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Sus scrofa L. (Wild Pig) are known to eat the eggs of ground-nesting birds, but it is unknown to what extent they have an impact on populations of Colinus virginianus L. (Northern Bobwhite). We combined data from 2 prior studies conducted on a large ranch in South Texas to assess comparative habit use and selection by Wild Pigs and Bobwhites. Both species were distributed throughout the ranch, but their preferred habitats were very different. Bobwhites favored upland habitats, particularly areas with deep, sandy soils, while Wild Pigs favored low-lying habitats with clay soils. We conclude that depredation of Bobwhite nests by these invasive mammals may be restricted by the thermoregulatory requirement for Wild Pigs to stay near riparian areas. The extent of this effect will depend on the availability and spatial arrangement of water and riparian areas on the landscape.
An outbreak of Deidamia inscriptum (Lettered Sphinx Moth) caterpillars was noted in northeast Tennessee where Oxydendrum arboreum (Sourwood) trees were defoliated. Nearly all published literature and online resources list only plants in the grape family (Vitaceae) as larval food plants. Food-plant preference trials using fresh leaves of 3 woody plant species showed that Deidamia caterpillars from this region had a preference for Sourwood over Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia Creeper), and rejected Acer rubrum (Red Maple), a non-host species. Ursus americanus (Black Bear) were feeding on the caterpillars as evidenced by bent and broken Sourwood saplings bearing claw marks and by abundant sphingid remains in bear scat.
There is increased understanding of the role of bryophytes in supporting invertebrate biomass and for their influence on nutrient cycling and carbon balance in aquatic systems, but the structural and functional role of bryophytes growing in seasonally inundated habitats is substantially less studied. We conducted a study on the Middle Oconee River, near Athens, GA, to assess invertebrate abundance and organic-matter retention in seasonally inundated patches of the liverwort Porella pinnata, a species that tends to be submerged only when water levels in rivers are substantially above base flow. Aquatic invertebrate utilization of these seasonally inundated habitats has rarely been investigated. Macroinvertebrate biomass, insect density, and organic-matter content were significantly greater in patches of P. pinnata than on adjacent bare rock. Bryophyte biomass explained additional variation in organic matter, insect biomass, and density. The most abundant insects in P. pinnata patches were Dipterans and Plecopterans. Our results suggest an important structural role of seasonally inundated bryophyte habitats in riverine ecosystems.
Fundulus jenkinsi (Saltmarsh Topminnow) is listed as “at risk” by the USFWS and as a Tier 2 conservation priority in Mississippi, in part, because of marsh-habitat loss due to storms, urbanization, and its specialized habitat requirements and limited geographic distribution. To provide additional quantitative data for conservation planning, our objectives were to (1) determine the distribution and abundance of Saltmarsh Topminnow within coastal Mississippi, (2) characterize its habitat requirements, and (3) organize and present all Saltmarsh Topminnow data records (non-vouchered and museum records and those from this study) for use in the development of management/conservation plans. We collected 497 fish and associated habitat data from 27 February to 1 August 2009. PCA produced 3 meaningful components: (1) a landscape-position axis (32.40% of the total variance), (2) a seasonal/spatial axis of species occurrence (18.99%), and (3) a geomorphic bank-slope axis (18.78%). Ninety-six percent of all fish (representing 78.8% of collection effort) were captured in water with salinity <13 psu. We compiled 831 geo-referenced occurrences with collection dates ranging from 1891 to 2015. To better quantify and conserve the closelylinked habitat requirements of this species within a reduced salinity range, additional sampling should be focused in undersampled areas between Lake Borgne, LA, to west of Galveston Bay, TX.
Ephemeral wetlands surrounded by Pinus palustris (Longleaf Pine) flatwoods support diverse herpetofaunal communities and provide important breeding habitat for many species. We sampled herpetofauna in 3 pine flatwoods wetlands on Eglin Air Force Base, Okaloosa County, FL, over 2 time periods (1 wetland  from 1993 to1995 and 2 wetlands [2 and 3] from 2010 to 2015) using drift fences that completely encircled each wetland. We documented 37, 46, and 43 species of amphibians and reptiles at wetlands 1, 2, and 3, respectively. Herpetofaunal communities were remarkably similar across all 3 wetlands (Sorenson Index values > 0.97) despite sampling that occurred 15–20 years apart on wetlands located approximately 10 km apart. Ambystoma bishopi (Reticulated Flatwoods Salamander), Pseudacris ornata (Ornate Chorus Frog), and Eurycea quadridigitata (Dwarf Salamander), all species of conservation concern, were captured at all 3 wetlands, indicating that these wetlands provide habitat for specialist species. Overall, habitat conservation and management has succeeded in maintaining suitable habitat for herpetofauna in recently surveyed wetlands, despite continued range-wide threats from changes to historic fire regimes and climate change.
The Ouachita Highlands Freshwater Ecoregion harbors the 6th-highest native crayfish species density in the US and Canada. Many of these species are understudied, and the burrowing crayfishes of this region are of particular interest. We conducted field surveys in the spring of 2014 and 2015 to assess the range and habitat preferences of 2 of Arkansas' rarest burrowing crayfishes: Fallicambarus harpi (Ouachita Burrowing Crayfish) and Procambarus reimeri (Irons Fork Burrowing Crayfish). Both crayfishes are currently of conservation concern—F. harpi is vulnerable and P. reimeri is endangered according to the American Fisheries Society. Our surveys detected new populations of both species and documented marginal and wider range expansions for F. harpi and P. reimeri, respectively. The preferred habitat for both species was characterized as wet seepage areas with an open canopy, low grasses, and abundant sedges. Our surveys support prior observations that these species are geographically constrained; however, the new populations and range expansion of P. reimeri suggest the American Fisheries Society Endangered Species Committee should reevaluate the conservation status of this species.
Canis latrans (Coyote) recently expanded into the southeastern United States, creating ecologically novel interactions with other species. However, relatively few studies have examined vital rates of southeastern Coyotes or estimated vital rates where individuals are protected from hunting and trapping. In 2011, we captured and attached GPS radiocollars to 31 Coyotes at Fort Bragg Military Installation, NC, where Coyote harvest was restricted. We used a 12-month period (February 2011–January 2012) and known-fate modeling in Program MARK to estimate annual survival. Model-selection results indicated the time-varying model (S[t]) was the most parsimonious model, and. annual survival was 0.80 (95% CI = 0.60–0.91). We documented 7 mortalities, including 2 from vehicles, 2 from offsite trapping, and 3 from unknown causes. Estimated Coyote survival rates at Fort Bragg were similar to most other estimates from the southeastern US. Anthropogenic causes of mortality were important even though hunting and trapping were restricted locally.
Plant communities on granite outcrops are prone to water and nutrient limitations because of the shallow soils and high summer-temperatures characteristic of that habitat. Thus, resource availability is expected to influence plant performance on these sites. Here, we sought to determine if low resource-availability (water and nutrients) acts as a selective agent in natural populations of Helianthus porteri (Porter's Sunflower), a granite-outcrop endemic. We conducted field observations of growth and survival for 3 years in 3 populations spanning the species' range. We found that survival to flowering was correlated with soil-water availability (estimated by plant predawn water-potentials; Ψpd), and that drought severity (estimated by survival and Ψpd) differed among populations, suggesting the populations could be adaptively differentiated for resource-use traits. However, in a greenhouse common-garden experiment, the population that experienced the greatest drought severity in the field did not exhibit traits associated with greater drought resistance, and all 3 populations responded similarly to water and nutrient limitations. Thus, although drought influences survival in Porter's Sunflower, populations do not appear to be adaptively differentiated with respect to resource availability.
