Laboratory of Animal Behaviour and Conservation

About the lab

Welcome to the Laboratory of Animal Behaviour and Conservation at Nanjing Forestry University. Here, we primarily focus on animal behaviour and the conservation of species in general.

For updates on life in the lab, please head this way:

Featured projects (1)

Knowledge on the distribution, behaviour, ecology and habitat preferences of a species is critical for its conservation. For instance, when the entire range of a species is threatened by habitat modification, the risk of extinction increases exponentially. As a result, the assessment of extinction risks is based on threat levels, which may guide optimal conservation efforts to prevent extinction. The lack of knowledge on species' distributions has already resulted in extinctions that could have been easily avoided. The behavioural ecology of most herp species is still undescribed in North East Asia, and no precise distribution maps have been drawn. This lack of knowledge, in relation with the increasing threats to reptiles and amphibians through rapid urbanisation and deforestation will result in the inability to conserve species adequately. The purpose of this project is to scientifically document the distribution, behaviour, ecology and conservation status of all amphibian and reptile species in North East Asia. Anyone interested in joining the project and collaborating is most welcome. All data points have values, and making them accessible during species assessment and political decisions can only help conservation in the long term.

Featured research (74)

For wildlife to be protected, it must first be known, as species that are not yet formally described are not the target of conservation attention, independently of threat levels. While habitat degradation has consistently increased across the last decades in the Republic of Korea, taxonomic and conservation efforts are lagging. For instance, a clade of Onychodactylus clawed salamanders from the extreme southeast of the Korean Peninsula is known to have diverged circa 6.82 million years ago from its sister species O. koreanus, and despite the candidate species status of this lineage, its extremely restricted range is under intense anthropogenic pressure. Here, through the use of genetics, morphometrics and landscape modelling, we confirm the species status of the southeast Korean Onychodactylus population. We then proceed to determine threats, habitat loss and risk of extinction based on climatic models under different Representative Concentration Pathways and following the IUCN Red List categories and criteria. We highlight a decrease in the extent of occurrence between 87.6% and 97.3 % within the next three generations based on several climate change scenarios, a decline high enough for the species to be listed as Critically Endangered based on the category A3 of the IUCN Red List of species. Our results will enable the development of protection programs and legitimise citizen activities protecting the population. A conservation action plan is a priority to coordinate the activities linked to the protection of the species.
Background: Most amphibians use a repertoire of acoustic signals to propagate signals in social contexts. The description of these repertoires provides a key towards the understanding of the behaviour of individuals and the evolutionary functions of calls. Here, we assessed the variations in advertisement calls within and between two fossorial sympatric species, Uperodon systoma and Uperodon globulosus, that share their breeding season and breeding sites. For each species, we applied Beecher’s index of total information capacity (HS) for the individual vocal signature, determined the difference in call properties and demonstrated the segregation in the calling microhabitat niche between the two species. Results: Our results demonstrated that the advertisement calls of U. systoma are pulsatile with a call rate of 3.00 ± 0.97 calls per second while those of U. globulosus are not pulsatile with a lower call rate of 0.53 ± 0.22 calls per second. For both species, the variations in call properties among individuals was higher than that within individual, a pattern consistent with that of other fossorial anurans. The body condition and air temperature did not significantly impact the call properties of either species. The outcome of the Beecher’s index (HS) showed that the calls of U. systoma can be used to identify 14 different individuals and the calls of U. globulosus can be used to identify 26 different individuals. The statistical analyses on the advertisement call of the two species showed a significant difference in the temporal properties as the call duration, and fall time and rise time were significantly different between the two species. Lastly, we successfully demonstrated that there is a clear segregation in calling site microhabitat between the two species, where U. globulosus calls floating close to the bank of the waterbody while U. systoma calls floating further away from the bank. Conclusion: This study highlights the potential for pre-mating isolation, character displacement and assortative mating in two syntopic fossorial anurans, leading to association between acoustic, calling microhabitat niche and body index divergence as important behavioural and ecological traits. Keywords: Acoustic segregation — microhabitat partitioning — assortative mating — individual vocal distinctiveness— sympatric species — syntopic species — vocal behaviour — behavioural ecology
