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The Piedmont physiographic province in southeastern North America generally comprises a large gap between low montane and Coastal Plain breeding populations of Limnothlypis swainsonii (Swainson's Warbler). I conducted land-based surveys of singing males during spring 2017–2018 in late-successional bottomland hardwood forests along and adjacent to accessible areas of the Great Pee Dee River in the Lower Piedmont of Anson and Richmond counties, NC. I located 38–41 territorial males each year and in 2018 measured 12 territories where birds were present both years. Arundinaria spp. (cane) culm counts among the 4 shrub subplots across all plots were low (median = 694/ha), and cane was absent from half of the 12 plots. In contrast, the dense understory within bottomland hardwood forests occupied by Swainson's Warblers was generally dominated by Ligustrum sinense (Chinese Privet). Chinese Privet was present in all plots and had high understory-stem counts (median = 32,539/ha), 55% of the total of the median of all small woody stems and cane culm counts (59,325/ha). Despite the replacement of native shrubs and cane by the riparian invasive Chinese Privet, this latter median count exceeds the recommended minimum count of understory-stems and culms (∼40,000/ha) for Swainson's Warbler breeding territories. This is the first study to document anywhere within Swainson's Warbler breeding range that Chinese Privet constitutes the most important habitat characteristic in bottomland hardwood forests. This study is also the first anywhere within the Piedmont to document that Swainson's Warbler is locally fairly common at the edge of their range along the Great Pee Dee River of North Carolina.
Captive propagation of fishes to achieve a variety of management goals is common and is increasingly included in recovery plans for imperiled species. Here, we present a protocol for the captive propagation of Etheostoma raneyi (Yazoo Darter) and summarize early life-history information. From 9 males and 17 females, we collected >1000 larvae, of which >83% survived to the juvenile stage. Water temperature during spawning was 15.6–21 °C and larval production peaked at 17.2–20.6 °C. Spawning abruptly ceased when daily high water temperatures exceeded 21 °C for 3 consecutive days. Newly hatched larvae were able to swim vigorously, were pelagic, and were about 4.4–4.5 mm total length (TL). Compared to other darter species, the Yazoo Darter is among the easiest to propagate, and the protocol presented should be suitable to meet most management goals. The protocol also provides a sound basis for the development of species-specific captive-propagation techniques for ≥17 closely related and imperiled snubnose darters.
Very little is known about the nesting ecology of Catharus fuscescens (Veery) breeding at a low-latitude range limit in the southern Appalachians. Between 2017 and 2018, we monitored 34 Veery nests in the mountains of North Carolina. Veery nests were generally placed low to the ground in a variety of substrates, predominantly Rhododendron maximum (Rhododendron) and Gaylussacia spp. (huckleberry); however, estimates of daily nest survival did not vary by the nest-site characteristics we measured. The daily nest survival estimate of 0.925 and estimated overall success rate of 13% are lower than most reports from farther north in the Veery's range, but the reasons for the low nest survival at the southern edge are unclear. This study provides the first report of the nesting ecology of Veeries in the southern Appalachians, and our work suggests the need to determine why Veeries in this region are declining and moving upslope.
Since first confirmation of nesting in 1987, there has been a steady southward expansion of breeding Tachycineta bicolor (Tree Swallow) in Alabama. Using 220 breeding season occurrence records, we performed a breakpoint analysis to quantify the breeding expansion rate of Tree Swallows in the state. Between 1988 and 2013, our models indicated Tree Swallows expanded ∼130 km south at a mean rate of 5.2 km/year. Possible drivers of this southward expansion include increased artificial nest box availability, aerial insect declines in more northern historic ranges, changing climate, and altered land-management practices. Our findings indicate Tree Swallows are following a similar southward breeding expansion pattern to that exhibited by Hirundo rustica (Barn Swallow) and Petrochelidon pyrrhonota (Cliff Swallow) in recent decades.
Etheostoma trisella (Trispot Darter), previously thought extirpated in Alabama, was recently rediscovered. Although robust sampling was conducted in the areas surrounding the newly discovered population, more sampling is needed to document previously unknown populations. We took empirical sampling and water samples for eDNA analysis at 30 sites throughout the potential range of Trispot Darter in the Coosa River drainage, AL. We conducted sampling during late winter breeding season, when adults migrate to small headwater streams to spawn, at sites chosen from known breeding sites in St. Clair County through tributaries to Weis Reservoir in Cherokee County. Positive detection occurred at 4/30 (1.3%) sites. Trispot Darter was not detected using empirical sampling.