Identification of the bacterial fauna associated with the skin, nasal mucosa, and tongue of Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer) may provide some insight into deer health and potential risks for humans from contact with deer. Few bacterial surveys have investigated White-tailed Deer, despite the commonality of human—deer interactions. From October to December 2011, we collected swab samples from the forehead, nose, and tongue of 39 hunter-harvested White-tailed Deer in Georgia. We inoculated and incubated agar plates for 48 h at 35 °C and identified the isolated bacterial colonies to genus using the bioMerieux Vitek 2 system. We amplified and sequenced portions of the 16s ribosomal-RNA gene, and used the products to identify 60 species of bacteria, including 342 Gram-positive isolates and 93 Gram-negative isolates. Although most species isolated from White-tailed Deer were nonpathogenic environmental bacteria, good hygiene is recommended when handling these animals.
Megalops atlanticus (Tarpon) is a highly migratory species that supports an economically important recreational fishery in the Gulf of Mexico. Despite this, little is known about Tarpon life history in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Collections of Tarpon leptocephali, young-of-the-year, juveniles, sub-adults, and adults from waters of southeastern Louisiana and the adjacent northern Gulf of Mexico suggest that the northern region may provide valuable habitats for the species at the present time, and potentially be of greater importance as climate change progresses.
Overabundance of Odocoileus virginianus Zimmermann (White-tailed Deer) can have negative effects on woody vegetation. I developed the SPIDER transect method to quantify an area impacted by deer overbrowsing. I compared area evaluated and time expended (effort) with the traditional belt-transect method. The SPIDER transect method had 3× less transects that were at least 20× longer and evaluated an area 50× larger (350 ha) with 50% less effort compared to the belt-transect method (6 ha). The quantifiable area is an advantage of the SPIDER method that is not obtained using the traditional belt-transect method; in this study, woody vegetation in a 304.5-ha area around a park campground exhibited overbrowsing. The SPIDER transect is a wildlife-centric, efficient method that could be beneficial for prescribing and evaluating management recommen dations.
The evolution of organismal cue-response systems can allow for an effective behavioral reaction to various environmental signals. In aquatic habitats, the reception of certain chemical cues can increase individual fitness of organisms by serving as an indicator of predation threat. In some fish species, damage to an individual's epidermal cells causes release of a substance that functions as an alarm cue and consequently initiates defense responses in neighboring prey. Recent research on the chemical makeup of the substance that elicits an anti-predator response in Danio rerio (Hamilton) (Zebrafish) revealed that chondroitin fragments were a key component in this substance. The goal of our study was to investigate the ability of chondroitin to elicit an alarm response in Fundulus catenatus (Storer) (Northern Studfish). This species is a small-bodied killifish native to southeastern to south-central USA and is associated with topwater habitats near aquatic and/or overhanging vegetation. We hypothesized that reduced movement and/or a change in position in the water column would be a likely response of the Northern Studfish to chondroitin. We experimentally observed Northern Studfish behavior before and after the addition of chondroitin and a control substance, and compared the fishes' behavioral responses. Our results show that the Northern Studfish that were exposed to chondroitin tended to reduce their movement by sevenfold and were more likely to move to the bottom of the aquarium relative to the control group, suggesting that chondroitin potentially serves as an alarm-cue component in this species. Our study represents the first demonstration of Northern Studfish response to a chemical cue and the first time that chondroitin sulfate has been shown to elicit a component of alarm behavior in a stream fish. We discuss our findings in relation to potential uses of chondroitin as an alarm cue in the conservation of imperiled stream fishes.
Temporary forest ponds are depressions that annually cycle between non-inundated and inundated stages and are recognized as biodiversity hotspots for amphibians and other taxa. However, little is known about the microbial communities of temporary forest ponds and less is known about chytrids, an inconspicuous, early diverging lineage of fungi, present in such ponds. We sampled soil and water from a temporary forest pond in the Oakmulgee District of the Talladega National Forest. Chytrids were isolated from the samples using baits and standard isolating techniques. Isolated strains were identified using the monophyletic-species concept based on a molecular phylogeny inferred from an alignment of the nuclear large subunit rDNA. A total of 30 strains were isolated, which represented 7 species. Due to the limitations of a culture-based method in being able to culture all chytrids that are present, we have described only a portion of the chytrid community. This study, however, is foundational to future inventories that apply a multiphasic approach to further reveal chytrid diversity in this understudied and variable habitat.
