[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In many mammalian species, animals form subunits within larger groups that are often associated with kinship and/or age proximity. Kinship mediates fission/fusion social dynamics of giraffe herds, but the role of age proximity has been unexamined. Here, we analyze 34 years of data from a population of Thornicroft's giraffe, Giraffa camelopardalis thornicroftii, living in Zambia in order to assess the extent to which age proximity influences herd composition. We show for the first time that calves born into the same cohort have stronger social associations than calves born into different age cohorts, and that the strength of their association is independent of the strength of maternal associations. Duration of time co-resident in the population did not influence the strength of social associations. Mothers and adult daughters have significantly stronger social associations than do unrelated adult females. We suggest that giraffe have evolved mechanisms for fostering the formation of social associations with similar aged non-kin. Giraffes live in a complex society incorporating both kinship and age proximity as factors modulating the formation of social associations that underlie the fission/fusion dynamics of their flexible herd structure.
Journal of Zoology 08/2013; 290(4). · 2.04 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and its sulfate, DHEAS, are the most abundant steroid hormones in primates, providing a large reservoir of precursors for the production of androgens. DHEAS levels decline with age in adult humans and nonhuman primates, prompting its consideration as a biomarker of senescence. However, the mechanisms responsible for this age-related decrease and its relationship to reproduction remain elusive. This research investigated DHEAS concentrations in fecal samples in order to determine age-related changes in captive Japanese macaques, as well as to assess the possible influence of seasonality. The subjects were 25 female Japanese macaques (2 weeks to 14 years-old) housed outdoors in social groups at the Primate Research Institute. We collected three fecal samples from each animal during the breeding season (October to December) and three additional samples from adult females during the non-breeding season (May to June). The hormonal concentrations were determined using enzyme immunoassay. DHEAS concentration was negatively correlated with age, but we did not find a significant difference between breeding and non-breeding seasons. Neonatal macaques had the highest DHEAS concentrations of all age groups. We suggest that elevated neonatal DHEAS is possibly a residue from fetal adrenal secretion and that, as in humans, it might assist in neurobiological development.
General and Comparative Endocrinology 06/2013; · 2.82 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In principle, conservation planning relies on long-term data; in reality, conservation decisions are apt to be based upon limited data and short-range goals. For the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus), frequently reliance is made on the assumption that indirect signs can be used to indicate behavioural preferences, such as diet choice. We examined the relationship between the use of trees by koalas and the presence of scats beneath those trees. Tree use was associated with scat presence on 49% of occasions when koalas were radio-tracked in both central Queensland (n = 10 koalas) and south-east Queensland (n = 5 koalas), increasing to 77% of occasions when trees were rechecked the following day. Koala densities were correlated with scat abundance at sites with koala density between ~0.2 and 0.6 koalas per hectare. Our results confirm that scat searches are imprecise indicators of tree use by koalas, but demonstrate that these searches can be used, with caveats, to estimate koala population densities. We discuss how errors in estimating or applying predictive model parameters can bias estimates of occupancy and show how a failure to validate adequately the assumptions used in modelling and mapping can undermine the power of the products to direct rational conservation and management efforts.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: AbstractA variety of social systems have evolved as a consequence of competition and cooperation among individuals. Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis sp.) societies are an anomaly because the dearth of long‐term data has produced two polar perspectives: a loose amalgamation of non‐bonded individuals that sometimes coalesce into a herd and a structured social system with a fission–fusion process modifying herd composition within a community. We analysed 34 years of data collected from a population of Thornicroft's giraffe (G. c. thornicrofti, Lydekker 1911) residing in South Luangwa, Zambia, to establish the nature of giraffe society. Our sample consisted of 52 individually recognized animals. We found that giraffe herd composition is based upon long‐term social associations that often reflect kinship, with close relatives significantly more likely than non‐relatives to establish herds. Mother/offspring dyads had the strongest associations, which persisted for years. Giraffe live in a complex society characterized by marked flexibility in herd size, with about 25% of the variance in herd composition owing to kinship and sex. We suggest that giraffe herds share many characteristics of fission–fusion social systems and propose that sophisticated communication systems are a crucial component regulating subgroup dynamics.
African Journal of Ecology 01/2013; 51(2). · 0.63 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Much of the information available about the life history of the giraffe, Giraffa camelopardalis, is derived from captive studies or short‐term field studies. The coat colour of male giraffes, especially the blotches, darkens with age, but no studies have systematically mapped the colour transition with chronological age based on long‐term data. We examine the value of using darkening coat colour as a biomarker of male age. We analyzed 33 years of data from 36 male Thornicroft's giraffes, G. c. thornicroftii, living in Zambia in order to document key milestones in male development. We found that the change in male pelage colouration takes an average of 1.8 years and that males are completely covered with coal‐black blotches at an average age of 9.4 years. Using lifetime data on male deaths and disappearances, combined with cross‐sectional records on coat‐colour transformation, we conclude that the average age of death among male giraffes is about 16 years old. The maximum lifespan of male giraffes is about 22 years compared with a maximum lifespan of about 28 years for female giraffes. We conclude that the possible proximate mechanisms and adaptive significance of male coat‐colour changes should be studied in more detail.
