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We employed catch data from 2 fishery-independent shark surveys conducted from 2009–2012, as well as stable isotope analysis, to investigate potential effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill on large coastal fishes in Florida's Big Bend region. The catch-per-unit-effort of 5 indicator species (3 sharks and 2 teleosts) varied significantly among years in only 2 cases. The stable isotope profiles were significantly different among years in 2 of 5 indicator species, but the relative differences were small, and patterns were not consistent among taxa analyzed. Our results provide no evidence that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill had a significant effect on the relative abundances and food-web structure among large coastal fishes in Florida's Big Bend.
Between April and June 2016, we observed a pair of Strix varia (Barred Owl) rearing 2 chicks in a wooded, streamside city park in Valdosta, GA, and we observed 1 instance of an adult feeding a bat to a fledgling. Thirteen of 20 owl pellets collected from the area contained 37 Myotisaustroriparius (Southeastern Myotis). This species of bat was the most frequent and abundant food item during the chick-rearing period, especially before fledging and for at least 17 days after. Birds partially replaced bats in the diet during the middle of this period. Owls commonly ate crayfish and June bugs and less commonly ate fish and a variety of small vertebrates throughout the period. To our knowledge, this is the first report of bats comprising a major dietary item for Barred Owls, including food given to the chicks.
Feral Felis catus (Domestic Cat) can potentially transmit feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) to other species, but seroprevalence research in exurban areas is sparse. We quantified seroprevalence of FeLV and FIV and estimated adult survival for feral Domestic Cats in an exurban city. We tested 55 cats from developed and natural habitats for FeLV and FIV and fit 31 adult cats with radiocollars for known-fates survival analysis. Combined seroprevalence (FeLV or FIV or both; 32.73%) did not differ by sex, habitat at capture location, or body condition. Annual survival was 0.86; male cats had a greater survival rate than females. Seroprevalence of FeLV and FIV in this study was greater than rates reported in other studies in the US, indicating that seroprevalence studies should be conducted at local scales.
We validated and synthesized reports of historic and current populations of the 3 introduced non-human primate species in Florida—Saimiri sp. (squirrel monkey), Chlorocebus sabaeus (Vervet Monkey), and Macaca mulatta (Rhesus Macaque)—using systematic review of literature, content analysis of popular media, expert interviews, and site visits. Invasion success varied among the 3 species: only 1 of 5 squirrel monkey populations was still extant, a single Vervet Monkey population showed little change between the mid-1990s and 2015, and 2 of 3 introduced Rhesus Macaque populations grew, but only 1 was extant. Disparities in invasion success appeared to be primarily influenced by natural history and anthropogenic intervention. Understanding introduced species success is critical to determine current and potential impacts and effectively allocate limited management resources.
Sassafras albidum (Sassafras) is an ecologically important tree species that is widely distributed throughout the eastern United States. Sassafras is presently threatened by Raffaelea lauricola, a fungus vectored by Xyleborus glabratus (Coleoptera: Curculionidae: Scolytinae; Redbay Ambrosia Beetle), which causes a lethal vascular wilt known as laurel wilt disease (LWD). This study summarizes the status of Sassafras across the entire eastern United States and in areas with LWD in particular, so that LWD-induced changes in the Sassafras resource may be properly understood. Inventory data collected by the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program of the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service indicated that as of 2013–2014 there were 1.9 billion live Sassafras trees and saplings across 28 states, 53 ecoregion sections, and 69 forest types in the eastern United States. Only 1.7% of Sassafras trees ≥2.5 cm diameter at breast height occurred in counties with LWD; an additional 2.8% occurred in neighboring counties. To date, LWD has not reached the heart of the Sassafras range, yet discontinuous jumps of the disease beyond its advancing front suggest that future introductions may be possible. Landowners and forest managers within the range of Sassafras should be diligent to watch for LWD symptoms and consider the changes that may occur in their forests if the disease becomes established.
Gratiola amphiantha (Granite Pool Sprite or Little Amphianthus) is a federally threatened plant species found in solution depressions formed on granite outcrops of Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. In Alabama, its distribution has recently been reduced from 3 to 2 counties along the eastern border in 8 small pools totaling less than 10 square meters. This study was initiated to monitor population numbers in Alabama, identify new populations, and make recommendations for the conservation of this species. Counts of individuals and pools were made in 2012 and 2013 at Penton (Chambers County) and Almond (Randolph County); a third site at Wehadkee Creek (Randolph County) was added in 2016. Numbers of individuals per pool differed dramatically; Pool P-3 dropped 72% from 2012 to 2013 before recovering partially (to -36%) in 2016. Densities were calculated for the larger pools, with Pool A-1 reaching 32.41 plants per 10 cm2 in 2016. Because of habitat loss due to human disturbance—quarrying, recreational use, and dumping—G. amphiantha are close to extirpation in Alabama. A recovery plan, featuring the purchases of key properties, removal of competing vegetation, and the transferring of seed banks to additional pools, should be immediately implemented.
