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Several riverine species in the insect order Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) are recognized as being of conservation concern in the Northeast. Along the Connecticut River, most data on these species have come from the southern portion of the river that passes through Connecticut and Massachusetts, while the northern portion has been poorly sampled until recently. In this paper, we summarize recent surveys along the Vermont—New Hampshire stretch of the river and place these in the context of known distributional data for the river as a whole. Our focus is on species typical of large rivers, with a particular focus on members of the family Gomphidae (clubtails). Also included is information on the first Vermont or New Hampshire records of three species—Enallagma antennatum, Enallagma durum, and Stylurus amnicola—and the first upper river records for several other species.
This study examined the genetic nature and relatedness of Canis latrans (Coyotes) in eastern Massachusetts (i.e., eastern Coyotes). We characterized 67 animals at the mitochondrial DNA control region, and 55 of those at 8 microsatellite loci. Structure analysis and factorial correspondence analysis of the microsatellite genotypes indicated that the eastern Coyotes in Massachusetts clustered with other northeastern Canis populations and away from western Coyotes, C. lycaon (Eastern Wolves), and C. lupus (Gray Wolves). They contained mitochondrial haplotypes from both western Coyotes and Eastern Wolves, consistent with their hybrid origin from these two species. There was no evidence of either C. lupus familiaris (Domestic Dog) or Gray Wolf mitochondrial DNA in the animals. These results indicate that the eastern Coyote should more appropriately be termed “Coywolf” to reflect their hybrid (C. latrans x lycaon) origin. Genetic data were also used to assess parental and kinship relationships, and confirmed that family units typically contain an unrelated breeding pair and their offspring. Lastly, a synthesis of knowledge of the eastern Coyote as well as implications for Wolf recovery in the northeast US is provided.
Way et al. (2010) define a “coywolf” population in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada that originated through hybridization between Canis lycaon (Eastern Wolf) and Canis latrans (Coyote), but they maintain that it is now genetically uniform and only minimally influenced by either parental species. An alternative interpretation of available data is that this northeastern Coyote population is genetically diverse, substantially more Coyote than Eastern Wolf in its genetic composition, and part of a larger population of Coyotes that interbreeds with a hybrid Coyote/Eastern Wolf population in southern Ontario and western Coyotes in western New York and Pennsylvania.
We examined 612 wild Neovison vison (Mink) carcasses collected during 1998–2002 from New York State for presence of Dioctophyme renale (Giant Kidney Worm). Twenty-three Mink (15 males and 8 females) contained the parasite in the right kidney. The percentage of infected Mink (3.8%) was considerably lower than was found in Ontario (48%) and Minnesota (27%), but higher than in Manitoba (1%) and North Dakota (<1%). We found a clustered distribution of Giant Kidney Worms in Mink; all infections were located in the northern and central areas of the state and were restricted to a few physiographic and hydrological regions. Left kidneys were enlarged in parasitized Mink, but other condition measures (body and omentum weights, body weight:length ratio, and hepatic metal concentrations) did not differ between infected and non-infected animals when adjusted for gender, age, and capture location. This assessment indicated that Giant Kidney Worms have a minimal impact on Mink health; however, it should be viewed with caution because animals severely affected by infection may have been less susceptible to trapping. Future research should focus on the impact of infections on long-term health and mortality of Mink and the ecological requirements of Giant Kidney Worms and hosts to understand why infections are clustered in certain areas.
Peromyscus leucopus (White-footed Mouse) use the 3-dimensional space of their habitat. We studied whether Cuterebra fontinella (Bot Fly) larvae affected rate of capture in traps set above ground compared to traps set on the ground in deciduous forests in Ohio and Georgia. Rates of infestation were nearly three-fold greater in Ohio than in Georgia. Infested animals were captured equally in traps on the ground and in traps 1.5 m above ground in Ohio, but were captured less frequently in traps on the ground than in traps 1.5 m above ground in Georgia. Sex of animals did not affect these results. Infested animals were not captured in traps 4.5 m above the ground in Georgia, suggesting a possible limit to use of vertical habitat space by infested mice.
