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Clyde Jones Graduate Award GENETIC STRUCTURE AND DIVERSITY IN BOBCAT (LYNX RUFUS) POPULATIONS IN OKLAHOMA: PRELIMINARY RESULTS Timothy McSweeny and Dr. Michelle Haynie, Department of Biology, University of Central Oklahoma (email@example.com) The bobcat (Lynx rufus) has a wide distribution across North America, and is found in a variety of habitats. In many areas, including Oklahoma, the species is harvested for its pelt, with seasonal hunts on a yearly basis. There is concern that the removal of too many individuals could lead to an increase in inbreeding, as a result of small population sizes, with the possibility of alterations to the populations physical and genetic health. Specimens collected from across the state during different annual hunting seasons will be compared to each other to determine any possible notable variations within the genetic diversity of bobcats in Oklahoma as a result of the harvest. To date, DNA has been extracted from 287 samples collected during a single harvest year, and preliminary data has been generated for 5 of 19 microsatellite loci for 10 of these samples.
Clyde Jones Graduate Award THE POST-TRANSCRIPTIONAL REGULATOR MUSASHI BINDS SONIC HEDGEHOG MRNA IN THE DEVELOPING MOUSE PALATE Matthew R. Fox and Caleb D. Phillips, Department of Biological Sciences, Texas Tech University (firstname.lastname@example.org) Mammalian palatogenesis requires a high degree of molecular coordination. Palatal shelves must elevate, symmetrically extend, and fuse accurately at the midline for complete soft and hard palate formation. The protein sonic hedgehog (SHH) is expressed in the developing palate and is thought to be essential for palate elongation. Sonic hedgehog is primarily expressed in palatal rugae, signaling centers that are thought to choreograph palate growth. Diffusion of SHH from rugae induces a mitogenic response of inter-rugal cells, promoting tissue proliferation and growth of the palatal shelves. Due to the highly morphogenic potential of SHH, its production must be strictly controlled, and restricted to growth zones. Examination of museum specimens of bat species with different facial morphologies revealed a correlation between palatal rugae number and inter-rugal distance with rostral length, suggesting that rugae establishment and SHH signaling may be important in rostrum length evolution. The RNA-binding protein musashi (MSI) is thought to post-transcriptionally regulate gene expression through binding RU1-3AG mRNA motifs, which appear three times within the mouse Shh 3’UTR. Immunofluorescence staining of mouse embryos has identified the confinement of MSI to palatal rugae. Also, immunoprecipitation qPCR (RIP-qPCR) with MSI antibodies has confirmed that MSI binds Shh mRNA in the palate during embryogenesis (stage E14.5). Because MSI binds Shh mRNA in the developing palate, we hypothesize that Shh is post-transcriptionally regulated by MSI. The dynamics of this association will be evaluated through in-vitro gene expression assays involving site-directed mutagenesis of MSI-binding motifs, and siRNA knockdown of Msi, to determine the degree and directionality of expression change induced by MSI binding activity.
Clyde Jones Graduate Award PHYLOGENETIC ANALYSES OF PAINTED SPINY POCKET MICE (HETEROMYS PICTUS) AND JALISCAN SPINY POCKET MICE (HETEROMYS SPECTABILIS) Joanna R. Bateman1, Duke S. Rogers2, and Victoria L. Vance, 1Department of Biology, Texas Tech University, 2College of Life Sciences, Brigham Young University (Joanna.R.Bateman@ttu.edu) Heteromys pictus and H. spectabilis (family Heteromyidae) are members of a species complex of spiny pocket mice found across the coastal lowlands of western and southern Mexico. Heteromys pictus occupies the majority of the geographic range and is considered to be of least concern, while H. spectabilis is restricted to a small region of southeastern Jalisco, and is currently classified as an endangered species. However, recent phylogenetic analyses have provided significant evidence that the species complex is paraphyletic, with individuals of H. spectabilis forming a monophyletic group within H. pictus. The goal of this research has been to resolve this paraphyly and determine which lineages should be (re)classified as species-level taxa. To date, phylogenetic trees have been constructed based on individual genes (Cytochrome b, Beta-Fibrinogen Intron 7, Protein Kinase C Iota, and Interphotoreceptor retinol-binding protein 3) using Maximum Likelihood (RAxML) and Bayesian (BEAST) software. Additionally, a combined gene tree was generated (in BEAST) from the genes mentioned above. Both the Cytb and Combined BEAST analyses predict that the species complex populations can be split into 17 monophyletic Cytb “haplogroups.” Furthermore, multiple Kimura 2-Parameter (K2P) values calculated between these 17 haplogroups were found to be on par with those typically expected between separate rodent species and even genera. Upcoming projects with this research include exome sequencing (reduced representation genome sequencing) and incorporating haplogroup geographic relationships and barriers to better delimit the actual number of species present in this complex.
Clyde Jones Undergraduate Award PRELIMINARY ANALYSIS OF BAT WING MORPHOLOGY USING CT DATA Rhea B. Rajani1,2, Ramon S. Nagesan1,2, and Cody W. Thompson1,2, 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, 2Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan (email@example.com) Aspect ratio is a measure of the length and width of a wing, and is used to describe aerodynamic efficiency for flight. In animals with powered flight (i.e., birds and bats), aspect ratio is often used to describe wing morphologies, and is correlated with species ecology. This project aims to assess aspect ratio in bats to understand the ecological and evolutionary significance of wing morphology. Previous studies have manually measured bats or used radiography to collect data from bat wings. However, this study leverages 3D technology to digitally assess bat wing morphology. Data were obtained from museum voucher specimens housed in the mammal collection of the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Whole-body fluid specimens were selected across the bat tree of life, and scanned using x-ray computed tomography (CT). Individual CT datasets were segmented with the program VGSTUDIO MAX to produce complete 3D models for each specimen. In total, representative taxa from 16 bat families were examined. Length measurements were taken from the humerus, radius, ulna, and phalanges of each wing for each specimen. Aspect ratio will be calculated for each specimen, and then used to statistically determine family-level differences. Additional taxa will be added in the future to increase the taxonomic breadth of sampling, and to account for variation within families in wing morphology across the bat tree of life.
Vernon Bailey Undergraduate RESULTS OF THE ANNUAL CAMERA TRAPPING SURVEY OF ABILENE STATE PARK Jonathan G. Jasper, Thomas E. Lee, Jr., Brianna N. Douglas, Chelsea L. Twohy, and Simone J. Cothran, Department of Biology, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas (firstname.lastname@example.org) This study represents the second year of what will become a long-term camera trapping survey of meso and large mammals of Abilene State Park. Abilene State Park is situated in an ecotone between the Central Great Plains and a disjunct part of the Edwards Plateau in a habitat dominated by juniper and mesquite trees. Eleven Browning Strikeforce HD cameras were used to collect data from September 1st to November 1st, 2020. These cameras were set in areas away from public trails and in restricted areas of the park to minimize interference from park visitors. Eleven native mammals were photographed: Northern Raccoon Procyon lotor, Striped Skunk Mephitis mephitis, Bobcat Lynx rufus, Gray Fox Urocyon cinereoargenteus, Coyote Canis latrans, Cottontail Sylvilagus sp., Nine-banded Armadillo Dasypus novemcinctus, Virginia Opossum Didelphis virginiana, North American Porcupine Erethizon dorsatum, Eastern Fox Squirrel Sciurus niger, and White-tailed Deer Odocoileus virginianus. Three non-native mammals were also detected: Feral hog Sus scrofa, House cat Felis catus, and Domestic dog Canis lupus. Our results show that feral hogs are the second most detected mammal in Abilene State Park, which presents significant conservation problems for this habitat.