Journal of Zoology 01/2012; 287(3). · 2.04 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Sexual selection is often characterized by polygynous breeding systems, size dimorphism, and skewed operational sex ratios.
Koalas are sexually dimorphic in multiple domains, yet are absent from the literature on sexual selection and the structure
of their mating system is unclear. We provide the first documentation of the strength of sexual selection in koalas by using
microsatellite markers to identify sires. We combine the genetic data with morphological data in order to assess the role
of body size in regulating reproductive output. During our 4-year study, 37% of males were identified as possible sires. Males
were significantly larger than females, with sires heavier than non-sires. Male body mass correlated with annual reproductive
output, with Crow’s Index of Opportunity for Selection revealing that variation in male reproductive success was threefold
higher than that of females. Since it appears that male koalas rarely engage in physical confrontations over access to females,
size dimorphism could be based upon non-agonistic competition and/or female mate choice. We propose that size dimorphism in
koalas evolved as a consequence of endurance rivalry promoting vocal sexual advertisements that attract females. We suggest
that female choice is a key mediator of male reproductive output.
KeywordsKoalas–Sexual selection–Size dimorphism–Reproductive success–Mate choice–Microsatellite DNA
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 01/2011; 65(6):1229-1235. · 2.75 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Ecological factors have a pervasive impact on animal population sizes and the structure of their social systems. In a number of ungulate species, predator pressure exerts a major influence on group size. Given that giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) live in an extremely flexible social system, and that breeding is nonseasonal, they are an ideal species for examining how ecological variables contribute to fluctuations in herd size. We present an analysis of 34 years of data on a population of Thornicroft’s giraffe (G. c. thornicrofti Lydekker 1911) that reveal how herd size changes with season and habitat. Sex differences in herd size were apparent, with bulls often travelling as singletons, whereas cows were generally observed with conspecifics. Herds were larger during the wet than dry season, but herd size changed in a parallel fashion across habitats. Giraffe herds were smaller in woodland and thicket areas than in open habitats, regardless of season. We suggest that the regular fluctuations in herd size among giraffe indicate a fission/fusion social system embedded within a larger social community. We conclude that changes in herd size among giraffe reflect a dynamic process regulated by individuals adjusting the number of associates based upon an interaction of foraging, reproductive, social and antipredator strategies.RésuméLes facteurs écologiques ont un effet généralisé sur la taille des populations animales et sur la structure de leurs systèmes sociaux. Chez un certain nombre d’espèces d’ongulés, la pression des prédateurs exerce une influence majeure sur la taille des groupes. Étant donné que la girafe Giraffa camelopardalis vit dans un système social extrêmement flexible, et que la reproduction n’y est pas saisonnière, c’est une espèce idéale pour examiner comment des variables écologiques contribuent aux fluctuations de la taille de la harde. Nous présentons une analyse couvrant 34 années de données sur une population de girafes de Thornicroft, G. c. thornicrofti Lyddeker 1911, qui révèle comment la taille de la harde change avec les saisons et l’habitat. La différence des sexes dans la taille des hardes était visible, les mâles voyageant souvent en solitaires alors que les femelles étaient généralement observées avec des congénères. Les hardes étaient plus grandes en saison des pluies qu’en saison sèche, mais la taille des hardes changeait, dans le même temps, selon les habitats. Les hardes de girafes étaient plus petites en forêt et dans les zones arbustives que dans les habitats ouverts, quelle que soit la saison. Nous suggérons que, chez les girafes, la taille des hardes indique une fission/fusion du système social ancré dans une communauté sociale plus large. Nous concluons que les changements de taille de hardes chez les girafes reflètent un processus dynamique régulé par des individus qui ajustent le nombre de leurs associés selon une interaction des stratégies alimentaires, reproductives, sociales et défensives contre les prédateurs.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Two central concerns for elephant husbandry and management are whether zoological enclosures are appropriately sized and the degree to which naturalistic exercise and activity are observed in such enclosures. In order to address these issues, accurate data on the daily walking distance of elephants both in situ and ex situ are necessary. We used an accelerometer, a pedometer that measures step count and activity level, to estimate walking distance in African elephants (Loxodonta africana) at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park. The accelerometer was worn simultaneously with a GPS unit that recorded actual walking distance. Estimates of walking distance were extrapolated from the accelerometer and compared with actual distances determined by GPS data. The accelerometer was found to overestimate step count, and subsequently walking distance, by including false counts of steps. Extrapolating walking distance based upon stride length measurements did not match actual GPS walking distance. However, activity level output from the accelerometer significantly correlated with actual GPS walking distance. In addition, we report that the rate of movement is comparable to that reported in other zoological settings. We provide a linear regression equation that can be utilized by other institutions to estimate daily walking distance of elephants in their collection who are outfitted with accelerometers.