Ondatra zibethicus (Muskrat) is one of the most widely distributed furbearers in eastern North America. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Muskrats are experiencing a regional decline in numbers, although little empirical evidence exists to support this claim. Our objectives were to document temporal trends in Muskrat harvest in eastern North America, and to use the relationship between harvest and pelt price to infer potential trends in regional Muskrat populations. Muskrat harvest has declined by approximately 75% since 1986 in eastern North America, despite a recent resurgence in pelt prices. Recent harvest rates showed little correlation (r2 = 0.355-0.559) with current or time-lagged pelt prices, despite large correlations (r2= 0.785-0.823) between pelt price and harvest from historic data (1948–1968). These results suggest that, at low harvest levels, there is only a weak correlation between harvest and pelt price. These results may be indicative of regional declines in Muskrat abundance, although future research is needed to substantiate this hypothesis.
In temperate ecosystems, hibernation allows bats to survive long periods of limited prey and water availability during colder months. Despite the extended amount of time some bats spend in hibernation, researchers have only recently been able to study the hibernation ecology of bats under natural conditions. With the emergence of white-nose syndrome (WNS), a mysterious disease presently killing large numbers of bats during the hibernation period in the northeastern United States, expanding our knowledge of hibernation ecology and natural history has become more crucial. To collect such data, we used temperature-sensitive radio transmitters and data loggers to monitor the skin temperatures (Tsk) of 6 bats (5 Myotis lucifugus [Little Brown Bat], and 1 Myotis septentrionalis [Northern Long-eared Bat]) hibernating in Mount Aeolus Cave, VT in late winter 2008. We recorded Tsk every 14 minutes for the life of the transmitters. We were able to monitor Tsk from near ambient temperatures to above 30 °C Arousals occurred immediately before the signals were lost and at a time of increased numbers of bats observed on the landscape, thereby suggesting the emergence (and subsequent death) of bats. Our observations provide first data on the hibernating ecology of WNS-affected bats under natural conditions.
Ozone is the most important air pollutant impacting forests of the northeastern United States, including Pennsylvania. Spatial and temporal patterns of ambient, ground-level ozone were studied during 2002–2004 within north-central Pennsylvania hardwood forests. Ground-level ozone was monitored at 20 remote, forested sites using passive (non-electric) ozone samplers. Ten monitoring sites were established at (relatively) low-elevation (<350 m) locations in valleys and ten sites were located at (relatively) high-elevation locations (>550 m) on mountains. Real-time electronic ozone analyzers were co-located with the passive samplers at three sites that had access to electricity. Spatial maps were developed illustrating gradients of ozone across the region. During all 3 years, ambient ozone levels were positively correlated with elevation (2002, ρ = 0.813, P < 0.001; 2003, ρ = 0.877, P < 0.001; and 2004, p = 0.518, P < 0.019). Native forests at higher, mountainous sites may be at risk from higher ambient levels of ozone, despite their perceived “pristine” location. Future field surveys, designed to evaluate ozone injury to native vegetation, will use spatial maps developed from this study.
The Hooper Branch Nature Preserve is located in the extensive dune and swale topography of the sand deposits of northeastern Illinois. The plant communities present at the time of this survey were similar to those of pre-settlement times. The vegetation associated with the dunes had not been disturbed except for past grazing; the swales, in contrast, were drained and farmed before the area was dedicated in 1986. Dry and dry-mesic sand savanna was associated with the dunes where Quercus velutina (Black Oak) accounted for 75% to 97% of the importance value in the savanna. Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania Sedge) was the dominant ground cover species usually followed by Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem). In parts of the preserve that had been most recently burned, woody species were more common in the ground layer, with the most important being Q. velutina seedlings, Rhus copallina (Dwarf Sumac), and Rubus allegheniensis (Common Blackberry). A 3-ha flatwoods in the Preserve was dominated by Q. palustris (Pin Oak), which accounted for nearly 95% of the overstory.
Forested parks are an urban oasis, and forest management plays an important part in their maintenance. I used a systematic sampling technique to quantify the vegetation and propagule bank in a small urban park prior to and following a forest management event. The number of non-forest species and the abundance of Toxicodendron radicans (Poison Ivy) increased after forest harvest. Distance from an edge did not affect the change in vegetation. In the propagule bank, loss of basal area in a plot was positively correlated with an increase in the percent of species that were non-forest and non-native. The Sørenson coefficient of community similarity comparing the species composition of the vegetation before and after harvest was 0.769 (out of 1.0), but that for the propagule bank was 0.308. Forest management practices in small urban parks should be designed with extreme caution due to the volatile settings of these refuges.