Amphibians are the most threatened vertebrate group on earth, and one of the reasons for their decline is habitat loss. While some populations have persisted in agricultural wetlands such as rice paddies, the current anthropisation of landscapes is dealing a new blow to the survival of these species. In rice paddies, the new threats are especially visible through the increased channelisation of water bodies with increasingly efficient drainage ditches, which become deadly traps. We first conducted surveys over three years to determine the use of ditches by frog species for natural versus concrete ditches, and thus relate to habitat adequacy as well as the probability of becoming trapped in concrete ditches. We then set up four types of experimental arena for escape trials. Experiments were replicated for the Black-spotted pond frog (Pelophylax nigromaculatus), as a proxy for other species abundant in rice paddies in the Republic of Korea. We determined that a slope of at least 70 degree, with engraved patterns on the leaning edge was the only set-up from which frogs managed to escape. We recommend the implementation of this type of device in areas where a high concentration of animals is trapped, before phasing out the ancient design and relying on amphibian-friendly drainage ditches as they also support higher amphibian biodiversity
Populations of the Black-faced spoonbill (Platalea minor) declined importantly until the 1990’s, before a slow but consistent increase in population size in response to successful conservation efforts. Specific sites have been specifically designed to be adequate breeding areas for the species, and these land-based locations are successfully used. Here we report on the arboreal nesting of P. minor, a behaviour that is only rarely reported and is not generally present in the scientific literature for the species. A literature search however revealed that all other Platalea species are opportunistic arboreal breeders, and this little observed behaviour in P. minor may be prevalent in specific contexts. Several pairs of P. minor were observed nesting on trees on Yu Islet (37.775°N, 126.534°E), in May 2020 and this behaviour may have consequences for the conservation of the species as it implies that nesting individuals can avoid competition with other ground breeding species, and avoid flooding, a stochastic event having a significant impact on nesting P. minor.
Knowledge of biodiversity before species become extinct is paramount to conservation, especially when the relevant species are far from their expected distribution and, thus, likely overlooked. Here, we describe a new Kurixalus species corresponding to a range extension of Kurixalus on the Asian mainland, with the closest population in Taiwan. The species diverged from its closest relative during the Late Pliocene to Pleistocene, ca. 3.06 Mya (HPD 95%: 5.82-0.01), based on calibrations with a relaxed clock species tree of unlinked mtDNA 12S rRNA and nuclear DNA TYR. The status of the newly-described species is also supported by a divergence in call properties and morphometrics. We named the species described here as Kurixalus inexpectatus sp. nov. due to the nature of the discovery, as well as the adjunct distribution of the species relative to its closest congeners. The species was found in Zhejiang Province and it represents a range extension of 663 km for the Kurixalus genus.

Lab head

Amaël Borzée
  • College of Biology and the Environment
About Amaël Borzée
  • I’m leading the Laboratory of Animal Behaviour and Conservation, where we focus on a broad range of species and systems. Projects were so far focused on the behavioural ecology and conservation of amphibians in East Asia (with a personal preference for treefrogs), but this is changing and you are welcome to inquire, maintaining a focus on northeast Asia. I am also Deputy Chair for the IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, and board member of the Society for Conservation Biology - Asia section.

Members (7)

Yoon Hyuk Bae
  • Nanjing Forestry University
Yoonjung Yi
  • Nanjing Forestry University
Yucheol Shin
  • Kangwon National University
Siti N. Othman
  • Nanjing Forestry University
Vishal Kumar Prasad
  • Laboratory of Animal Behaviour and Conservation
Marjan Maria
  • Jagannath University - Bangladesh
Hina Amin
  • Nanjing Forestry University
Lab Member
Lab Member
  • Not confirmed yet

Alumni (1)

Johanna Ambu
  • Nanjing Forestry University