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A recurrent issue confronted by zoos is the extent to which animals living ex situ have life history profiles representative of those living in situ. The lengthy lifespan of African elephants hinders collecting proper comparative data, but enough information has been published to conduct preliminary analyses comparing the developmental profile of zoo and wild African elephants on their first day of life. We show that calves born in a zoo stand and walk on their own for the first time at the same age as those born in the wild. Calves born in the zoo take a little longer until first successful nursing, but the difference in age between wild and zoo is not statistically significant. Male and female calves born in zoos develop at the same pace, with data insufficient to compare with wild-born calves. We conclude maternal parity has an effect on the age of first nursing, but not on first standing or walking, because the initiation of suckling requires coordination between two animals. We suggest that available evidence indicates that calves born in the wild and in zoos develop at comparable rates.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Koalas specialize on Eucalyptus leaves, but also feed selectively. Food choice is not random, but depends on various factors that are not well understood, although most research has focused on the role of secondary plant compounds. We studied the feeding choices of four adult male koalas housed at the San Diego Zoo. All subjects had a choice of nine types of Eucalyptus leaves over the eight-week study. The most preferred species was E. camuldulensis, but individual males exhibited different feeding preferences. We conclude that food selectivity among koalas is probably due to multiple factors, rather than only a consequence of secondary plant chemicals. A combination of intrinsic factors, such as developmental trajectory and reproductive state, as well as extrinsic factors, such as leaf chemical fingerprint and moisture, probably interact to shape koala foraging preferences. Koalas forage almost exclusively on Eucalyptus species, but have evolved an adaptive flexibility, enabling them to exploit various Eucalyptus species.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Knowledge of the reproductive life history of giraffe in the wild is sparse. Giraffe have two fairly unusual reproductive patterns among large mammals: they can become pregnant while lactating, and calf mortality is extremely high. Longitudinal records are largely absent, so tracking reproductive parameters tends to combine information from captive and field studies. In this study, we examine longitudinal data obtained over a 33-year period in one population of Thornicroft’s giraffe in order to chart their reproductive careers. We found that age at first parturition was 6.4 years, or slightly later than in captivity. Giraffe bred throughout the year, with cows producing offspring on average every 677.7 days. About half of the calves died before one year of age, but death of a calf did not reduce interbirth interval. We conclude that the lifetime reproductive success of giraffe is more dependent on longevity and calf survivorship than on reproductive rate.RésuméLa connaissance de la biologie reproductive de la girafe dans la nature est lacunaire. La girafe présente deux schémas de reproduction plutôt inhabituels chez les grands mammifères : elles peuvent être fécondées tout en allaitant, et la mortalité du jeune est extrêmement élevée. On manque cruellement de rapports longitudinaux, c’est pourquoi la recherche des paramètres de la reproduction a tendance à combiner les informations provenant d’études réalisées en captivité et sur le terrain. Dans ce rapport, nous examinons les données longitudinales recueillies sur une période de 33 ans dans une population de girafes de Thornicroft afin de dresser le tableau de leur carrière reproductive. Nous avons découvert que l’âge de la première parturition était de 6,4 ans, ou légèrement plus tard en captivité. Les girafes se reproduisent toute l’année, et les femelles mettent bas en moyenne tous les 677,7 jours. Près de la moitié des jeunes meurent avant l’âge d’un an, mais la mort du jeune ne réduit pas l’intervalle entre deux naissances. Nous concluons que la réussite de la vie reproductive d’une girafe dépend davantage de sa longévité et de la survie des jeunes que du taux de reproduction.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Patas monkeys (Erythrocebus patas) have aquamarine-coloured scrota, but data are unavailable regarding the potential connection between changes in scrotal coloration and testicular function. In the rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta), seasonality of mating is accompanied by an intensification of red colour of the scrotum and a doubling of testicle size. A one-year study of male patas monkeys was undertaken in order to examine potential seasonal correlates of testicular function and scrotal colour. Increases in testosterone concentrations and testicular volume occurred during the mating season in adult males, but scrotal colour was fairly uniform throughout the year. Neither age, body weight, nor health influenced scrotal colour. These findings contradict the suggestion that the sex skin of seasonally breeding primates will become more intense during the mating season as a result of elevations in steroid hormone levels. Evidence from field studies in Africa suggest that the colour is part of a constellation of traits involved in male competition for mates.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Reproductive effort should negatively correlate with reproductive value, yielding a pattern of increased effort with age. According to the terminal investment hypothesis, females near the end of their reproductive life span should devote more resources to reproduction than those near the start of their reproductive careers. We tested predictions of the terminal investment hypothesis by evaluating 38 years of reproductive life-history data collected from Nile lechwe (Kobus megaceros), an ungulate species living at San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park. The maximum reproductive success of Nile lechwe matched predictions of models of lifetime reproductive effort, with the relative mass of newborn calves providing an accurate indicator of the costs of reproduction. Newborn mass was significantly correlated with maternal age, and neonatal males tended to be heavier than neonatal females. Older dams were more likely to produce sons than daughters, dams that produced sons were more likely to die than were dams tha
Journal of Mammalogy 01/2009; 90(1):40-46. · 2.31 Impact Factor