Peer Reviewed Science January ’17

Welcome to volume eight (January 2017) of this digest of recent scientific discoveries for zoo keepers and aquarists! New year and new science to be assimilated and passed on to our captive pals.


Thanks to Paignton Zoo (UK) and Sparsholt College (UK) this blog will soon be sharing projects done by Undergrads and Keepers/aquarists themselves, so look out for upcoming volumes that contains YOUR great work – if you want to see your welfare interventions shared around the world (40 countries and 750 unique visits in December!!) then contact us 🙂


Happy New Year!


Zoo Biology – in press or published online only


Ang, M. Y.L., Shender, M. A. and Ross, S. R. (2016), Assessment of behavior and space use before and after forelimb amputation in a zoo-housed chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). Zoo Biology.


Primates possess great manual dexterity, and their limbs are integral to many aspects of normal functioning (e.g., climbing, feeding). As such, the loss of a limb carries the risk of significant disability and potentially harmful impairment of species-typical functioning. Limb loss is known to occur in some wild primate populations due to entanglement in hunting snares, but can also occur in captive settings due to injury that necessitates therapeutic amputation. In this study, we conducted a detailed evaluation of the behavior, travel, and space use expressed by a female zoo-housed chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) before and following surgical amputation of her right forelimb. Overall, our results suggest that the injury did not substantively affect her daily activities. She showed no change to her vertical space use, spending equivalent proportions of her time on the ground and high in the enclosure. There was a decrease in the frequency of locomotion on the ground (P = 0.006) but also a significant increase in the overall distance travelled (P = 0.0015) following the removal of the limb. This case study provides evidence that individual chimpanzees are able to successfully adjust to significant anatomical changes when provided adequate environments in which to stay active, and highlights the importance of an effective post-surgical monitoring period—a comprehensive recovery evaluation that includes input from both veterinary and behavioral research staff is likely to provide the most holistic assessment of animal health and long-term wellbeing.

Gillis-Germitsch, N., Vybiral, P.-R., Codron, D., Clauss, M., Kotze, A. and Mitchell, E. P. (2016), Intrinsic factors, adrenal gland morphology, and disease burden in captive cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) in South Africa. Zoo Biology.

Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) are cautious animals, making supplemental feeding of neonates challenging because of disturbances to the normal routine. However, supplemental feeding is beneficial in improving juvenile nutrition using less formula than required for hand-rearing, and allowing maternal bonding to continue through suckling. In this study, two neonatal koalas, delivered by the same mother in 2 years, exhibited insufficient growth post-emergence from the pouch; supplemental feeding was therefore initiated. The amount of formula fed was determined according to the product instructions, and offspring weight was monitored. Slower than normal growth was not initially noticed in the first offspring. This caused delayed commencement of supplemental feeding. An attempt was made to counteract this by providing more formula for a longer period; however, this meant No. 1 was unable to eat enough eucalyptus when weaning. Supplemental feeding was started earlier for the second offspring than for the first, and was terminated at weaning; this juvenile showed a healthy body weight increase. Furthermore, it was able to eat eucalyptus leaves at an earlier stage than No. 1. Although No. 1 showed delayed growth, both koalas matured and are still living. This study showed that supplemental feeding is useful for koalas, if the mother will accept human intervention. The key factors for successful supplemental feeding of koalas identified by comparing the two feeding systems observed in this study are that: (1) it should be initiated as soon as insufficient growth is identified; and (2) it should be terminated before weaning age.


Applied Animal Behaviour Science January 2017 Volume 186

Exploring the efficacy of immersion analgesics in zebrafish using an integrative approach

Paul G. Schroeder, Lynne U. Sneddon

  • This study examined the efficacy of three water soluble analgesic drugs for zebrafish.
  • Post nociceptive behavioural patterns after fin clipping resembled those seen after acetic acid injections.
  • Administration of lidocaine resulted in a significant reduction of pain-related behaviours.
  • These results may pave the way for a first usable analgesic immersion protocol for very small fish in research facilities.


Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science – in press or online only

Use of Primates in Research: What Do We Know About Captive Strepsirrhine Primates?

Gloria Fernández Lázaro, Sarah Zehr & Enrique Alonso García

The increasing debate and restrictions on primate research have prompted many surveys about their status. However, there is a lack of information regarding strepsirrhine primates in the literature. This study provides an overview of research on strepsirrhines in captivity by analyzing scientific articles published from 2010 to 2013 and assessing publicly available government reports in Europe and the United States. Data on taxonomy, country, research area, research class, and type of institution were extracted. The 174 qualifying articles showed that species in the Galagidae and Cheirogaleidae families were used more often in invasive studies of neuroscience and metabolism, while the most commonly used species in noninvasive studies of behavior and cognition were true lemurs (family Lemuridae). France conducted the greatest number of invasive research projects, and the Duke Lemur Center was the institution with the most noninvasive studies. This study investigates how strepsirrhines are used in captive research and identifies issues in need of further review, which suggest that increased participation by the scientific community in the monitoring of strepsirrhine research is warranted.


Olfactory Enrichment in California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus): An Effective Tool for Captive Welfare?

Mystera M. Samuelson, Lisa K. Lauderdale, Kelly Pulis, Moby Solangi, Tim Hoffland & Heidi Lyn

In the wild, California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) are exposed to a wide variety of sensory information, which cannot be replicated in captive environments. Therefore, unique procedures are necessary for maintaining physiological and psychological health in nonhuman animals in captivity. The effects of introducing natural scents to captive enclosures have been investigated in a variety of species, yet they have not been examined in marine mammals. This project explored the behavioral effect of scent added to the environment, with the goal of improving the welfare of sea lions in captivity. Two scent types were introduced: (a) natural scents, found in their native environment, and (b) non-natural scents, not found in their native environment. This study examined not only scent enrichment but also the possible evolutionary underpinnings of pinniped olfaction. Scent enrichment was found to significantly impact sea lion behavior as demonstrated by a reduction in pattern swimming, an increase in habitat utilization, and a reduction in stereotypical behavior. However, there were no differences in behavior between natural and non-natural scent conditions.


Animal Welfare Volume 25, Number 4 November 2016

Using technology to monitor and improve zoo animal welfare Whitham, JC; Miller, LJ Animal Welfare, Volume 25, Number 4, November 2016, pp. 395-409(15)

While the international zoological community is committed to enhancing the welfare of individual animals, researchers have yet to take full advantage of the tools available for non-invasively tracking behavioural and physiological indicators of welfare. We review technology currently being applied in studies of zoo, farm and laboratory animals to regularly monitor welfare status, as well as to evaluate responses to particular stimuli and situations. In terms of behavioural measures, we focus on automated assessments that offer insight into how animals — even those that are nocturnal or elusive — behave when humans are not present. Specifically, we provide an overview of how animal-attached technology (accelerometers, global positioning systems, radio frequency identification systems) can be implemented to generate activity budgets, examine use of space, conduct gait assessments, determine rates of movement and study social dynamics. We also emphasise the value of bioacoustics, as the rate and acoustic structure of certain vocalisations may vary across contexts and reflect an animals internal state. While it can be challenging to identify non-invasive methods for investigating physiological welfare indicators, we discuss approaches (thermography, tracking measures of heart rate) that may be especially useful for monitoring affective states and psychophysiological functioning. Finally, we make a concerted effort to highlight tools that allow welfare scientists to consider measures of positive welfare. Ultimately, zoos can ensure that each animal has the opportunity to thrive by employing technology to create baseline behavioural and physiological profiles, conduct ongoing monitoring schemes and assess responses to specific conditions, events and stimuli.

Aquaculture Volume 470,  In Progress   (1 March 2017)  

Vibrio sp. 33 a potential bacterial antagonist of Vibrio splendidus pathogenic to sea cucumber (Apostichopus japonicus) Pages 68-73

Ningning Liu, Shanshan Zhang, Weiwei Zhang, Chenghua Li

Recently, the use of probiotics as an alternative strategy to control bacterial diseases in aquaculture has garnered much attention due to the merits of environmental friendliness. In this study, a bacterium identified as Vibrio sp. V33 was isolated from healthy sepia and was determined to have strong antagonistic activity towards the pathogenic isolate Vibrio splendidus Vs using the disk diffusion method. The antagonistic substance was secreted into the supernatant and was thermo-stable. The antagonistic activity of Vibrio sp. V33 may be attributed to its higher ability to compete for iron than that of V. splendidus Vs, as deduced from siderophore quantification using the CAS method. Number of colony counts from seawater and Apostichopus japonicus infection experiments showed that Vibrio sp. V33 significantly decreased the quantity of V. splendidus Vs in natural seawater and promoted the survival rate of A. japonicus infected by V. splendidus, with a relative percentage survival of 43% under the current conditions. Our findings suggest that V33 could be potentially used as potential bacterial antagonist for controlling V. splendidus infections in sea cucumber aquaculture.


Aquaculture Research Volume 48 Issue 1 January 2017

Azam Sotoudeh and Sakineh Yeganeh Effects of supplementary fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) essential oil in diet on growth and reproductive performance of the ornamental fish, Convict cichlid (Cichlasoma nigrofasciatum)


This study evaluated the effects of diet containing 0 (C: control), 75 (D1), 100 (D2), 125 (D3) and 150 (D4) mg kg−1 F. vulgare essential oil on growth and reproductive performance of C. nigrofasciatum. A total of 225 Convict cichlids female with mean weight (1.65 ± 0.02 g) were distributed into 15 glass aquaria (15 fish tank−1) in triplicate treatments. During 40 days of experimental period, fish fed at 3% of their body weight daily. At the end of experiment, growth indices, gonadosomatic index and reproductive indices were determined. The best feed conversion ratio was obtained in D4 (1.19 ± 0.03, P < 0.05). The addition of F. vulgare essential oil did not have any statistical effects on other growth indices (specific growth rate, weight gain and condition factor). Total survival rates in all treatments and control were uniformly high, ranging from 93% to 97% (P > 0.05). F. vulgare essential oil has no negative effect on survival rate of C. nigrofasciatum. There were no significant differences among protein content of fish body (P > 0.05). The lowest value of fat content (26.5 ± 0.5%) was observed in D2, and it had significant difference with control and other groups (P < 0.05). The ash percentage in treatments fed with F. vulgare essential oil were higher than control fish (P < 0.05). The highest moisture content was detected in D4 (72.68 ± 0.19%) and D2 (71.23 ± 2%) groups. Among the used dosage, D4 was the most effective dosage that could significantly increase GSI (11.06 ± 1.55%), fecundity (340 ± 21) and hatching ratio (92.33 ± 1.63%). There were no significant differences in diameter of eggs among various treatments (P > 0.05).

Valdebenito, J. Cosson, P. Contreras, J. C. Sánchez, R.P. S Oliveira, J. Risopatrón, J. G. Farías and E. Figueroa Spermatological research of experimentally farmed Patagonian blenny (Eleginops maclovinus) (Perciformes: Eleginopsidae) in Chile

Spermatological research of the Patagonian blennie was carried, specifically biometric parameters, sperm density, sperm count and motility in different activation mediums (815, 716, 590 and 0 mOSm kg−1), at different temperatures (5, 10 and 15°C) and pH levels (5, 7 and 9). The results indicate that Patagonian blennie spermatozoa have a primitive form, with a total length of 44.09 ± 3.36 μm, with a head length of 2.15 ± 0.28 μm and head width of 2.5 ± 0.31 μm. The mid-piece had a length of 0.72 ± 0.12 μm, and its tail measures 41.21 ± 3.21 μm long. The motility pattern indicates that the spermatozoa are found immobile in the seminal plasma and only initiates its movement in a hypertonic medium from 590 to 815 mOsm kg−1. The longest motility time that was registered at 10°C in 716 mOSm kg−1 was of 245 ± 39 s and an optimum pH of 7 was observed.

Fisheries Science Volume 82

Suzuki, K.S., Kumakura, E. & Nogata, Y. Fish Sci (2016) 82: 923. Incidental consumption of ephyrae of moon jellyfish Aurelia aurita s.l. by three filter-feeding sessile organisms: laboratory experiments


Moon jellyfish Aurelia aurita s.l. has been suggested to have high mortality during the ephyra stage, which potentially affects the population size of the later medusa stage. However, the mechanism behind the high mortality rate has still not been clarified. Ephyrae of A. aurita are liberated from the sessile strobila, which are usually surrounded by filter-feeding sessile organisms. In the present study, we carried out a series of feeding trials at 10 °C, offering A. aurita ephyrae to three potential predatory filter-feeding sessile organisms: the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis, the ascidian Styela plicata, and the barnacle Amphibalanus eburneus. From the experiments, the mussel was estimated to have the highest ability to consume ephyrae among the sessile organisms. Size-selective filtration experiments showed that the mussel consumed newly liberated ephyrae [3 mm total body diameter (TBD)] at a significantly higher efficiency than larger (5 and 7 mm TBD) ephyrae. Our results demonstrate that filter-feeding sessile organisms, especially the mussel, are potential consumers of the early ephyra stage.


Kuroki, M., Okamura, A., Takeuchi, A. et al. Fish Sci (2016) 82: 941. Effect of water current on the body size and occurrence of deformities in reared Japanese eel leptocephali and glass eels


Research efforts to achieve the production of artificial seedlings of the Japanese eel Anguilla japonica have progressed in recent decades. However, morphological deformities have been frequently observed in reared leptocephali and glass eels. We examined the effect of water current velocities (5.7–8.3 cm/s) on the body size and morphology of reared leptocephali and metamorphosed glass eels. As the current velocity increased, the size of leptocephali became smaller and the occurrence rate of notochord curvature increased. However, even in low velocities, water current had a long-term negative impact on their morphology. Sixty-five percent of metamorphosed glass eels had one of the eight types of vertebral deformities: compression, luxation, fusion, brachyspina, modification, lordosis, kyphosis, or scoliosis. Although their occurrence rate was unrelated to current velocity, there was a tendency for some deformities to be localised in a certain area of the vertebral column. In particular, compression frequently occurred in caudal vertebrae in faster currents. Most vertebral deformities began before the completion of metamorphosis. Therefore, appropriate management of the water current during the leptocephalus stage is important for establishing mass production of morphologically normal glass eels.

i, Y., Gu, Y., Liu, H. et al. Fish Sci (2016). The effects of partial replacement of white fish meal by poultry by-product meal and addition of bile acid in feed on growth, digestibility, and serum enzyme activities of the Chinese soft-shelled turtle

Four isonitrogenous experimental diets were used to test the effects of replacing white fish meal with poultry by-product meal (PBM) and adding bile acid (BA) in a commercial feed for the Chinese soft-shelled turtle Pelodiscus sinensis with 9 replicates and 6 turtles in a 60-day study. Diet 1 contained white fish meal as a main protein source (100 %). Diet 2 contained white fish meal (60.8 %) and PBM (39.2 %) as the protein source. Diets 3 and 4 comprised the addition of 1 g kg−1 of bile acid to diets 1 and 2, respectively. Compared to diet 1, the glutamic-pyruvic transaminase level in the turtles fed with diet 2 were not augmented significantly as was the case for glutamic oxalacetic transaminase level. The relative growth rate and specific growth rate in diet 2 were the same as those of diet 1. The apparent digestibility coefficient for lipid (ADCL) tended to decrease after that white fish meal was partially replaced. The values of weight gain, relative growth rate, feeding rate, specific growth rate, apparent digestibility coefficient for dry matter, ADCL and apparent digestibility coefficient for protein (ADCP) of the turtles on diet 4 (1 g kg−1 bile acid added in diet 2) increased by 28.1, 28.8, 10.1, 20.6, 1.7, 0.6 and 0.3 %, respectively, compared to those on diet 2. The combined effects of bile acid and PBM on the growth of turtles was even more effective than the whole white fish meal diet, by increasing feeding rate 7.4 %; it decreased the amounts of crude lipids (by 22.8 %), glutamic-pyruvic transaminase (by 1.9 %), and alkaline phosphatase (by 3.9 %). Therefore, replacing 39.2 % of white fish meal with PBM and adding BA was feasible in turtle feed.

keda, S., Yamashita, H., Liao, L.M. et al. Fish Sci (2016) 82: 747. A simple and rapid determination method for zooxanthellal genetic diversity in giant clams using multiplex PCR

Giant clams (tridacnid shellfishes) contain threatened species and represent important fishery resources. They establish a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae (Symbiodinium) by receiving photosynthetic products from these symbiotic algae. Symbiodinium are divided into various phylotypes (A–I); each physiological character attributed to a certain phylotype may be different and may affect infectivity with clams. However, lack of information related to Symbiodinium diversities in giant clams causes difficulties in the culture of these clams, especially during the artificial infection process of Symbiodinium sources to clam larvae, which leads to an extremely low success rate in establishing infection. In this report, we have developed a multiplex PCR method, suitable for analyzing Symbiodinium phylotypes in giant clams. We have designed new specific PCR primer sets for three phylotypes (A, C and D) that give different product sizes and thus are distinguishable from each other on an electrophoresis gel. The method is reliable, highly sensitive and most practicable for aquaculture using one PCR reaction. We also performed a trial case of the method for extracted Symbiodinium DNA from clams and revealed an unexpected heterogeneity of phylotypes even though the clams tested were kept in the same pond.

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