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Scaphirhynchus albus (Pallid Sturgeon) and S. platorynchus (Shovelnose Sturgeon) are sympatric and not uncommon in the lower Mississippi River from the confluence of the Ohio River to the Gulf of Mexico, and in its distributary, the Atchafalaya River. Reports of sturgeon larvae have been rare in the Mississippi River but have been increasing with more effective collection methods. A suite of characters identified in hatchery-reared larval Pallid Sturgeon and Shovelnose Sturgeon from the Yellowstone and upper Missouri rivers has been used to distinguish larval Scaphirhynchus spp. In the Mississippi River; however, a large proportion of wild Scaphirhynchus spp. larvae are intermediate in these characters and have been identified by some as hybridized Pallid Sturgeon and Shovelnose Sturgeon. We applied three diagnostic characters developed from Missouri River sturgeon larvae to hatchery-reared progeny of Atchafalaya River Pallid Sturgeon and found them inadequate to identify most of the known Pallid sturgeon larvae. Additionally, fewer than 10% of a large sample of wild Scaphirhynchus spp. larvae from the lower Mississippi River conformed to either Pallid Sturgeon or Shovelnose Sturgeon at two or more of the characters. We also found a small mouth width relative to head width and a concave forward barbel position may be useful for the identification of 30% or more Scaphirhynchus spp. larvae and postlarval young-of-year as Shovelnose Sturgeon. Established adult character indices and diagnostic measurement proportionalities also failed to correctly identify any hatchery-reared Pallid Sturgeon juveniles recaptured 6–7 years following their release.
The Little Choctawhatchee River watershed is currently affected by effluents from wastewater treatment plants and may be subject to impoundment as a water supply reservoir. We used historical data from the literature and the results of recent surveys (2006–2008) to assess past and current patterns of the diversity of mussels, crayfishes, and fishes throughout the river basin in order to gain information about the past and potential future effects of degraded water and habitat quality to the fauna of this region. Our results suggest that mussel assemblages have declined dramatically from historical levels, with only three of the eleven historically recorded species found. Several statelisted mussel species and candidates for federal protection formerly present are now believed extirpated from the watershed. Fish and crayfish collections during 2006–2008 were more diverse (52 and 6 species) than historical records indicated (39 and 3 species). This increased diversity was probably due to a more concentrated sampling effort in the current study than in the past. Future impoundment may cause further and possibly drastic changes to the remaining freshwater faunal diversity.
How gut capacity and digesta loads vary with unpredictable forage quality and abundance has not been examined in ruminants. Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer) should have greater rumen-reticulum capacity during drought years to accommodate heavier digesta loads due to diets that contain a greater fraction of indigestible material. In contrast, in years with above-average precipitation, digesta loads should be lighter due to a greater fraction of digestible material in the diet which would result in less need for a large rumen-reticulum capacity. Data were collected from White-tailed Deer obtained during October, 2006–2008, from a 214-ha enclosure at the Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area, Mason County, TX. Digesta load, liver weights (used as a proxy to indicate metabolic workload), empty rumen-reticulum organ weights, and rumen-reticulum volume were measured. Findings, adjusted for body weight, indicated that in the year with above-average precipitation, liver weights and rumen-reticulum capacity were less than in drought years. Although the influence of year on rumen-reticulum organ weight, adjusted for body weight, was not statistically significant, graphical representation did show a trend that followed yearly precipitation. Digesta loads, adjusted for body weight, progressively increased over the study, which did not coincide with changes in precipitation. Overall, this study provided information on how rumen-reticulum attributes change with environmental heterogeneity across years.
Timing of epiphyseal closure determines length of long bones and thus body size, but factors affecting epiphyseal closure in Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer) have not been conclusively quantified. We collected morphometric data and radiographic images of the distal humerus, proximal radius, distal radius, and metacarpus on approximately 0.5-, 1.5-, 2.5-, and 3.5-year-old optimally nourished captive deer. Age affected closure of distal radial and metacarpal epiphyseal plates (P < 0.001), with all individuals exhibiting epiphyseal closure by 3.5 years of age. Gender affected closure of the distal radial epiphyseal plates (P = 0.036), with females closing prior to males. Differential bone growth rate prior to epiphyseal closure may be one mechanism by which individual and cohort phenotypic effects are manifested in cervids.
Physiological and morphological indices are useful for determining condition of Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer; hereafter deer) and are important for deer management. However, information about deer condition in nutrient-deficient habitat types is sparse. Pocosins have a low nutritional plane and are characterized by deep, acidic, peat soils with a dense shrub layer that provides little or no hard and soft mast. In July 2008 and March 2009, we collected a total of 60 female deer (30 from each period) from a 31,565-ha pocosin forest managed intensively for Pinus taeda (Loblolly Pine) in coastal North Carolina. We recorded whole weight, eviscerated weight, spleen and adrenal gland weights, and kidney fat index (KFI). Abomasal parasite counts (APC) and femur marrow fat index (MFI) were determined post-collection in the laboratory, and blood samples were analyzed for packed cell volume and standard serum chemistries. Serum chemistries were within expected ranges, with the exception of elevated potassium concentrations. The KFI and MFI were within levels reported in the literature, and APC levels did not indicate heavy parasite loads. Spleen (t58 = 0.69, P = 0.492) and adrenal gland weights (t58 = 1.46, P = 0.151) were similar between periods. Our results provide baseline physiological data for deer in a nutrient-deficient habitat type. Though managers need to consider nutritional plane of particular habitat types, our results indicate that deer can achieve normal body weights and maintain body condition in nutrient-deficient sites.
The vegetation of Martha's Meadow (Berry College, Floyd County, GA) is distinct from that of surrounding flatwood areas and appears to be floristically similar to a limestone glade community. Limestone (cedar) glades of the southeastern United States are characterized by high species richness and diversity, calcareous soil, and up to 26 endemic or near-endemic indicator species. To describe the vegetation of Martha's Meadow and to determine its affinity to other limestone-based communities, a comprehensive species survey was augmented by quantitative surveys in May, July, and October of 2006. A total of 203 species in 56 families were identified, including nine limestoneassociated species designated as rare in the state of Georgia. Juniperus virginiana, a key species associated with glade communities, was important in both the overstory and the understory. Other important overstory species included Pinus taeda, Quercus shumardii, Q. muehlenbergii, and Ostrya virginiana. The perennial grass Danthonia spicata, the southeastern sedge Carex cherokeensis, and the herb Verbesina virginica, which is commonly associated with alkaline soils, were among the most important understory species, but no well-recognized limestone glade endemics were found. Two invasive grasses (Festuca subverticillata and Microstegium vimineum) were also among the most important understory species. Several ordination and clustering methods were used to compare the community structure of Martha's Meadow with data sets derived from other open calcareous and non-calcareous habitats throughout the southeastern and mid-western United States. Regardless of method, Martha's Meadow appeared to be most similar to several well-recognized Georgia limestone glades. While Martha's Meadow has some characteristics of edaphically determined limestone glades, it also lacks some characteristic traits (e.g., key limestone endemic species), making definitive classification tenuous. Evidence of on-going succession involving woody species suggests that the site might be best classified as a xeric limestone prairie (barrens) that requires disturbance or active management to maintain canopy openness and understory diversity.
Herpetofauna have declined globally, and monitoring is a useful approach to document local and long-term changes. However, monitoring efforts often fail to account for detectability or follow standardized protocols. We performed a case study at Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve in Cary, NC to model occupancy of focal species and demonstrate a replicable long-term protocol useful to parks and nature preserves. From March 2010 to 2011, we documented occupancy of Ambystoma opacum (Marbled Salamander), Plethodon cinereus (Red-backed Salamander), Carphophis amoenus (Eastern Worm Snake), and Diadophis punctatus (Ringneck Snake) at coverboard sites and estimated breeding female Ambystoma maculatum (Spotted Salamander) abundance via dependent double-observer egg-mass counts in ephemeral pools. Temperature influenced detection of both Marbled and Red-backed Salamanders. Based on egg-mass data, we estimated Spotted Salamander abundance to be between 21 and 44 breeding females. We detected 43 of 53 previously documented herpetofauna species. Our approach demonstrates a monitoring protocol that accounts for factors that influence species detection and is replicable by parks or nature preserves with limited resources.
