Navigation Links
Scientists develop novel method to study parasite numbers in wild seabirds
Date:12/13/2012

Scientists have developed a new method for studying parasite numbers in the stomachs of individual seabirds in the wild. The technique enables the recording of video footage of worms inside seabird stomachs and is an important step forward in understanding the impact of parasites on seabird populations. The research is published today (13 December 2012) in the scientific journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

The research team trialled the use of endoscopy, often used in human and veterinary medicine but rarely in field situations, to measure natural parasite loads, or burdens, of European shags, a member of the cormorant family. The new study is part of ongoing work into how different factors such as gut parasites might affect the breeding success or survival of seabirds.

Shags have nematode worms (Contracaecum rudolphii) in their stomachs, obtained from their fish diet. These worms feed directly on food obtained by the birds, reducing for the food available to both parent and chicks.

The team behind today's study was led by Dr Sarah Burthe from the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) in the UK. Dr Burthe and colleagues from CEH collaborated with scientists from the University of Edinburgh (UK), Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland (UK), Aarhus University, (Denmark) and the Natural History Museum, London (UK). The study was carried out on the Isle of May NNR, an important seabird colony off the east coast of Scotland which has been intensively studied since the 1970s.

Dr Burthe said, "Endoscopy is used routinely in veterinary and human medicine but to our knowledge has not been used to measure parasites in wild animals. Our new method using an endoscope is a rapid, reliable and repeatable way of looking at gut parasites in European shags which has no obvious adverse effects."

The study found that all birds had parasites ranging from low burdens of several worms through to high burdens of more than 40 worms. Burdens were significantly higher in males and in late breeders. There was a slight seasonal decline in worm counts within individuals.

One way to get an understanding of the impact of parasites on breeding success and survival is to treat birds with an anti-parasite drug to reduce or remove worm burdens and then compare to untreated birds. However, until now the lack of a method to measure parasite numbers effectively has made it difficult to know whether such treatments have worked. The use of the endoscope enabled the researchers to conclude that, at a suitable dose, the anti-parasite drug completely removed nematode worms from the stomach of treated shags.

Study co-author Dr Francis Daunt, a population ecologist at the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said, "Being able to monitor individual parasite burdens is a major step forward in this field of research. We are hopeful this new technique could be applied to other wild animal systems, possibly including reptile, mammal and other bird hosts."

Dr Burthe added, "Endoscopy opens up some interesting research questions, enabling us to more fully explore the role parasites play in impacting the breeding success and survival of seabirds, particularly how impacts may vary with changes in prey availability."

Why use endoscopy to study parasites in wild seabirds?

Parasites are an important part of ecosystems, occurring in all wild animal species and playing an important part in the evolutionary process. Relatively few studies have focussed on gut parasites in wild animals, in part because it is very difficult to measure parasite levels in hosts without resorting to examining animal carcasses or counting eggs in faeces, both of which can be unreliable measures. Some previous ways of studying parasites in wild populations have involved killing birds.

The endoscopy method is rapid and well suited to species that routinely swallow large prey items and/or where chicks feed by inserting their heads into the parent's throat. Observations from this study confirmed that Shags went straight back to their broods and their breeding success was as high as pairs that were not endoscoped.

Endoscopy is a licensed procedure and was undertaken under a Home Office Project Licence and conducted by trained personnel. The work had full ethical approval from the University of Edinburgh and CEH's Ethics Committees and the Home Office. As this was a novel technique that is usually undertaken in a clinical setting, the work was initially carried out under full independent veterinary supervision.


'/>"/>

Contact: Dr Barnaby Smith
bpgs@ceh.ac.uk
44-079-202-95384
Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Was the sauropod dinosaurs large size due to plant food? Scientists argue old idea still has legs
2. Another muscular dystrophy mystery solved; MU scientists inch closer to a therapy for patients
3. Gladstone scientists discover novel mechanism by which calorie restriction influences longevity
4. Neuroscientists prove ultrasound can be tweaked to stimulate different sensations
5. New test adds to scientists understanding of Earths history, resources
6. 23andMe scientists receive more than $500,000 in National Institutes of Health funding
7. Salk scientists develop faster, safer method for producing stem cells
8. Kansas State University scientists named American Association for the Advancement of Science fellows
9. Liverpool scientists decipher genetic code of wheat
10. USDA scientists and cooperators sequence the wheat genome in breakthrough for global food security
11. Scientists sniff out the substances behind the aroma in the king of fruits
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Scientists develop novel method to study parasite numbers in wild seabirds
(Date:6/2/2016)... 2, 2016 The Department of Transport ... the 44 million US Dollar project, for the , ... including Personalization, Enrolment, and IT Infrastructure , to ... production and implementation of Identity Management Solutions. Numerous renowned international ... Decatur was selected for the most compliant ...
(Date:6/1/2016)... YORK , June 1, 2016 ... Technology in Election Administration and Criminal Identification to Boost ... to a recently released TechSci Research report, " Global ... By Region, Competition Forecast and Opportunities, 2011 - 2021", ... 24.8 billion by 2021, on account of growing security ...
(Date:5/16/2016)... May 16, 2016   EyeLock LLC , a ... the opening of an IoT Center of Excellence in ... expand the development of embedded iris biometric applications. ... of convenience and security with unmatched biometric accuracy, making ... aside from DNA. EyeLock,s platform uses video technology to ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... June 27, 2016 , ... Parallel 6 , the ... today the Clinical Reach Virtual Patient Encounter CONSULT module which enables both ... physician and clinical trial team. , Using the CONSULT module, patients and physicians can ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... -- Liquid Biotech USA , Inc. ... Research Agreement with The University of Pennsylvania ("PENN") ... patients.  The funding will be used to assess ... outcomes in cancer patients undergoing a variety of ... to support the design of a therapeutic, decision-making ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... 24, 2016 Epic Sciences unveiled a ... susceptible to PARP inhibitors by targeting homologous recombination ... The new test has already been incorporated into ... cancer types. Over 230 clinical trials ... pathways, including PARP, ATM, ATR, DNA-PK and WEE-1. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Mosio, a leader in ... Trials Patient Recruitment and Retention Tips.” Partnering with experienced clinical research professionals, Mosio ... practical tips, tools, and strategies for clinical researchers. , “The landscape of how ...
Breaking Biology Technology: