Italy). Thirteen skin mark types were identified and their origin, prevalence and permanence time were examined. The pattern of skin marks was assessed for the abundance, richness, distribution and severity in six body regions and compared among age classes, sex and degree of dolphins' interaction with trammel nets (DIN). Our results showed higher prevalence, abundance, richness and distribution of skin marks in adults than in the younger age classes, with the exception of black marks and white ring lesions. The prevalence and abundance of skin marks were higher in males than females, with the exception of scratches and white patches. Moreover, gunshot wounds, mutilations and irregular dorsal fin edges were found only on adult males. Since males showed higher DIN than females and, in dolphins with higher DIN, skin marks were more abundant and frequently distributed in different body regions, the skin mark pattern in regard to DIN seems to be sex-related. The more severe marks were observed on adults, males and dolphins with higher DIN, namely skin disorder, tooth rake marks, small shallow indentations, deep indentations and mutilations. On the contrary, the severity of scratches, white patches and dark ring lesions was higher in females than males, but not significantly related to DIN and age of the individuals. Our results showed that photo-id data provide an efficient and cost-effective approach to document the occurrence of skin marks in free-ranging bottlenose dolphin populations, a critical step toward understanding the cause and supporting the conservation strategies.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0211767PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6363217PMC
November 2019

International Wildlife Law: Understanding and Enhancing Its Role in Conservation.

Bioscience 2017 Sep 8;67(9):784-790. Epub 2017 Aug 8.

Arie Trouwborst is affiliated with the Department of European and International Public Law at Tilburg University, in The Netherlands. Andrew Blackmore is affiliated with Scientific Services, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, in Cascades, South Africa. Luigi Boitani is affiliated with the Department of Biology and Biotechnology at the Sapienza University of Rome, in Italy. Michael Bowman is affiliated with the Treaty Center in the School of Law at the University of Nottingham, in the United Kingdom. Richard Caddell is affiliated with the Netherlands Institute for the Law of the Sea at Utrecht University, in The Netherlands. Guillaume Chapron is affiliated with the Grimsö Wildlife Research Station at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, in Riddarhyttan. An Cliquet is affiliated with the Department of European, Public, and International Law at Ghent University, in Belgium. Ed Couzens is affiliated with the Australian Centre for Climate and Environmental Law, Sydney Law School, at the University of Sydney, in Australia. Yaffa Epstein is affiliated with the Department of Law at Uppsala University, in Sweden. Eladio Fernández-Galiano is affiliated with the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg, France. Floor M. Fleurke is affiliated with the Department of European and International Public Law at Tilburg University, in The Netherlands. Royal Gardner is affiliated with the Institute for Biodiversity Law and Policy at Stetson University, in Gulfport, Florida. Luke Hunter is affiliated with Panthera, in New York, New York. Kim Jacobsen is affiliated with the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) at University of Oxford, in Tubney, the United Kingdom. Miha Krofel is affiliated with the Department of Forestry at the University of Ljubljana, in Slovenia. Melissa Lewis is affiliated with the Department of European and International Public Law at Tilburg University, in The Netherlands. José Vicente López-Bao is affiliated with the Research Unit of Biodiversity at Oviedo University, in Mieres, Spain. David Macdonald is with the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) at University of Oxford, in Tubney, United Kingdom. Stephen Redpath is with the Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Aberdeen, in the United Kingdom. Geoffrey Wandesforde-Smith is with the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Davis. John D. C. Linnell is affiliated with the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), in Trondheim.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/biosci/bix086DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5862276PMC
September 2017

Survival and divergence in a small group: The extraordinary genomic history of the endangered Apennine brown bear stragglers.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2017 11 24;114(45):E9589-E9597. Epub 2017 Oct 24.

Department of Life Sciences and Biotechnology, University of Ferrara, 44121 Ferrara, Italy;

About 100 km east of Rome, in the central Apennine Mountains, a critically endangered population of ∼50 brown bears live in complete isolation. Mating outside this population is prevented by several 100 km of bear-free territories. We exploited this natural experiment to better understand the gene and genomic consequences of surviving at extremely small population size. We found that brown bear populations in Europe lost connectivity since Neolithic times, when farming communities expanded and forest burning was used for land clearance. In central Italy, this resulted in a 40-fold population decline. The overall genomic impact of this decline included the complete loss of variation in the mitochondrial genome and along long stretches of the nuclear genome. Several private and deleterious amino acid changes were fixed by random drift; predicted effects include energy deficit, muscle weakness, anomalies in cranial and skeletal development, and reduced aggressiveness. Despite this extreme loss of diversity, Apennine bear genomes show nonrandom peaks of high variation, possibly maintained by balancing selection, at genomic regions significantly enriched for genes associated with immune and olfactory systems. Challenging the paradigm of increased extinction risk in small populations, we suggest that random fixation of deleterious alleles () can be an important driver of divergence in isolation, () can be tolerated when balancing selection prevents random loss of variation at important genes, and () is followed by or results directly in favorable behavioral changes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1707279114DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5692547PMC
November 2017

Quantification of habitat fragmentation reveals extinction risk in terrestrial mammals.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2017 07 3;114(29):7635-7640. Epub 2017 Jul 3.

Global Mammal Assessment Program, Department of Biology and Biotechnologies, Sapienza Università di Roma, I-00185 Rome, Italy.

Although habitat fragmentation is often assumed to be a primary driver of extinction, global patterns of fragmentation and its relationship to extinction risk have not been consistently quantified for any major animal taxon. We developed high-resolution habitat fragmentation models and used phylogenetic comparative methods to quantify the effects of habitat fragmentation on the world's terrestrial mammals, including 4,018 species across 26 taxonomic Orders. Results demonstrate that species with more fragmentation are at greater risk of extinction, even after accounting for the effects of key macroecological predictors, such as body size and geographic range size. Species with higher fragmentation had smaller ranges and a lower proportion of high-suitability habitat within their range, and most high-suitability habitat occurred outside of protected areas, further elevating extinction risk. Our models provide a quantitative evaluation of extinction risk assessments for species, allow for identification of emerging threats in species not classified as threatened, and provide maps of global hotspots of fragmentation for the world's terrestrial mammals. Quantification of habitat fragmentation will help guide threat assessment and strategic priorities for global mammal conservation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1705769114DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5530695PMC
July 2017

Don't forget to look down - collaborative approaches to predator conservation.

Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc 2017 Nov 24;92(4):2157-2163. Epub 2017 Mar 24.

Department of Zoology and Merton College, Tasso Leventis Professor of Biodiversity, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3PS, U.K.

Finding effective ways of conserving large carnivores is widely recognised as a priority in conservation. However, there is disagreement about the most effective way to do this, with some favouring top-down 'command and control' approaches and others favouring collaboration. Arguments for coercive top-down approaches have been presented elsewhere; here we present arguments for collaboration. In many parts of the developed world, flexibility of approach is built into the legislation, so that conservation objectives are balanced with other legitimate goals. In the developing world, limited resources, poverty and weak governance mean that collaborative approaches are likely to play a particularly important part in carnivore conservation. In general, coercive policies may lead to the deterioration of political legitimacy and potentially to non-compliance issues such as illegal killing, whereas collaborative approaches may lead to psychological ownership, enhanced trust, learning, and better social outcomes. Sustainable hunting/trapping plays a crucial part in the conservation and management of many large carnivores. There are many different models for how to conserve carnivores effectively across the world, research is now required to reduce uncertainty and examine the effectiveness of these approaches in different contexts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/brv.12326DOI Listing
November 2017

Differentiating the effects of climate and land use change on European biodiversity: A scenario analysis.

Ambio 2017 Apr 1;46(3):277-290. Epub 2016 Nov 1.

De Vlinderstichting/Dutch Butterfly Conservation, P.O. Box 506, 6700AM, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Current observed as well as projected changes in biodiversity are the result of multiple interacting factors, with land use and climate change often marked as most important drivers. We aimed to disentangle the separate impacts of these two for sets of vascular plant, bird, butterfly and dragonfly species listed as characteristic for European dry grasslands and wetlands, two habitats of high and threatened biodiversity. We combined articulations of the four frequently used SRES climate scenarios and associated land use change projections for 2030, and assessed their impact on population trends in species (i.e. whether they would probably be declining, stable or increasing). We used the BIOSCORE database tool, which allows assessment of the effects of a range of environmental pressures including climate change as well as land use change. We updated the species lists included in this tool for our two habitat types. We projected species change for two spatial scales: the EU27 covering most of Europe, and the more restricted biogeographic region of 'Continental Europe'. Other environmental pressures modelled for the four scenarios than land use and climate change generally did not explain a significant part of the variance in species richness change. Changes in characteristic bird and dragonfly species were least pronounced. Land use change was the most important driver for vascular plants in both habitats and spatial scales, leading to a decline in 50-100% of the species included, whereas climate change was more important for wetland dragonflies and birds (40-50 %). Patterns of species decline were similar in continental Europe and the EU27 for wetlands but differed for dry grasslands, where a substantially lower proportion of butterflies and birds declined in continental Europe, and 50 % of bird species increased, probably linked to a projected increase in semi-natural vegetation. In line with the literature using climate envelope models, we found little divergence among the four scenarios. Our findings suggest targeted policies depending on habitat and species group. These are, for dry grasslands, to reduce land use change or its effects and to enhance connectivity, and for wetlands to mitigate climate change effects.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13280-016-0840-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5347525PMC
April 2017

Assessing the umbrella value of a range-wide conservation network for jaguars (Panthera onca).

Ecol Appl 2016 Jun;26(4):1112-24

Umbrella species are employed as conservation short-cuts for the design of reserves or reserve networks. However, empirical data on the effectiveness of umbrellas is equivocal, which has prevented more widespread application of this conservation strategy. We perform a novel, large-scale evaluation of umbrella species by assessing the potential umbrella value of a jaguar (Panthera onca) conservation network (consisting of viable populations and corridors) that extends from Mexico to Argentina. Using species richness, habitat quality, and fragmentation indices of ~1500 co-occurring mammal species, we show that jaguar populations and corridors overlap a substantial amount and percentage of high-quality habitat for co-occurring mammals and that the jaguar network performs better than random networks in protecting high-quality, interior habitat. Significantly, the effectiveness of the jaguar network as an umbrella would not have been noticeable had we focused on species richness as our sole metric of umbrella utility. Substantial inter-order variability existed, indicating the need for complementary conservation strategies for certain groups of mammals. We offer several reasons for the positive result we document, including the large spatial scale of our analysis and our focus on multiple metrics of umbrella effectiveness. Taken together, our results demonstrate that a regional, single-species conservation strategy can serve as an effective umbrella for the larger community and should help conserve viable populations and connectivity for a suite of co-occurring mammals. Current and future range-wide planning exercises for other large predators may therefore have important umbrella benefits.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/15-0602DOI Listing
June 2016

Border Security Fencing and Wildlife: The End of the Transboundary Paradigm in Eurasia?

PLoS Biol 2016 06 22;14(6):e1002483. Epub 2016 Jun 22.

KORA, Muri bei Bern, Switzerland.

The ongoing refugee crisis in Europe has seen many countries rush to construct border security fencing to divert or control the flow of people. This follows a trend of border fence construction across Eurasia during the post-9/11 era. This development has gone largely unnoticed by conservation biologists during an era in which, ironically, transboundary cooperation has emerged as a conservation paradigm. These fences represent a major threat to wildlife because they can cause mortality, obstruct access to seasonally important resources, and reduce effective population size. We summarise the extent of the issue and propose concrete mitigation measures.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002483DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4917236PMC
June 2016

The Influence of Seasonal Frugivory on Nutrient and Energy Intake in Wild Western Gorillas.

PLoS One 2015 8;10(7):e0129254. Epub 2015 Jul 8.

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, D-04103, Leipzig, Germany.

The daily energy requirements of animals are determined by a combination of physical and physiological factors, but food availability may challenge the capacity to meet nutritional needs. Western gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) are an interesting model for investigating this topic because they are folivore-frugivores that adjust their diet and activities to seasonal variation in fruit availability. Observations of one habituated group of western gorillas in Bai-Hokou, Central African Republic (December 2004-December 2005) were used to examine seasonal variation in diet quality and nutritional intake. We tested if during the high fruit season the food consumed by western gorillas was higher in quality (higher in energy, sugar, fat but lower in fibre and antifeedants) than during the low fruit season. Food consumed during the high fruit season was higher in digestible energy, but not any other macronutrients. Second, we investigated whether the gorillas increased their daily intake of carbohydrates, metabolizable energy (KCal/g OM), or other nutrients during the high fruit season. Intake of dry matter, fibers, fat, protein and the majority of minerals and phenols decreased with increased frugivory and there was some indication of seasonal variation in intake of energy (KCal/g OM), tannins, protein/fiber ratio, and iron. Intake of non-structural carbohydrates and sugars was not influenced by fruit availability. Gorillas are probably able to extract large quantities of energy via fermentation since they rely on proteinaceous leaves during the low fruit season. Macronutrients and micronutrients, but not digestible energy, may be limited for them during times of low fruit availability because they are hind-gut fermenters. We discuss the advantages of seasonal frugivores having large dietary breath and flexibility, significant characteristics to consider in the conservation strategies of endangered species.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0129254PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4495928PMC
April 2016

Carnivore coexistence: wilderness not required.

Science 2015 May;348(6237):871-2

Grimsö Wildlife Research Station, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, 73091, Riddarhyttan, Sweden.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.348.6237.871-bDOI Listing
May 2015

Conservation in Europe as a Model for Emerging Conservation Issues Globally. Introduction.

Conserv Biol 2015 Aug 21;29(4):975-7. Epub 2015 May 21.

Conservation Science Group, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 3EJ, United Kingdom.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cobi.12530DOI Listing
August 2015

Framing the relationship between people and nature in the context of European conservation.

Conserv Biol 2015 Aug 21;29(4):978-85. Epub 2015 May 21.

Biology and Biotechnologies, University of Rome La Sapienza, viale Università 32, I-00185, Rome, Italy.

A key controversy in conservation is the framing of the relationship between people and nature. The extent to which the realms of nature and human culture are viewed as separate (dualistic view) or integrated is often discussed in the social sciences. To explore how this relationship is represented in the practice of conservation in Europe, we considered examples of cultural landscapes, wildlife (red deer, reindeer, horses), and protected area management. We found little support, for a dualistic worldview, where people and nature are regarded as separate in the traditional practice of conservation in Europe. The borders between nature and culture, wild and domestic, public land and private land, and between protected areas and the wider landscape were blurred and dynamic. The institutionalized (in practice and legislation) view is of an interactive mutualistic system in which humans and nature share the whole landscape. However, more dualistic ideals, such as wilderness and rewilding that are challenging established practices are expanding. In the context of modern day Europe, wilderness conservation and rewilding are not valid for the whole landscape, although it is possible to integrate some areas of low-intervention management into a wider matrix. A precondition for success is to recognize and plan for a plurality of values concerning the most valid approaches to conservation and to plan for this plurality at the landscape scale.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cobi.12534DOI Listing
August 2015

Predicting the continuum between corridors and barriers to animal movements using Step Selection Functions and Randomized Shortest Paths.

J Anim Ecol 2016 Jan 6;85(1):32-42. Epub 2015 Aug 6.

Department of Animal and Human Biology, Sapienza University, Viale dell'Università 32, Rome, 00185, Italy.

The loss, fragmentation and degradation of habitat everywhere on Earth prompts increasing attention to identifying landscape features that support animal movement (corridors) or impedes it (barriers). Most algorithms used to predict corridors assume that animals move through preferred habitat either optimally (e.g. least cost path) or as random walkers (e.g. current models), but neither extreme is realistic. We propose that corridors and barriers are two sides of the same coin and that animals experience landscapes as spatiotemporally dynamic corridor-barrier continua connecting (separating) functional areas where individuals fulfil specific ecological processes. Based on this conceptual framework, we propose a novel methodological approach that uses high-resolution individual-based movement data to predict corridor-barrier continua with increased realism. Our approach consists of two innovations. First, we use step selection functions (SSF) to predict friction maps quantifying corridor-barrier continua for tactical steps between consecutive locations. Secondly, we introduce to movement ecology the randomized shortest path algorithm (RSP) which operates on friction maps to predict the corridor-barrier continuum for strategic movements between functional areas. By modulating the parameter Ѳ, which controls the trade-off between exploration and optimal exploitation of the environment, RSP bridges the gap between algorithms assuming optimal movements (when Ѳ approaches infinity, RSP is equivalent to LCP) or random walk (when Ѳ → 0, RSP → current models). Using this approach, we identify migration corridors for GPS-monitored wild reindeer (Rangifer t. tarandus) in Norway. We demonstrate that reindeer movement is best predicted by an intermediate value of Ѳ, indicative of a movement trade-off between optimization and exploration. Model calibration allows identification of a corridor-barrier continuum that closely fits empirical data and demonstrates that RSP outperforms models that assume either optimality or random walk. The proposed approach models the multiscale cognitive maps by which animals likely navigate real landscapes and generalizes the most common algorithms for identifying corridors. Because suboptimal, but non-random, movement strategies are likely widespread, our approach has the potential to predict more realistic corridor-barrier continua for a wide range of species.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.12386DOI Listing
January 2016

Recovery of large carnivores in Europe's modern human-dominated landscapes.

Science 2014 Dec;346(6216):1517-9

University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty, Jamnikarjeva 101, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia.

The conservation of large carnivores is a formidable challenge for biodiversity conservation. Using a data set on the past and current status of brown bears (Ursus arctos), Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), gray wolves (Canis lupus), and wolverines (Gulo gulo) in European countries, we show that roughly one-third of mainland Europe hosts at least one large carnivore species, with stable or increasing abundance in most cases in 21st-century records. The reasons for this overall conservation success include protective legislation, supportive public opinion, and a variety of practices making coexistence between large carnivores and people possible. The European situation reveals that large carnivores and people can share the same landscape.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1257553DOI Listing
December 2014

Complex Social Structure of an Endangered Population of Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Aeolian Archipelago (Italy).

PLoS One 2014 10;9(12):e114849. Epub 2014 Dec 10.

Department of Biology and Biotechnologies, University 'La Sapienza', Viale dell' Università 32, 00185, Rome, Italy.

We investigated social structure and association patterns for a small population of Mediterranean bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, inhabiting the Aeolian Archipelago (southern Italy). Specifically we evaluate the role of sex and age composition, residency patterns and interaction with trammel nets on this social organization. Association data for 23 regularly sighted individuals were obtained from summer photoidentification surveys collected from 2005-2012. Using a combined cluster and social network analysis approach, we found associations between dolphins were hierarchically structured, where two mixed-sex social units were subdivided into smaller temporarily dynamic groups. We found non-random and long-term preferred associations in the population; however, the degree of social cohesion, residence pattern and interaction with trammel nets differed considerably between the two social units. Six of eight females occurred in the more resident social unit-1; in addition, social unit-1 individuals had significantly stronger associations, higher preferred associates, lived in larger groups and occurred less frequently with trammel nets. Nine of eleven males were clustered in social unit-2 and five of these males, interacting with trammel nets, formed small groups and preferred associations. We propose that female and male groups associate in the study area during the breeding season and that some males choose to interact with reproductive females forming a distinct but interrelated social unit. Other males may be associating in a larger fission-fusion network, which consists of dolphins that appear to temporarily join the network from the coastal population. We cannot exclude that some males specialized in trammel net foraging, suggesting that this foraging technique may favor a solitary lifestyle. Large group sizes and high degree of social cohesion for females could be an indication of greater protection and more efficiency in detecting, deterring or repelling anthropogenic pressures. Most likely dolphins' social organization depends on a combination of socio-ecological, demographic and anthropogenic factors.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0114849PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4262461PMC
October 2017

Borneo and Indochina are major evolutionary hotspots for Southeast Asian biodiversity.

Syst Biol 2014 Nov 28;63(6):879-901. Epub 2014 Jul 28.

Molecular Ecology and Fisheries Genetics Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences, Bangor University, Deiniol Road, Bangor LL57 2UW, UK; Museum für Naturkunde, Leibniz-Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Invalidenstr. 43, 10115 Berlin, Germany; Southeast Asia Research Group, Department of Earth Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham Hill, Egham TW20 0EX, UK; Palynova Limited, 1 Mow Fen Road, Littleport, Cambs CB6 1PY, UK; Niko Asia Ltd, Plaza City View, Jl Kemang Timur 22, Jakarta 12510, Indonesia; Department of Biological Sciences, Texas Tech University, TX 79409-3131, USA; Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanic Garden, Yunnan 666303, P.R. China; Centre for Archaeological Science, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia; Borneo Futures Project, People and Nature Consulting International, Country Woods house 306, JL. WR Supratman, Pondok Ranji, Ciputat, Jakarta 15412, Indonesia; School of Archaeology & Anthropology, Building 14, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia; School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia; Earth Sciences, School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia; GEMOC, ARC Centre of Excellence for Core to Crust Fluid Systems, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Macquarie University, NSW 2109, Australia; Department of Biology and Biotechnologies "Charles Darwin", Sapienza Università di Roma, viale dell'Università 32, 00185 Rome, Italy; Clastic Reservoir Systems, 10700 Richmond Avenue, Suite 325, Houston, TX 77042, USA.

Tropical Southeast (SE) Asia harbors extraordinary species richness and in its entirety comprises four of the Earth's 34 biodiversity hotspots. Here, we examine the assembly of the SE Asian biota through time and space. We conduct meta-analyses of geological, climatic, and biological (including 61 phylogenetic) data sets to test which areas have been the sources of long-term biological diversity in SE Asia, particularly in the pre-Miocene, Miocene, and Plio-Pleistocene, and whether the respective biota have been dominated by in situ diversification, immigration and/or emigration, or equilibrium dynamics. We identify Borneo and Indochina, in particular, as major "evolutionary hotspots" for a diverse range of fauna and flora. Although most of the region's biodiversity is a result of both the accumulation of immigrants and in situ diversification, within-area diversification and subsequent emigration have been the predominant signals characterizing Indochina and Borneo's biota since at least the early Miocene. In contrast, colonization events are comparatively rare from younger volcanically active emergent islands such as Java, which show increased levels of immigration events. Few dispersal events were observed across the major biogeographic barrier of Wallace's Line. Accelerated efforts to conserve Borneo's flora and fauna in particular, currently housing the highest levels of SE Asian plant and mammal species richness, are critically required.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/sysbio/syu047DOI Listing
November 2014

Drivers of extinction risk in African mammals: the interplay of distribution state, human pressure, conservation response and species biology.

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 2014 14;369(1643):20130198. Epub 2014 Apr 14.

Global Mammal Assessment Program, Department of Biology and Biotechnologies, Sapienza Università di Roma, , Viale dell' Università 32, 00185 Rome, Italy.