In recent years, silivicultural methods have shifted away from clearcut harvesting towards greater retention of overstory trees through part or all of a rotation. However, little is known about the effects of partial harvesting on wildlife populations. Thus, we examined effects of high-leave shelterwood management on terrestrial salamanders prior to and after an initial harvest and a subsequent overstory removal harvest (ORH) 13 years later. On an experimental research site in southwestern Virginia, we compared changes in salamander captures in this plot to a clearcut and control plot 1994–1996 and 2007–2009. Compared to contemporaneous estimates from an unharvested control, salamander captures were lower on shelterwood and clearcut plots 2-years after the initial harvest (1996) and lower on the shelterwood plot 1- and 2-years after the ORH (2008, 2009). Captures of the most common species, Plethodon cinereus (Eastern Red-backed Salamanders), followed similar trends with fewer captures in both harvested plots 2-years after the initial harvest (1996), but only the ORH differed from the control 2-years after the second partial harvest (2009). Abundance of woody debris was greater in the shelterwood following the ORH but was more decayed in the control plot. The regenerating clearcut (14 years post-harvest) had deeper leaf litter and denser understory vegetation than the ORH. These data are some of the first available describing effects of multiple harvest entries on terrestrial salamanders and suggest cumulative negative impacts on salamanders may occur from partial harvesting systems. More long-term monitoring of salamander populations is justified in silvicultural systems with multiple entries within a rotation.
Gastrophryne carolinensis (Eastern Narrow-mouthed Toad) is known to be an ant specialist, but prey identification has rarely progressed beyond family level. There are no prey records from Florida scrub, a rare upland habitat type. This study identifies species of 4859 individual ants retrieved from stomachs of 146 G. carolinensis collected in Florida scrub. All toads had consumed ants; ants comprised about 95% of all food items. Forty-three species of ants were recorded. About 77% were various species of Pheidole or Nylanderia. The ants consumed were mostly small (4 mm or less in length) and nocturnally active. Species that were eaten belong to ant genera known to contain venoms, chemical repellents, or other organic substances in exocrine glands. This finding suggests the possibility that Narrow-mouthed Toads have opportunities to sequester exocrine secretions of ants, in the manner of some other anurans. The diversity of ant species consumed by G. carolinensis suggests that this species might be able to subsist on disturbed-site ants, including exotic species such as Solenopsis invicta.
We sampled ground beetles (Coleoptera: Family Carabidae) at the Furman Forest in northeast Greenville County, SC, and compared species richness and community attributes with tree stand richness, diversity, and composition. Beetles were collected by pitfall trap 1 night/week for 9 weeks from June to August 2011 in 24 plots (200 m2) varying in tree abundance (11–131 trees/plot), mean tree size (6.5–26.0 cm DBH), species richness (2–13 species/plot), Simpson's diversity (1.6–9.1/plot), and composition. We collected 286 carabids representing 13 genera and 26 species, including a new state record for South Carolina, Cyclotrachelus hypherpiformis. Carabid abundance, species richness, and diversity were unrelated to tree abundance, richness, or diversity. However, carabid abundance and richness were positively correlated with the abundance of Liriodendron tulipifiera (Tulip Poplar), suggesting a preference for mesic habitats. Total carabid abundance and the abundance and dominance of Carabus goryi (the most abundant species) were also positively correlated with mean tree size (DBH), suggesting a preference for older stands. Carabid diversity, abundance, and community structure were associated with habitat type and stand age (as indicated by dominant canopy species and tree size) and not canopy tree species richness or diversity.
Very little information is available for Peucaea botterii texana (Texas Botteri's Sparrow) and nothing is known about its nesting ecology, in part due to its cryptic behavior and nesting strategies. Our goal was to examine the nesting ecology of Texas Botteri's Sparrows and compare reproductive success between exotic and native grasslands. We searched for and monitored nests in 2004 and 2005 on the King Ranch in southern Texas. We found no relationship in reproductive effort, nest characteristics, and plant species richness around the nest between grassland types. Vegetation surrounding Texas Botteri's Sparrow nests was significantly taller and denser in native grasslands than in exotic grasslands. Further research on nesting ecology for the Texas Botteri's Sparrow is necessary to determine its habitat needs and its role as an indicator of grassland quality.
We captured and radio-marked 64 Dryocopus pileatus (Pileated Woodpecker) in bottomland hardwood forests from February 2007 to June 2010. At least 12 (35.3%) of the first 34 birds radio-tagged died within 43 d of capture ( = 8.2 d). Thus, we adjusted our radio-attachment techniques adaptively from a figure-eight harness to a tail-mount, and reduced handling times to minimize stress on woodpeckers. In 2009 and 2010, after the change in attachment type and modified handling protocol including a reduction of handling time (from ca. 1 h to 30 min), all 30 radio-marked birds (100%) survived the entire field season (≥3 mo). These data suggested that Pileated Woodpeckers, and perhaps other large woodpeckers, have an increased risk of death when tagged with figure eight harnesses, handled for longer periods and more obtrusively, and captured on days with relatively cold temperatures. We submit that future telemetry on this species or other large woodpeckers should not employ the figure-eight harnesses and should strive to minimize handling time and disturbance. We recommend that other ornithologists observing higher than expected mortalities possibly related to handling birds or transmitter attachment publish this information to minimize the adverse impacts on birds during future research.
Waterfowl, including ducks, geese, rails and others, are host to a great diversity of ectosymbiotic arthropods. In this study, we collected ectosymbionts from waterfowl and analyzed taxon richness and total abundance to determine whether there were differences in the mite and louse assemblages of waterfowl of different species, genera, sexes, and feeding behaviors. Data were collected from 53 individual birds from 13 waterfowl species and 5 waterfowl genera taken from Georgia and Alabama. A total of 11 louse species and 7 feather and nasal mite species were collected from the waterfowl samples. Fulica americana (American Coot) harbored the highest louse abundance and taxon richness but had the lowest abundance of mites. Most significant results were driven by the Fulica assemblage. Significant sex differences were detected only between male and female anseriform birds, in which female hosts demonstrated higher mean numbers of ischnoceran lice than male hosts. No significant differences in mite abundance between waterfowl sex or genera were observed, but more mite taxa were found on diving waterfowl than on dabbling species. These data will help to provide a foundation for future research on the ecology of waterfowl ectosymbionts in the southeastern United States.
Members of the Erycinae are small to medium-sized, semi-fossorial snakes in the family Boidae (Squamata, Serpentes) known today from Africa, southwestern Asia, India, and western North America. Erycines were the predominate snakes in faunas of North America during the Paleogene. In North America, only the minute, extinct erycine Pterygoboa is known to have additional wing-like processes situated on the postzygapophyses of the vertebrae. Here we report on Pterygoboa from one latest Oligocene (25-24 Ma) (White Springs) and two early Miocene (≈20-19 Ma) localities (Miller, Thomas Farm) in Florida. These specimens represent a significant chronological and southern geographic range extension for the genus and permit an amendment to the morphological description of this unusual snake.
Spiraea virginiana (Virginia Spiraea) is a federally threatened shrub endemic to the southern Blue Ridge and Appalachian Plateau physiographic provinces. Observations along the Cheoah River, where the largest population of S. virginiana occurs in North Carolina, indicate that Castor canadensis (Beaver) feed on S. virginiana. However, the effects of Beaver foraging on this imperiled shrub are unknown. To address this issue, we randomly located 50 belt transects (25 m × 2.5 m) along the center of the scour zone of the Cheoah River and assessed all basal stems (<2.5 cm in diameter) of woody plants for evidence of browsing by Beaver. We recorded a total of 4963 basal stems, consisting of 59 species. Of those stems, 14.7% were browsed by Beaver. Spiraea virginiana accounted for 3.5% of the total basal stems and ranked fourth in the total number of stems browsed with 8.8%. After adjusting for transect effect, S. virginiana ranked second as a preferred forage species, with 32.0% of its stems browsed. This study suggests that overall browse levels of this community are relatively low compared to other communities inhabited by Beaver because of the high-gradient and turbulent nature of the Cheoah River. Our findings provide strong evidence that S. virginiana is an important food to Beaver, and as a consequence, Beaver foraging has the potential to affect this population. Although more information is needed to determine the long-term impacts, we suspect that in the short-term, S. virginiana may benefit from the levels of browsing found in this study. Field observations suggest that Beaver foraging stimulates asexual reproduction of S. virginiana by inducing rhizomatous growth. Beaver also may help S. virginiana with dispersal, as fresh cuttings are often left at feeding sites and then may be transported downstream for rooting.
An individual of Oncorhynchus mykiss (Rainbow Trout) was collected in a diversion canal of the Mississippi River known as Davis Pond located at river kilometer (RKM) 191.03 in St. Charles Parish near Luling, LA. This locality is the southern-most record for Rainbow Trout in the Mississippi River Basin and represents a range extension of 733.5 RKM south from the previous southern-most locality at Lake Whittington, Bolivar County, MS. The collection we report here also represents the first documented record of Rainbow Trout in Louisiana.