The vernal pool fairy shrimp Eubranchipus vernalis (Eastern Fairy Shrimp) is an obligate freshwater invertebrate that is an important member of northeastern United States vernal pool ecosystems. The extent of gene flow among populations of vernal pool fairy shrimp in the Northeast is currently unknown, yet this information is important for understanding the ecology and evolution of this species. In order to infer the level of gene flow among E. vernalis populations, we used mtDNA sequence data to estimate the level of genetic divergence and the pattern of geographic variation among 22 vernal pool populations sampled across Massachusetts during spring 2003. We found significant differences among vernal pool populations in the frequency of unique mtDNA sequences, but no coherent geographic pattern in the distribution of these sequences, and there was no significant correlation between levels of genetic divergence and geographic distance. We argue that these results reflect priority effects rather than limited dispersal among these populations.
Animals facilitate macrophyte seed dispersal in various ways despite specializations of macrophytes for water dispersal. Previous diet analyses of freshwater aquatic turtles revealed that several North American turtle species consume a variety and abundance of seeds among other plant material and animal prey. We quantified the dietary habits of Chrysemys picta picta (Eastern Painted Turtle) in a Massachusetts lake to examine if these animals included hydrophyte seeds in their diet and evaluate their capacity as passive seed-dispersal agents. Fifty-four turtles were trapped and housed to collect feces. Examination of feces revealed a diverse diet with comparatively high frequencies of animal, plant, and algal matter. Eight hundred fifty-seven seeds of at least nine plant species were egested (among 87% of turtles), with all but five (99%) seeds visibly intact. Seeds of Nuphar (473) and Decodon (305) were most abundant in the feces. Life-history characteristics of both C. p. picta and Nuphar suggest an effective endozoochorous seed dispersal association.
The freshwater sports fishery of Prince Edward Island (PEI) revolves largely around three salmonid species—Salvelinus fontinalis (Brook Trout), Salmo salar (Atlantic Salmon), and the nonnative Oncorhynchus mykiss (Rainbow Trout). However, little is known about their current distribution and relative abundance on the Island. Of particular concern is the status of Atlantic Salmon, whose populations have declined dramatically in other parts of the Maritimes and are listed as “may be at risk” on PEI. We systematically sampled 69 streams with suitable juvenile salmonid habitat (riffle with gravel/cobble substrate), to provide baseline data concerning the population status of these three species. Brook Trout were found in all 69 streams, with a median density of 78.3 fish per 100 m2. Atlantic Salmon were found in 23 sites, at a median density of 11.6 fish per 100 m2. Rainbow Trout were found in only 19 streams, but at slightly higher densities of 16.2 fish per 100 m2. Present day distribution and abundance of all three species on the Island have been influenced by habitat modification and degradation.
A population of Channa argus (Northern Snakehead) has been established in the Potomac River catchment, VA and MD, for approximately ten years, and is increasing rapidly in abundance. Little is known about life-history strategies of this species in North American environments. We report the first discovery of a Northern Snakehead nest in North America and discuss some of its nesting habits. Adult Northern Snakeheads constructed a circular nest in a patch of dense Hydrilla verticillata (Hydrilla) by clipping stems, thus creating a canopy of floating plants. They laid eggs atop floating stems, and larvae hatched within three days. Both male and female parents were observed guarding the eggs and fry in the nest. Parents also continuously guarded the school of fry as they dispersed from the nest. Prolonged schooling behavior after leaving the nest accompanied parental guarding for up to several weeks. Floating nests and parental care likely increase reproductive success in a tidally influenced ecosystem with abundant predators. These factors contribute to the ability of Northern Snakehead to persist and spread in North America. Based on our findings, nests will likely be located in areas of the Potomac River that are low to no flow, moderately shallow, and highly vegetated.
Martes americana (American Marten) is reported to eat a diverse diet, including mammals, invertebrates, and plants. Despite this variety, we found no reference to tree sap in its diet. Here, we describe two separate incidents of an American Marten feeding on sap from active sap wells made by Sphyrapicus varius L. (Yellow-bellied Sapsucker). To our knowledge, these are the first recorded observations of martens feeding on sap from sap wells.
The highly variable and strongly sexually dimorphic crane fly Tanyptera dorsalis (Antlered Crane Fly) is reported as a new state record from Michigan. The geographic distribution of the species and its biology are summarized, and a photograph of an adult of each sex is provided.
New records of a rare dragonfly, Stylurus plagiatus, are described from the Hudson River estuary in eastern New York State. Breeding occurred primarily in tidal mudflats; however, in other parts of its range, this species is known to use a broader array of habitat types. As a southerly species at its northern range margin, populations of S.plagiatus in eastern New York are likely to be temperature-limited, although other factors, such as shoreline habitat integrity and dispersal behavior, may also play a role in defining its range limits.