(65/4610) Origin of the West Nile virus responsible for an outbreak of encephalitis in the northeastern United States.

In late summer 1999, an outbreak of human encephalitis occurred in the northeastern United States that was concurrent with extensive mortality in crows (Corvus species) as well as the deaths of several exotic birds at a zoological park in the same area. Complete genome sequencing of a flavivirus isolated from the brain of a dead Chilean flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis), together with partial sequence analysis of envelope glycoprotein (E-glycoprotein) genes amplified from several other species including mosquitoes and two fatal human cases, revealed that West Nile (WN) virus circulated in natural transmission cycles and was responsible for the human disease. Antigenic mapping with E-glycoprotein-specific monoclonal antibodies and E-glycoprotein phylogenetic analysis confirmed these viruses as WN. This North American WN virus was most closely related to a WN virus isolated from a dead goose in Israel in 1998.  (+info)

(66/4610) Comparative development of the mammalian isocortex and the reptilian dorsal ventricular ridge. Evolutionary considerations.

There has been a long debate about a possible homology between parts of the dorsal ventricular ridge (DVR) of reptiles and birds, and parts of the mammalian isocortex. Correspondence between these structures was originally proposed on the basis of connectional similarities between the DVR of birds and the mammalian auditory and extrastriate visual isocortical areas. Furthermore, the proposal of homology includes the possible embryological similarity of cells that give rise to the DVR and cells that give rise to the isocortex. Against this concept it has been claimed that the DVR and the isocortex originate in topographically different pallial compartments, an interpretation that is supported by recent developmental and molecular data. Other studies indicate that migrating cells can cross the borders between adjacent developmental compartments: cells that originate in subcortical components contribute a number of interneurons to the developing isocortex via tangential migration. This mechanism might reconcile the proposed homology with the developmental evidence, since cells originating in one compartment (the one corresponding to DVR) may become included in structures generated in a different compartment (the one corresponding to isocortex). However, there is no evidence in mammals of a structure homologous to the embryonic DVR that can produce isocortical neurons. In order to fully clarify the problem of isocortical origins, further comparative studies are needed of the embryonic development of the lateral and dorsal aspects of the cerebral hemispheres in amphibians, reptiles and mammals.  (+info)

(67/4610) Darwin's finches: population variation and natural selection.

Van Valen's model, which relates morphological variation to ecological variation in an adaptive scheme, was investigated with individually marked and measured Darwin's finches on two adjacent Galapagos islands, Santa Cruz and Daphne Major. Results show that environmental heterogeneity is correlated with large continuous, morphological variation: variation in bill dimensions of Geospiza fortis is greater on Santa Cruz than on Daphne, as is environmental heterogeneity. Within populations of this species, different phenotypes distribute themselves in different habitat patches, select foods of different sizes and hardness, and exploit them with efficiencies that are phenotype- (bill size) dependent. These data constitute indirect evidence that natural selection has a controlling influence over the level of phenotypic variation exhibited by a population. Further evidence is that phenotypes did not survive equally well during the study period; on Daphne island G. fortis was apparently subjected to directional selection on bill tip length and G. scandens to normalizing selection on body weight and bill depth. Other factors which may have contributed to the establishment of a difference in variation between Santa Cruz and Daphne populations are the founder effect, genetic drift, and assortative mating. Annual climatic unpredictability is considered a source of environmental heterogeneity which, through its effect upon food supply, favors large morphological variation. It is predicted that species of large individual size are more influenced by this than are small species, and consequently exhibit greater size-corrected variation. The prediction is tested with data from six Geospiza species, and found to be correct.  (+info)

(68/4610) A hepatic receptor of avian origin capable of binding specifically modified glycoproteins.

Evidence is reported to support the following conclusions: (i) The presence of a specific hepatic receptor capable of recognizing and binding galactose-terminated glycoproteins is responsible for maintaining near zero levels of circulating asialoglycoproteins in mammalian serum. (ii) The absence of this galactose-specific binding protein in avian, and presumably reptilian, liver is correlated with high levels of circulating asialoglycoproteins in the serum of these species. (iii) The evolutionary significance of these observations is reinforced by the recognition of an avian hepatic binding protein specific for terminal, N-acetyl-glucosamine residues on glycoproteins.  (+info)

(69/4610) Isolation and characterization of Campylobacter jejuni subsp. jejuni from macaroni penguins (Eudyptes chrysolophus) in the subantarctic region.

On Bird Island, South Georgia, albatrosses (n = 140), penguins (n = 100), and fur seals (n = 206) were sampled for Campylobacter jejuni. C. jejuni subsp. jejuni was recovered from three macaroni penguins (Eudyptes chrysolophus). These isolates, the first reported for the subantarctic region, showed low genetic diversity and high similarity to Northern Hemisphere C. jejuni isolates, possibly suggesting recent introduction to the area.  (+info)

(70/4610) Changes in brain gonadotropin-releasing hormone- and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide-like immunoreactivity accompanying reestablishment of photosensitivity in male dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis).

