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Understanding the processes leading to fossilization

Modern death assemblages provide insights about the early stages of fossilization and useful ecological information about the species inhabiting the ecosystem. The results of taphonomic monitoring of modern vertebrate carcasses and bones from Doñana National Park, a Mediterranean coastal ecosystem in Andalusia, Spain, are presented. Ten different habitats were surveyed. Half of them occur in active depositional environments (marshland, lake margin, river margin, beach and dunes). Most of the skeletal remains belong to land mammals larger than 5 kg in body weight (mainly wild and feral ungulates). Overall, the Doñana bone assemblage shows good preservation with little damage to the bones, partly as a consequence of the low predator pressure on large vertebrates. Assemblages from active depositional habitats differ significantly from other habitats in terms of the higher incidence of breakage and chewing marks on bones in the latter, which result from scavenging, mainly by wild boar and red fox. The lake-margin and river-margin death assemblages have high concentrations of well preserved bones that are undergoing burial and offer the greatest potential to produce fossil assemblages. The spatial distribution of species in the Doñana death assemblage generally reflects the preferred habitats of the species in life. Meadows seem to be a preferred winter habitat for male deer, given the high number of shed antlers recorded there. This study is further proof that taphonomy can provide powerful insights to better understand the ecology of modern species and to infer past and future scenarios for the fossil record. informacion[at] Domingo et al (2020) Taphonomic information from the modern vertebrate death assemblage of Doñana National Park, Spain. PLOS ONE 15(11): e0242082. DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0242082
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Interactions between domestic and wild ungulates

Interactions between domestic and wild ungulates

Controlling infections shared by wildlife and livestock requires the understanding and quantification of interspecific interactions between the species involved. This is particularly important in extensive multi-host systems, in which controlled domestic animals interact with uncontrolled, abundant and expanding wild species, such as wild ungulates. The interspecific interactions between wild boar and freeranging cattle were quantified in Mediterranean Spain, along with their spatio-temporal variability. GPSGSM- collars were used to monitor 12 cows and 14 wild boars in the Doñana National Park between 2011 and 2013. Interactions were defined as encounters between cattle and wild boar within a spatio-temporal window of 52 m and 1 hour. On average, each wild boar interacted with one cow 1.5 ± (SE) 0.5 times per day, while each cow interacted with one wild boar 1.3 ± 0.4 times per day. The frequency of interaction was significantly higher during crepuscular hours owing to the overlap of both species' activity, and also during spring and autumn, probably owing to a higher individual aggregation around shared resources. Finally, the frequency of interaction was higher near the most significant shared resources (e.g. water points) but was lower in areas with dense vegetation. The results presented here show the usefulness of GPS monitoring as regards quantifying interactions and helping to clarify the process of pathogen transmission at the wildlife-livestock interface in Mediterranean Spain, along with the main spatio-temporal risk factors. In a changing scenario in which European populations of wild ungulates are increasing, more efficient measures with which to control interactions are required to meet the demands of farmers and managers. These results, therefore, provide directional hypotheses that could be used to design disease control programmes. informacion[at] Triguero-Ocaña et al (2019) Spatio-temporal trends in the frequency of interspecific interactions between domestic and wild ungulates from Mediterranean Spain. PLoS ONE