We collected data from 1998 to 2014 to describe the ecology of the highly endangered Florida scrub plant Crotalaria avonensis (Avon Park Harebells), and herein address several hypotheses based on what was known of its biology and the biology of co-occurring species. This perennial herbaceous legume occurs at 3 sites and prefers microsites with more cover by bare sand than vegetation. The population at an unprotected site has declined in size, but dynamics have been more stable at the 2 protected sites. Marked plants have shown high survival, slow and inconsistent growth, and occasional plant dormancy (usually 1–2 years). Avon Park Harebells is reproductively challenged, with very low rates of fruit set and infrequent visitation by required pollinators. The hardseeded fruits germinated at a rate of 13–56%; the germination speed seemed to increase after scarification, though the overall rate was less than for unscarified seeds. Unscarified seeds remained viable in the seed bank for at least 3 years. Seedlings recruited rarely, had moderate survival, began flowering at 4 years of age or later, and reached the size of median adult plants in 6–8 years. Herbivores affected 7–53% of plants in a given year, but plants showed rapid compensatory resprouting. Caging plants reduced herbivory and increased survival, growth, and flowering. Plants resprouted after fire and mechanical disturbance and exhibited high survival and growth, but repeated disturbances by vehicles caused increased mortality. Avon Park Harebells remains extremely endangered due to its limited range, small population sizes, and poor seedling recruitment. To help this species recover, we recommend fire management, protection from herbivory, introductions and augmentations, and further study of its pollination biology.
We report the occurrence of a single population of Etheostoma parvipinne (Goldstripe Darter) in a small, acidic, spring-fed stream within the Colorado River drainage following an extended period of below-average precipitation (January–September 2011), a wildland fire (September 2011), and subsequent debris and sediment flows (November 2011–May 2012). Goldstripe Darters were taken from Alum Creek (Bastrop County, TX) along with a cyprinid, a poeciliid, and several species of centrarchids in June 2012. Occurrence of Goldstripe Darters in Alum Creek provides a regional example of fish-community responses to wildland fires. In additio n, understanding the mechanism of long-term persistence in a single tributary on the periphery of a species range might offer insight into the origin of endemic fishes and persistence of disjunct fish populations within aquatic evolutionary refugia of central Texas.
Dermatophagy, the practice of eating shed skin, in amphibians and reptiles has been reported anecdotally in the literature, but the process and purpose remains poorly understood. We document a fortuitous observation of whole-skin shedding and conspecific dermatophagy in Amphiuma tridactylum (Three-toed Amphiuma), and report on 2 additional observations of self-dermatophagy. Shed skins are potential protein and nutrient sources, and we suggest that dermatophagy may be a much more common occurrence than originally thought.
The reported, natural distribution of Lepomis miniatus (Redspotted Sunfish) encompasses the Mississippi Valley and Gulf Slope drainages, but not the Cumberland River basin of Tennessee. We provide an account of 3 cataloged specimens collected from Mill Creek in the Cumberland River basin at Standing Stone State Park, TN. Review of previously unpublished records around Lake Barkley and Standing Stone Lake combined with collection of multiple specimens upstream and downstream of Standing Stone Lake suggest a naturalized population now exists 421 river km outside of the previously documented range. Range expansion in the Cumberland River basin is likely related to human introduction ultimately arising from stock contamination.
Herein we detail a predation event on Orconectes cristavarius (Spiny Stream Crayfish) by Dolomedes scriptus (Striped Fishing Spider). On 12 July 2015, we discovered a female Striped Fishing Spider along the banks of Knox Creek, Buckhannon County, VA, feeding on a young-of-the-year Spiny Stream Crayfish. The spider had ingested the majority of the crayfish's abdomen at the time of discovery, and had used silk to anchor the crayfish to the undersurface of the rock where feeding was taking place. We discuss the possible role of crayfish in the diet of Dolomedes spiders and provide a detailed description of the spider 's microhabitat.