The African Jewelfish, Hemichromis letourneuxi, is an invasive, predatory cichlid fish introduced at least once to Florida. Its native range is in northern Africa. First encountered in Miami in the 1960s, it has since been found west and north within the State of Florida. It thrives in a wide range of aquatic habitats, including shallow, vegetated or rocky areas of canals, tidal creeks, rivers, and marshes. We generated mitochondrial DNA sequences from 6 Florida localities, and 1 Mexico population. The resulting tree describes recent historical relationships among populations. Nearly all Florida populations of African Jewelfish are intermixed, supporting a single invasion, with one possible exception: samples from the Tampa Bay locality are distinct and may represent a separate introduction. Samples obtained from the Mexico locality, previously identified as Hemichromis guttatus (Spotted Jewelfish), appear to be genetically identical to, and indistinguishable from the H. letourneuxi sampled in Florida localities.
Although animal reintroductions are commonly used for conservation, documented successes with imperiled rodents are limited. Most Neotoma (woodrat) reintroduction attempts have released small numbers of individuals and either failed to establish populations or required frequent management for populations to persist. The translocation of 422 N. floridana (Eastern Woodrat) to 5 sites in the southeastern tip of Illinois during 2003–2009 and 172 Eastern Woodrats to 2 southern Illinois state parks during 2013–2014 are the only woodrat reintroductions to date with >50 individuals released per site. We evaluated the success of these Illinois reintroductions by comparing Eastern Woodrat abundance and evidence of reproduction to published performance indicators. During 2012–2014, we captured 436 individual Eastern Woodrats and observed signs of reproduction in 63% of females from the southeastern tip of Illinois and captured Eastern Woodrats nearly 9 km from release sites. In 2017, we captured 52 Eastern Woodrats at Illinois state parks and observed signs of reproduction in 73% of females. Our findings indicate that the 2003–2009 Eastern Woodrat reintroduction and a 2013–2014 Eastern Woodrat reintroduction can be considered successful (all performance indicators met), while the other 2013–2014 Eastern Woodrat reintroduction can be considered potentially successful (1 out of 2 performance indicators met). Our study adds to the sparse information on successful rodent reintroductions that managers can use to inform structured decision making for future conservation and management actions.
Factory Creek is a major tributary to Shoal Creek (Tennessee River drainage) and drains 311 km2 in Lawrence and Wayne counties, TN. We conducted a fish survey of Factory Creek in 2017 and calculated index of biotic integrity (IBI) scores using the “30 + 2” sampling method of the Geological Survey of Alabama for Tennessee River Valley streams. Our collections yielded 58 fish species, with a mean of 27 species per collection and with Erimyzon claviformis (Western Creek Chubsucker) reported for the first time from Factory Creek. Including historical records, the known fish fauna of Factory Creek comprises 75 species. Index scores varied from 42 to 58 out of 60 (good to excellent) with a mean of 52 (excellent), which reflects a relatively undisturbed and intact fish community. Factory Creek is located in the Pickwick Lake subbasin, a hotspot for aquatic biodiversity in the southeastern United States. Because much of Factory Creek has excellent IBI conditions, we recommend continued biological monitoring and adherence to best land-use management practices to ensure proactive conservation of the fish fauna.
Effective protection of habitats for rare or declining species depends on a fundamental understanding of species' movements and space use. We studied the spatial ecology of 2 populations of Clemmys guttata (Spotted Turtle) in southeastern Georgia. We attached radio transmitters to 29 individuals and located them for a 9-month (April–December) period during 2016. We found that home ranges of individual Spotted Turtles were generally small, varying from 0.38 to 6.14 ha at Site 1 and from 0.39 to 8.21 ha at Site 2 (95% minimum convex polygon estimates). Estimates for the space used by the population as a whole varied from 26.7 to 49.4 ha at Site 1 and 11.1 to 14.5 ha at Site 2. Movement distances decreased from ∼15 m/day during the spring to <5 m/day in late summer and fall. Our results indicate that some Spotted Turtle populations in Georgia utilize relatively small areas of interconnected wetland complexes. Protecting wetland complexes along with the surrounding upland habitat will allow Spotted Turtle populations to move between wetlands and exploit riparian areas during certain times of the year without suffering the negative effects of fragmentation.