Assessing stream fish habitat associations across contrasting ecosystems can inform generality of habitat predictions. We tracked Cottus carolinae (Banded Sculpin) in Little Creek, TN, to test transferability of habitat predictions developed from independent studies. Predictions included shifting habitat use across size classes (prediction 1), over the diel period (prediction 2), and during variable flows (prediction 3), as well as maintaining associations with depth, velocity, and substrate gradients across scales (prediction 4). Size 1 (80–99 mm TL) and size 2 (100–140 mm TL) Banded Sculpin used similar habitats (prediction 1 not supported), shifted to pools with little cover at night (prediction 2 supported), and adjusted habitat uses according to flow (prediction 3 supported), and depth, velocity, and substrate associations were similar for small and large streams when size classes were combined (prediction 4 supported). Our synthesis highlights consistencies in fish habitat associations that manifest due to behavioral, morphological, and physiological constraints that operate across ecosystems.
Animals live in complex environments that vary spatially and temporally. This heterogeneity strongly influences the availability and quality of food resources and has strong impacts on growth and survival of consumers. Geographically isolated wetlands provide an interesting system to study trophic relationships because they vary spatially and temporally in hydrology and vegetation. Larval anurans play an important role in these wetland systems because they are often the most abundant consumers. Yet, little is known about larval anuran diet. Here we assessed the diet of 3 larval anurans (Acris gryllus [Southern Cricket Frog], Hyla gratiosa [Barking Treefrog], and Lithobates sphenocephalus [Southern Leopard Frog]), across 2 isolated wetland types (marsh and cypress savanna) using a stable isotope mixing model, stable isotope analysis in R (SIAR). Furthermore, we assessed variation in basal resource and anuran tissue stoichiometry (C:N). Our analyses suggested that larvae of these 3 species primarily function as herbivores and detritivores. All fed on a mix of algal resources, detrital particulate organic matter, and litter originating from the wetland canopy. Barking Treefrog had a lower C:N than the other two species, suggesting their dietary N requirements may be greater. Understanding the trophic roles of these animals is essential in determining their ecological significance and contributes to a more complete view of isolated wetlands in the surrounding landscape.
Following the collection of a putative undescribed species in the genus Pleurobema in 2012, we surveyed the freshwater mussel fauna of Little River, Blount County, TN, to determine species diversity and relative abundances. At 18 main-stem sites, we sampled 3053 live specimens representing 12 mussel species and 1 fresh-dead individual representing another. An additional species represented by a relic shell was collected, bringing the total to 14 mussel species sampled during this survey. Villosa species comprised 77% of total live mussels sampled. Among the extant mussels were two federally endangered species: Fusconaia cuneolus (Finerayed Pigtoe) was confirmed to persist in the river, while Pleuronaia dolabelloides (Slabside Pearlymussel) represents a new drainage record. Several other mussels collected are considered imperiled globally, including Alasmidonta viridis (Slippershell Mussel), Lampsilis ovata (Pocketbook), Medionidus conradicus (Cumberland Moccasinshell), Pleurobema oviforme (Tennessee Clubshell), Pleuronaia barnesiana (Tennessee Pigtoe), and Villosa vanuxemensis (Mountain Creekshell). A total of 319 individuals of the putative new species Pleurobema sp. cf. oviforme were sampled at 9 sites, 215 at 1 site. A total of 857 individuals of a putative undescribed species in the genus Villosa were sampled at 9 sites. These 2 putative species (Pleurobema sp. cf. oviforme and Villosa sp. cf. iris) are likely endemic to Little River, TN, and may be in need of state and federal protection. Mussel densities declined downstream from the mouth of Ellejoy Creek, indicating that water-quality issues may be occurring in this reach of the river.
Based on the distribution of 2 fish species and geological evidence, we propose stream capture of a Tallapoosa River tributary by Wehadkee Creek, a tributary of the Chattahoochee River in east-central Alabama. Micropterus tallapoosae (Tallapoosa Bass) and Cyprinella gibbsi (Tallapoosa Shiner), endemics to the Tallapoosa River drainage, are found in Wehadkee Creek (Chattahoochee River drainage). We used mitochrondrial DNA to compare the Wehadkee Creek specimens of Tallapoosa Shiner to those analyzed in a previous study of the genetic structure of the species throughout the Tallapoosa River drainage. Their identity as Tallapoosa Shiner was validated, and we found some divergence relative to other populations in the Wehadkee Creek fish. We validated the identity of Tallapoosa Bass and Micropterus chattahoochae (Chattahoochee Bass), using mitochondrial DNA sequences subjected to phylogenetic analyses of all Micropterus coosae (Redeye Bass) group species previously identified. In addition to these fish distributions, the geology of the upper Wehadkee Creek area suggests a past stream capture may have occurred. Alternatively, these fishes could have been introduced into adjoining drainages by humans.