Vernon Bailey Undergraduate Award A SURVERY OF ECTOPARASTIC DIVERSITY OF BATS IN TEXAS Morgan M. Cook and Julie A. Parlos, Department of Biology, Texas Tech University at Waco (Morgan.Cook@ttu.edu) Bats are a highly speciose group of mammals and play a crucial role in our ecosystems, providing essential services such as pollination, seed dispersal, and pest control. Over one-third of all bat species are assessed as threatened or data deficient. Despite their importance, bats remain a severely understudied group of mammals. Insufficient data causes difficulty when assessing their conservation needs. It is known that bats host a unique array of parasites, some of which are obligate and have evolved with their host. Ectoparasites can restrain resource investment in hosts and may affect their growth, survival, and reproduction. Ectoparasitic loads have been correlated with poor body condition in colonial birds, but for gregarious bat species the associations remain unclear. The goal of this study was to examine ectoparasitic diversity of bats found in Texas. Captured bats were surveyed and thoroughly examined in the field for ectoparasites. Any visible ectoparasites were collected and preserved in ethanol for identification using taxonomic keys and microscopes. More gregarious species were expected to have higher ectoparasitic diversity than less gregarious species. Higher ectoparasitic diversity was observed in gregarious species, but this could be a sampling error as more individuals of gregarious species were captured. Little to no ectoparasites were found on species not considered gregarious. Another expectation was larger bats or bats with thicker hairs may host a wider array of parasites; this trend was not observed with our data. More data is needed for cogent conclusions, especially with respect to more solitary species which are underrepresented in this study because the COVID-19 lockdown limited sampling opportunities. Regardless, this study presents an introduction for future researchers interested in which ectoparasites can be found on bats of Texas.
Vernon Bailey Undergraduate Award 3D VISUALIZATION AND DESCRIPTION OF VENOM GLANDS IN SHORT-TAILED SHREWS (GENUS BLARINA) Shion T. Otsuka1,2, Ramon S. Nagesan1,2, Jenna M. Crowe-Riddell1,2, Alison R. Davis Rabosky1,2, and Cody W. Thompson1,2, 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, 2Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan (email@example.com) Venom has diverged independently in several taxonomic groups across the tree of life, but it is least common in mammals. To date, only eight species of mammal across four orders have been confirmed to be venomous. The most well known, and perhaps most common, venomous mammal is the northern short-tailed shrews (Blarina brevicauda), which uses a submaxillary gland to produce and deliver venomous saliva. Using high definition 3D digital visualization methods of skeletal and soft tissue, we compared submaxillary glands in multiple subspecies of the northern short-tailed shrew (Blarina b. brevicauda, B. brevicauda kirtlandi, and B. brevicauda talpoides). Specimens were selected from the mammal collections of the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and data were collected using x-ray computed tomography (CT) and diffusible iodine-based contrast-enhanced CT (diceCT) scanning. Fully intact male and female specimens, which have been preserved in fluid, were chosen. Three-dimensional reconstructions of shrew submaxillary glands and mandibles were created using VGSTUDIO MAX. Volumetric and dimensional data were digitally calculated from the 3D renderings and compared between subspecies. Future work will include adding other species of Blarina, and will further explore the morphological mechanisms underlying venom production and delivery in mammals.
Vernon Bailey Graduate Award EFFECTS OF ANTHROPOGENIC STRESSORS ON ABUNDANCE, SITE FIDELITY, AND RESIDENCY PATTERNS OF BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS IN COASTAL BEND, TEXAS Samantha Huron and Dara Orbach, Department of Life Sciences, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (firstname.lastname@example.org) Anthropogenic disturbances, including pollution, vessel traffic, and noise, often negatively impact marine habitats and biota. Anthropogenic stressors are prevalent in areas of high industrialization and their effects on marine populations can be measured using bioindicator species. Although bottlenose dolphins have been identified as a bioindicator species, few studies have assessed the impacts of channel dredging on dolphins. The Coastal Bend region of Texas is industrialized and is undergoing extensive dredging in ports and ship channels to accommodate additional and larger vessels. By monitoring the local imperiled stock of bottlenose dolphins, it will be possible to infer disturbances to the ecosystem. Patterns of dolphin abundance, residency, and site fidelity are being determined relative to habitat degradation by integrating photo-identification data with geospatial and water quality data. Resulting patterns will be used to inform conservation management to implement policies to protect this stock and the resident marine biota.
Vernon Bailey Graduate Award OCELOT AND BOBCAT OCCURRENCE IN A HUNTED EXOTIC GAME RANCH Zachary M. Wardle1, Jason V. Lombardi1, and Michael E. Tewes1, 1Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas A&M University-Kingsville (email@example.com) The endangered ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) is found in two isolated populations of <80 individuals in South Texas. The Refuge Population is located in eastern Cameron County, and the much larger Ranch Population is located on private rangelands in Willacy and Kenedy counties. The size and distribution of the Ranch Population is being evaluated, and working with landowners to conduct camera monitoring can provide needed information on the status of the population. From 2020 to 2021, we used camera traps on a confidential ranch in southern Kenedy County to assess ocelot presence and bobcat (Lynx rufus) coexistence within a hunted exotic game ranch. We determined the number of photographic events, camera trap success rates, and diel activity patterns for large and medium-sized mammal species. Species richness was also calculated for each camera station. Ocelots were detected during the survey, and their number and distribution on the study site were estimated. The previously undocumented presence of ocelots on the ranch contributes to a growing understanding of the status and distribution of the Ranch Population and refinement of its range and abundance estimates. These findings also demonstrate the importance of private lands where extensive habitat tracts are largely shielded from development, thus benefitting ocelot and wildlife conservation in South Texas.
Vernon Bailey Graduate Award WILDLIFE USE OF FUTURE WILDLIFE MITIGATION STRUCTURES ON A HIGHWAY IN SOUTH TEXAS Thomas J. Yamashita1, Zachary M. Wardle1, Jason V. Lombardi1, Michael E. Tewes1, John H. Young Jr.2, 1Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas A&M University–Kingsville, Kingsville, TX 78363, USA, 2Environmental Affairs Division, Texas Department of Transportation, Austin, TX, 78701, USA (firstname.lastname@example.org) Roads can have major impacts on wildlife, causing habitat fragmentation and direct mortality from wildlife-vehicle collisions. Therefore, wildlife crossings are often constructed on roads to help promote connectivity and reduce wildlife road mortality. In order to assess the effectiveness of these structures over long time periods, it is important to establish baseline rates of use along the highway before the mitigation structures are constructed. In South Texas, wildlife crossing structures (WCSs) are being built to reduce threats of roads to the endangered ocelot (Leopardus pardalis). However, these WCSs benefit a wide variety of species in addition to ocelots. In this study, we assessed baseline mammal usage of future wildlife mitigation structures on Farm-to-Market (FM) 1847 in eastern Cameron County, Texas. The pre-construction preparation for the construction of wildlife mitigation structures on FM 1847 began in February 2020. We used camera traps set at the locations where the mitigation structures will be built to monitor wildlife use of those sites from July 2019 through February 2020. We determined the number of individual photographic events, camera trap success rates, and diel activity for all large and medium-sized mammal species. We identified between six and 12 unique species at each of the five crossing locations. Bobcats were detected at four of the crossings and were most prominent at an underpass along a resaca (WCS 2). Most wild species showed nocturnal activity, while domestic cats showed diurnal and nocturnal activity. These results will help establish baseline usage of future wildlife crossing locations on FM 1847 and allow us to assess their effectiveness at reducing road mortality and increasing landscape connectivity.
Vernon Bailey Graduate Award ESTIMATING OCCUPANCY OF COYOTES (CANIS LATRANS) ON RANGELANDS USING CAMERA TRAP AND ACOUSTIC DATA Kenneth Shimer1, Vicki Jackson1, Stephen Webb2, and Mike Proctor2, Department of Biology, University of Central Oklahoma1, Noble Research Institute, LLC2 (KShimer@uco.edu) Acoustics offer a new form of detection that increases the detection range beyond that of traditional camera trapping. We will use a combination of acoustic and camera trapping to model occupancy of two different patches of rangeland in southcentral Oklahoma by coyotes (Canis latrans). The main objective of our study is to determine if acoustic data is better than camera traps at detecting coyotes. We will consider distance from roads, distance from water sources, and vegetation type as covariates for occupancy. Other factors we will address are those that may affect probability of detection: weather, canopy cover, and proximity to man made structures. The first step of this project is processing the acoustics data and camera data. All recorded acoustic data will be analyzed using Kaleidoscope Pro, Raven Pro, R and Python programs and then will be check manually to determine how affective the programs are at detecting true positives. We will then create detection histories for both acoustic data and camera traps and use PRESENCE to model occupancy and detection. These processes will be repeated for each collection season to generate a multiple season approach. Once both seasons have been assessed the data will be compiled and multiple models will be generated. We expect that out of the two collection methods the acoustic data will show a higher level of detections.