Restoration of the Everglades is an ambitious endeavor to revitalize its communities and ecosystem health, but there remain gaps in our understanding of mammal communities due to lack of long-term data synthesis. Using secondary data from long-term surveys, this study examines the potential impacts of changes in hydrological management on mammal communities within a state wildlife management area in the northern Everglades. The installation of a pump station in 1991 began a 15-year period of active water management associated with hydrological restoration. Infrastructural damage in late 2005 resulted in 9 years of no significant active inflows. I calculated non-cervid mammal encounter rates from data gathered during perimeter levee surveys over a 10-year period. Mammal encounter rates showed a strong declining trend during the time after the pump failure. A similar analysis for an adjacent management area, which did not suffer an interruption in pump inflows, also showed a decline in mammal encounter rates. In addition, I replicated a small-mammal trapping survey conducted in the mid 1990s. Results showed a decline in diversity of small mammals in the focal area. Recent confirmation of Python molurus (Burmese Python) in the area and the expansion of Canis latrans (Coyote) are likely to have played a role in these apparent declines. Thus, establishing baseline estimates of relative abundance are critical for conservation efforts. With increasingly limited resources, it is important to maximize the utility of data that has already been collected.
Myotis grisescens (Gray Bat) and Myotis austroriparius (Southeastern Bat) generally do not utilize similar habitats; however, in areas of range overlap where they both may be captured foraging in riparian areas or observed roosting in caves, it may be difficult to discriminate between them due to contradictory information found in mammal identification guides. In order to find characteristics that can reliably be used to identify these species, we examined museum specimens and live-captured individuals to obtain data on length of toe hairs, point of attachment of the plagiopatagium to the foot or ankle, forearm length, and the presence or absence of notches on the claws of feet and thumbs. The presence or absence of a notch in the claws and forearm length were found to be the most objective methods of identifying these species.
Three morphotypes of Tipularia discolor (Cranefly Orchid) occur sympatrically in the piedmont of North Carolina, producing leaves with upper (adaxial) surfaces that are either green, purple, or green with purple spots; all leaves exhibit bright purple lower (abaxial) surfaces. The basis for differences in coloration between individuals in this species is unknown. Because leaf purpling is often a sign of physiological stress, we hypothesized that adaxially purple and/or spotted individuals would exhibit reduced photosynthetic capacity compared to adaxially green individuals, and that adaxially purple tissues would exhibit symptoms of shade acclimation relative to adaxially green tissues (consistent with a photoprotective function of anthocyanin pigments). We made the following measurements on samples of the 3 morphotypes: photosynthetic response to light and intercellular CO2, monthly photosynthetic gas exchange and chlorophyll fluorescence, and quantification of foliar pigments (chlorophylls, xanthophylls, and anthocyanins). Inconsistent with both hypotheses, the 3 morphotypes did not differ in any of the parameters measured, except anthocyanin content. Furthermore, corms continued to produce leaves with the same pigment patterns in subsequent years, even when sunlight, fertilizer, and water were controlled for in a greenhouse setting. We conclude that leaf purpling and spotting in Cranefly Orchid are most likely not related to physiological stress, and are more likely genetic in nature, perhaps representing alternative phenotypic adaptations related to herbivory defense.
We observed interspecific aggression between a Hoary Bat (Lasiurus cinereus) and a Tricolored Bat (Perimyotis subflavus) along the Buffalo River in northern Arkansas in September 2016. The Hoary Bat presumably captured the Tricolored Bat and repeatedly bit its forearm and facial tissues while on the ground. The Tricolored Bat did not survive the encounter. Interspecific aggression has been observed in Hoary Bats previously and has occasionally been linked to rabies infection. Because of the circumstantial nature of our observation, we were unable to draw specific conclusions as to the nature of this behavior.
Salvinia molesta (Giant Salvinia) is a highly problematic, non-native, invasive species in the southeastern United States. Other than introduced biological control agents, observations of natural enemies to Giant Salvinia are rare within the United States. We observed a native crayfish, Procambarus clarkii (Red Swamp Crayfish), feeding on Giant Salvinia in outdoor ponds that are typically utilized for mass-rearing Cyrtobagous salviniae (Salvinia Weevil), a Giant Salvinia biological control agent. Red Swamp Crayfish consumed the roots and leaves of Giant Salvinia, which greatly reduced its biomass. To our knowledge this is the first documented observation of the Red Swamp Crayfish consuming Giant Salvinia. This observation increases our knowledge about species that can consume Giant Salvinia and is a potential new pest of concern for managers of Salvinia Weevil rearing operations.
Shrikes (Family Laniidae) are songbirds that are known for their behavior of impaling prey, and in parts of the southern United States, Lanius ludovicianus (Loggerhead Shrike) is relatively common in urban areas. Here we describe the first case of a shrike scavenging and caching an anthropogenic food item. On 12 May 2018 in an urban setting in Port Allen, LA, we observed a Loggerhead Shrike scavenge a fully cooked piece of bacon from a hotel parking lot and cache it in a Lagerstroemia indica (Crapemyrtle). Although a single observation, we believe it warrants further research to assess the prevalence of shrikes scavenging anthropogenic food items and, overall, how urbanization affects Loggerhead Shrike behavior, individual fitness, and populations.