In seasonally breeding, photoperiodic birds, the development of photorefractoriness is associated with decreased brain expression of gonadotropin-releasing hormone-like immunoreactivity (GnRH-li ir) and increased expression of vasoactive intestinal polypeptide-like immunoreactivity (VIP-li ir). Dissipation of photorefractoriness and reestablishment of photosensitivity are associated with increased GnRH-li ir brain production, but concurrent changes in VIP-li ir expression have not been investigated. To address this question, we compared the expression of VIP-li ir in the infundibulum (INF) of adult male dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis) that were made photorefractory (PR) by prolonged exposure to long days with that of birds that were not photostimulated (PS), but had regained photosensitivity by exposure to short days for 5 (short-term-PS, ST-PS) or 13 (long-term-PS, LT-PS) consecutive months. Photosensitive males had smaller INF VIP-li ir cell bodies than PR males, but the numbers of INF VIP-li ir cells were independent of photoperiodic condition. Changes in infundibular VIP-li ir were correlated with changes in preoptic area (POA) GnRH-li expression. Specifically, photosensitive males had more and larger POA GnRH-li ir cells and more GnRH-li ir fibers in this region than PR males. Further, LT-PS males had more GnRH-li ir POA fibers and larger testes than ST-PS juncos. Thus, induction of photorefractoriness is associated with increased VIP and decreased GnRH brain expression whereas dissipation of photorefractoriness concurs with decreased VIP and increased GnRH brain expression. These results suggest a physiological role for VIP in the control of changes in GnRH expression as a function of the photosensitive condition.  (+info)

(71/4610) Anthropogenic extinction of top carnivores and interspecific animal behaviour: implications of the rapid decoupling of a web involving wolves, bears, moose and ravens.

The recent extinction of grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) and wolves (Canis lupus) by humans from 95-99% of the contiguous USA and Mexico in less than 100 years has resulted in dramatically altered and expanded prey communities. Such rampant ecological change and putative ecological instability has not occurred in North American northern boreal zones. This geographical variation in the loss of large carnivores as a consequence of anthropogenic disturbance offers opportunities for examining the potential consequences of extinction on subtle but important ecological patterns involving behaviour and interspecific ecological interactions. In Alaska, where scavengers and large carnivores are associated with carcasses, field experiments involving sound playback simulations have demonstrated that at least one prey species, moose (Alces alces), is sensitive to the vocalizations of ravens (Corvus corax) and may rely on their cues to avoid predation. However, a similar relationship is absent on a predator-free island in Alaska's Cook Inlet and at two sites in the Jackson Hole region of the Rocky Mountains (USA) where grizzly bears and wolves have been extinct for 50-70 years. While prior study of birds and mammals has demonstrated that prey may retain predator recognition capabilities for thousands of years even after predation as a selective force has been relaxed, the results presented here establish that a desensitization in interspecific responsiveness can also occur in less than ten generations. These results affirm (i) a rapid decoupling in behaviour involving prey and scavengers as a consequence of anthropogenic-caused predator-prey disequilibriums, and (ii) subtle, community-level modifications in terrestrial ecosystems where large carnivores no longer exist. If knowledge about ecological and behavioural processes in extant systems is to be enhanced, the potential effects of recently extinct carnivores must be incorporated into current programmes.  (+info)

(72/4610) The maximum oxygen consumption and aerobic scope of birds and mammals: getting to the heart of the matter.

Resting or basal metabolic rates, compared across a wide range of organisms, scale with respect to body mass as approximately the 0.75 power. This relationship has recently been linked to the fractal geometry of the appropriate transport system or, in the case of birds and mammals, the blood vascular system. However, the structural features of the blood vascular system should more closely reflect maximal aerobic metabolic rates rather than submaximal function. Thus, the maximal aerobic metabolic rates of birds and mammals should also scale as approximately the 0.75 power. A review of the literature on maximal oxygen consumption and factorial aerobic scope (maximum oxygen consumption divided by basal metabolic rate) suggests that body mass influences the capacity of the cardiovascular system to raise metabolic rates above those at rest. The results show that the maximum sustainable metabolic rates of both birds and mammals are similar and scale as approximately the 0.88 +/- 0.02 power of body mass (and aerobic scope as approximately the 0.15 +/- 0.05 power), when the measurements are standardized with respect to the differences in relative heart mass and haemoglobin concentration between species. The maximum heart beat frequency of birds and mammals is predicted to scale as the -0.12 +/- 0.02 power of body mass, while that at rest should scale as -0.27 +/- 0.04.  (+info)