Although conservation intervention has reversed the decline of some species, our success is outweighed by a much larger number of species moving towards extinction. Extinction risk modelling can identify correlates of risk and species not yet recognized to be threatened. Here, we use machine learning models to identify correlates of extinction risk in African terrestrial mammals using a set of variables belonging to four classes: species distribution state, human pressures, conservation response and species biology. We derived information on distribution state and human pressure from satellite-borne imagery. Variables in all four classes were identified as important predictors of extinction risk, and interactions were observed among variables in different classes (e.g. level of protection, human threats, species distribution ranges). Species biology had a key role in mediating the effect of external variables. The model was 90% accurate in classifying extinction risk status of species, but in a few cases the observed and modelled extinction risk mismatched. Species in this condition might suffer from an incorrect classification of extinction risk (hence require reassessment). An increased availability of satellite imagery combined with improved resolution and classification accuracy of the resulting maps will play a progressively greater role in conservation monitoring.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2013.0198DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3983933PMC
December 2014

Threats from climate change to terrestrial vertebrate hotspots in Europe.

PLoS One 2013 16;8(9):e74989. Epub 2013 Sep 16.

Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland ; Department of Biology and Biotechnologies "Charles Darwin", University of Rome "La Sapienza", Rome, Italy.

We identified hotspots of terrestrial vertebrate species diversity in Europe and adjacent islands. Moreover, we assessed the extent to which by the end of the 21(st) century such hotspots will be exposed to average monthly temperature and precipitation patterns which can be regarded as extreme if compared to the climate experienced during 1950-2000. In particular, we considered the entire European sub-continent plus Turkey and a total of 1149 species of terrestrial vertebrates. For each species, we developed species-specific expert-based distribution models (validated against field data) which we used to calculate species richness maps for mammals, breeding birds, amphibians, and reptiles. Considering four global circulation model outputs and three emission scenarios, we generated an index of risk of exposure to extreme climates, and we used a bivariate local Moran's I to identify the areas with a significant association between hotspots of diversity and high risk of exposure to extreme climates. Our results outline that the Mediterranean basin represents both an important hotspot for biodiversity and especially for threatened species for all taxa. In particular, the Iberian and Italian peninsulas host particularly high species richness as measured over all groups, while the eastern Mediterranean basin is particularly rich in amphibians and reptiles; the islands (both Macaronesian and Mediterranean) host the highest richness of threatened species for all taxa occurs. Our results suggest that the main hotspots of biodiversity for terrestrial vertebrates may be extensively influenced by the climate change projected to occur over the coming decades, especially in the Mediterranean bioregion, posing serious concerns for biodiversity conservation.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0074989PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3774810PMC
May 2014

(Un-)expected nocturnal activity in "Diurnal" Lemur catta supports cathemerality as one of the key adaptations of the lemurid radiation.

Am J Phys Anthropol 2013 Jan 26;150(1):99-106. Epub 2012 Nov 26.

Department of Social Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, UK.

The ability to operate during the day and at night (i.e., cathemerality) is common among mammals but has rarely been identified in primates. Adaptive hypotheses assume that cathemerality represents a stable adaptation in primates, while nonadaptive hypotheses propose that it is the result of an evolutionary disequilibrium arising from human impacts on natural habitats. Madagascar offers a unique opportunity to study the evolution of activity patterns as there we find a monophyletic primate radiation that shows nocturnal, diurnal, and cathemeral patterns. However, when and why cathemeral activity evolved in lemurs is the subject of intense debate. Thus far, this activity pattern has been regularly observed in only three lemurid genera but the actual number of lemur species exhibiting this activity is as yet unknown. Here we show that the ring-tailed lemur, Lemur catta, a species previously considered to be diurnal, can in fact be cathemeral in the wild. In neighboring but distinct forest areas these lemurs exhibited either mainly diurnal or cathemeral activity. We found that, as in other cathemeral lemurs, activity was entrained by photoperiod and masked by nocturnal luminosity. Our results confirm the relationship between transitional eye anatomy and physiology and 24-h activity, thus supporting the adaptive scenario. Also, on the basis of the most recent strepsirrhine phylogenetic reconstruction, using parsimony criterion, our findings suggest pushing back the emergence of cathemerality to stem lemurids. Flexible activity over 24-h could thus have been one of the key adaptations of the early lemurid radiation possibly driven by Madagascar's island ecology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.22180DOI Listing
January 2013

A low-cost GPS GSM/GPRS telemetry system: performance in stationary field tests and preliminary data on wild otters (Lutra lutra).

PLoS One 2012 5;7(1):e29235. Epub 2012 Jan 5.

Department of Biology and Biotechnology "Charles Darwin", University of Roma 'La Sapienza', Roma, Italy.

Background: Despite the increasing worldwide use of global positioning system (GPS) telemetry in wildlife research, it has never been tested on any freshwater diving animal or in the peculiar conditions of the riparian habitat, despite this latter being one of the most important habitat types for many animal taxa. Moreover, in most cases, the GPS devices used have been commercial and expensive, limiting their use in low-budget projects.

Methodology/principal Findings: We have developed a low-cost, easily constructed GPS GSM/GPRS (Global System for Mobile Communications/General Packet Radio Service) and examined its performance in stationary tests, by assessing the influence of different habitat types, including the riparian, as well as water submersion and certain climatic and environmental variables on GPS fix-success rate and accuracy. We then tested the GPS on wild diving animals, applying it, for the first time, to an otter species (Lutra lutra). The rate of locations acquired during the stationary tests reached 63.2%, with an average location error of 8.94 m (SD = 8.55). GPS performance in riparian habitats was principally affected by water submersion and secondarily by GPS inclination and position within the riverbed. Temporal and spatial correlations of location estimates accounted for some variation in the data sets. GPS-tagged otters also provided accurate locations and an even higher GPS fix-success rate (68.2%).

Conclusions/significance: Our results suggest that GPS telemetry is reliably applicable to riparian and even diving freshwater animals. They also highlight the need, in GPS wildlife studies, for performing site-specific pilot studies on GPS functioning as well as for taking into account eventual spatial and temporal correlation of location estimates. The limited price, small dimensions, and high performance of the device presented here make it a useful and cost-effective tool for studies on otters and other aquatic or terrestrial medium-to-large-sized animals.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0029235PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3252312PMC
May 2012

Guild composition and habitat use of voles in 2 forest landscapes in south-eastern Norway.

Integr Zool 2011 Dec;6(4):299-310

Department of Animal and Human Biology, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy.

It is widely believed that intensive forestry has influenced small mammal population dynamics, and thereby the entire mammalian community in Fennoscandian boreal forests. The nature of these impacts on the different species is subject to debate. We live-trapped voles between 2006 and 2009 in 2 commercially harvested forests in south-eastern Norway. We investigated the variation in vole abundance among habitat types (e.g. mature forest and clear-cut) and the hypothesis that graminivorous species such as field voles (Microtus agrestis L.) benefit from clear-cuts at the expense of forest dwellers (i.e. the bank vole, Myodes glareolus Schreb.), using fine-scale descriptors of the ground vegetation. We could not find support for the hypothesis that field voles show a preference for clear-cuts, and their overall abundance was low, while bank voles were the dominant species in all habitat types, including clear-cuts in the peak and pre-peak years. We found a positive association between bank vole abundance and bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) availability rather than a specific habitat type. Low field vole density in clear-cuts might be due to variation in local productivity and ground vegetation as well as to large variation in the species temporal dynamics. The latter is particularly associated with the widespread decline of field voles in Scandinavia. Logging has the potential to negatively affect bank vole population dynamics because of the negative effect on bilberry development.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-4877.2011.00258.xDOI Listing
December 2011

Reconciling global mammal prioritization schemes into a strategy.

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 2011 Sep;366(1578):2722-8

Global Mammal Assessment programme, Department of Biology and Biotechnologies, Sapienza Università di Roma, Viale dell'Università 32, 00185 Rome, Italy.

The huge conservation interest that mammals attract and the large datasets that have been collected on them have propelled a diversity of global mammal prioritization schemes, but no comprehensive global mammal conservation strategy. We highlight some of the potential discrepancies between the schemes presented in this theme issue, including: conservation of species or areas, reactive and proactive conservation approaches, conservation knowledge and action, levels of aggregation of indicators of trend and scale issues. We propose that recently collected global mammal data and many of the mammal prioritization schemes now available could be incorporated into a comprehensive global strategy for the conservation of mammals. The task of developing such a strategy should be coordinated by a super-partes, authoritative institution (e.g. the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN). The strategy would facilitate funding agencies, conservation organizations and national institutions to rapidly identify a number of short-term and long-term global conservation priorities, and act complementarily to achieve them.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2011.0112DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3140733PMC
September 2011

Mapping and navigating mammalian conservation: from analysis to action.

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 2011 Sep;366(1578):2712-21

WCS Institute, Wildlife Conservation Society, 2300 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY 10460, USA.

Although mammals are often seen as important objects of human interest and affection, many are threatened with extinction. A range of efforts have been proposed and much work has been done to try to conserve mammals, but there is little overall understanding of what has worked and why. As a result, there is no global-scale, coordinated approach to conserving all mammals. Rather, conservation efforts are usually focused at jurisdictional levels where relevant legislation and policies are in force. To help build the framework for a global-scale approach, in this paper we review the many ways that have been proposed for conserving mammals. First, we examine the overall pattern of threat faced by mammals at the global level. Secondly, we look at the major structuring issues in prioritizing and planning mammal conservation, examining in particular the roles of values and scale and a set of approaches to conservation, each of which varies along a continuum. Finally, we lay out the steps necessary to move from planning to implementing mammalian conservation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2011.0118DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3140739PMC
September 2011

Future hotspots of terrestrial mammal loss.

