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Human footprint and vulture mortality

Events of non-natural mortality in human-dominated landscapes are especially challenging for populations of large vertebrates with K strategies. Among birds, vultures are one of the most threatened groups experiencing sharp population declines due to non-natural mortality. Factors causing non-natural mortality are usually studied separately. However, the potential use of an integrated index able to predict large-scale mortality risks of avian scavengers could be especially useful for planning conservation strategies. Here, the Human Footprint index was used to examine the impact of landscape anthropization on the survival rates of 66 GPS-tagged adult Eurasian griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus) in two Spanish regions. Foraging in more anthropized areas resulted in a significantly higher individual mortality risk mainly due to collisions with vehicles, poisonings, electrocutions and fatalities with wind turbines. Mean yearly survival rates were estimated at 0.817 and 0.968 for individuals from the more and less anthropized regions, respectively. Additional research should investigate whether some vulture populations could be acting as sinks unnoticed due to metapopulation dynamics. From a broader point of view, this study shows that a straightforward Human Footprint was a useful index to predict the survival of top scavengers and can be highly applicable to planning large-scale conservation measures. informacion[at] Arrondo et al (2020) Landscape anthropization shapes the survival of a top avian scavenger. Biodivers Conserv.
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A source of exogenous oxidative stress improves oxidative status and favors pheomelanin synthesis in zebra finches

A source of exogenous oxidative stress improves oxidative status and favors pheomelanin synthesis in zebra finches

Some organisms can modulate gene expression to trigger physiological responses that help adapt to environmental stress. The synthesis of the pigment pheomelanin in melanocytes seems to be one of these responses, as it may contribute to cellular homeostasis. Environmental oxidative stress was experimentally induced in male zebra finches Taeniopygia guttata by the administration of the herbicide diquat dibromide during feather growth to test if the expression of genes involved in pheomelanin synthesis shows epigenetic lability. As pheomelanin synthesis implies decreasing the availability of the main cellular antioxidant (glutathione), it is expected to cause oxidative stress unless a protective mechanism limits pheomelanin synthesis and thus favors the antioxidant capacity. However, diquat exposure did not only improve the antioxidant capacity of birds, but also upregulated the expression of a gene (AGRP) that promotes pheomelanin synthesis in feather melanocytes, leading to the development of darker plumage coloration. No changes in the expression of other genes involved in pheomelanin synthesis (Slc7a11, Slc45a2, MC1R, ASIP and CTNS) were detected. DNA methylation levels only changed in MC1R, suggesting that epigenetic modifications other than changes in methylation may regulate AGRP expression lability. These results suggest that exogenous oxidative stress induced a hormetic response that enhanced their oxidative status and, consequently, promoted pheomelanin-based pigmentation, supporting the idea that birds adjust pheomelanin synthesis to their oxidative stress conditions. información[at] Rodríguez-Martínez & Galván (2019) A source of exogenous oxidative stress improves oxidative status and favors pheomelanin synthesis in zebra finches. Comp Biochem Phys C