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 2011 Sep;366(1578):2693-702

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia.

Current levels of endangerment and historical trends of species and habitats are the main criteria used to direct conservation efforts globally. Estimates of future declines, which might indicate different priorities than past declines, have been limited by the lack of appropriate data and models. Given that much of conservation is about anticipating and responding to future threats, our inability to look forward at a global scale has been a major constraint on effective action. Here, we assess the geography and extent of projected future changes in suitable habitat for terrestrial mammals within their present ranges. We used a global earth-system model, IMAGE, coupled with fine-scale habitat suitability models and parametrized according to four global scenarios of human development. We identified the most affected countries by 2050 for each scenario, assuming that no additional conservation actions other than those described in the scenarios take place. We found that, with some exceptions, most of the countries with the largest predicted losses of suitable habitat for mammals are in Africa and the Americas. African and North American countries were also predicted to host the most species with large proportional global declines. Most of the countries we identified as future hotspots of terrestrial mammal loss have little or no overlap with the present global conservation priorities, thus confirming the need for forward-looking analyses in conservation priority setting. The expected growth in human populations and consumption in hotspots of future mammal loss mean that local conservation actions such as protected areas might not be sufficient to mitigate losses. Other policies, directed towards the root causes of biodiversity loss, are required, both in Africa and other parts of the world.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2011.0105DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3140729PMC
September 2011

The future of terrestrial mammals in the Mediterranean basin under climate change.

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 2011 Sep;366(1578):2681-92

Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne , Biophore Building, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.

The Mediterranean basin is considered a hotspot of biological diversity with a long history of modification of natural ecosystems by human activities, and is one of the regions that will face extensive changes in climate. For 181 terrestrial mammals (68% of all Mediterranean mammals), we used an ensemble forecasting approach to model the future (approx. 2100) potential distribution under climate change considering five climate change model outputs for two climate scenarios. Overall, a substantial number of Mediterranean mammals will be severely threatened by future climate change, particularly endemic species. Moreover, we found important changes in potential species richness owing to climate change, with some areas (e.g. montane region in central Italy) gaining species, while most of the region will be losing species (mainly Spain and North Africa). Existing protected areas (PAs) will probably be strongly influenced by climate change, with most PAs in Africa, the Middle East and Spain losing a substantial number of species, and those PAs gaining species (e.g. central Italy and southern France) will experience a substantial shift in species composition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2011.0121DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3140741PMC
September 2011

Prioritizing conservation investments for mammal species globally.

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 2011 Sep;366(1578):2670-80

School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia.

We need to set priorities for conservation because we cannot do everything, everywhere, at the same time. We determined priority areas for investment in threat abatement actions, in both a cost-effective and spatially and temporally explicit way, for the threatened mammals of the world. Our analysis presents the first fine-resolution prioritization analysis for mammals at a global scale that accounts for the risk of habitat loss, the actions required to abate this risk, the costs of these actions and the likelihood of investment success. We evaluated the likelihood of success of investments using information on the past frequency and duration of legislative effectiveness at a country scale. The establishment of new protected areas was the action receiving the greatest investment, while restoration was never chosen. The resolution of the analysis and the incorporation of likelihood of success made little difference to this result, but affected the spatial location of these investments.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2011.0108DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3140730PMC
September 2011

Global patterns of fragmentation and connectivity of mammalian carnivore habitat.

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 2011 Sep;366(1578):2642-51

Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, Colorado State University , Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA.

Although mammalian carnivores are vulnerable to habitat fragmentation and require landscape connectivity, their global patterns of fragmentation and connectivity have not been examined. We use recently developed high-resolution habitat suitability models to conduct comparative analyses and to identify global hotspots of fragmentation and connectivity for the world's terrestrial carnivores. Species with less fragmentation (i.e. more interior high-quality habitat) had larger geographical ranges, a greater proportion of habitat within their range, greater habitat connectivity and a lower risk of extinction. Species with higher connectivity (i.e. less habitat isolation) also had a greater proportion of high-quality habitat, but had smaller, not larger, ranges, probably reflecting shorter distances between habitat patches for species with restricted distributions; such species were also more threatened, as would be expected given the negative relationship between range size and extinction risk. Fragmentation and connectivity did not differ among Carnivora families, and body mass was associated with connectivity but not fragmentation. On average, only 54.3 per cent of a species' geographical range comprised high-quality habitat, and more troubling, only 5.2 per cent of the range comprised such habitat within protected areas. Identification of global hotspots of fragmentation and connectivity will help guide strategic priorities for carnivore conservation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2011.0120DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3140740PMC
September 2011
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