Do male jumping spider display colors function as sensory traps to avoid cannibalism?

Lauren Gawel, Michelle Brock, Lisa Anne Taylor; Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of Florida

Evolution of male ornamentation is often driven by sexual selection. Male color patterns may act as ‘sensory traps’ that exploit already-existing color biases in females that spill over from other contexts. In jumping spiders, many males display bright colors like those used by prey to warn of toxicity (e.g., red patches and black-and-white stripes). We hypothesized that since females are expected to avoid bright colors, males with black and white striped facial patterning would have a lower risk of being attacked by females; therefore, they would also have a lower risk of cannibalism by females. We tested this hypothesis using the jumping spiders Habronattus trimaculatus and Phidippus regius. Males display black-and-white stripes on their faces and front legs, respectively (directed at cryptically-colored females). If these stripes function as a sensory trap, we would expect females to avoid attacking black and white striped prey. To test this, we presented spiders with termites that had colored ‘capes’ adhered to their abdomens (black, white, or black-and-white striped). Results showed that the spiders attacked striped termites (and black termites) at significantly lower levels than the white termites. This is consistent with our hypothesis that black-and-white patterns in male displays might effectively reduce cannibalism risk. While studies of sensory traps have been done in other animals, our study takes a novel approach examining the balance between attracting a female and avoiding risks associated with courtship.


What do you get when you mix vet med with taxidermy?

There was once an aspiring veterinarian who put himself through veterinary school working nights as a taxidermist. Upon graduation, he decided he could combine his two vocations to better serve the needs of his patients and their owners, while doubling his practice and, therefore, his income. He opened his own office with a sign on the door saying, “Dr. Jones, Veterinary Medicine and Taxidermy. Either Way, You Get Your Dog Back!”


This hilarious submission was sent in by Heather Reist from Lincoln-Memorial University!


The Elephant Diaries

My name is Elvina Yau and I am a 3rd year veterinary student at Cornell. While my professional interests include Companion Animal Medicine and practice ownership, I am also passionate about wildlife conservation. Cornell’s Expanding Horizons Program was an excellent opportunity to further explore this realm in an international setting.

I partnered with the Elephant Research and Education Center (EREC) at Chiang Mai University Veterinary School to conduct research on Asian elephant welfare. EREC was founded in 2010 with the objectives of conserving the Asian elephant species and preserving the elephant-based culture that Thailand embodies. According to the IUCN Red List, Asian elephants are listed as Endangered. Currently, Thailand’s remaining wild population is estimated at roughly 2000-4000. Without significant changes, the number of elephants may critically decline to levels beyond restorability. The country’s industrial shift from logging to tourism after the 1989 commercial forestry ban marked the rise of elephant camps. Many Asian elephants and their mahouts (caretakers designated to individual elephants) who were once employed in logging and resorted to illegal street performing now live in tourist camps as rescues. These camps enable the elephants to roam freely and interact with visitors while providing employment for their mahouts. Inevitably, the standards of care provided at these tourist camps vary. The complexity of tourist camps arises from the fact that elephant rescues are given a place to live at these sites, but tourism generates the income needed to provide sustenance and veterinary care for these elephants.

My project specifically investigates how elephant foot health is affected by housing factors, which is a reflection of the management practices at various tourist camps. Conditions such as hard flooring substrates, high workloads, or excessive feeding have been associated with the development of foot abnormalities. By performing thorough physical examinations and working directly with mahouts, I’ve been able to inspect the limbs of multiple elephants and use a foot assessment checklist to score the severity of foot pathology on the toenails, interdigital spaces, and footpads. Our team then applied this data by providing facility and husbandry recommendations that will improve elephant welfare at these camps.

Foot pathology comprises one of the most prevalent health concerns afflicting Asian elephants. Since health is a useful indicator of animal welfare, the data gathered from this study can help inform targeted management modifications that can be implemented at these camps, reducing foot disease while enhancing the welfare of these elephants. Studying the relationships between housing conditions and elephant foot health and applying those findings are tasks that involve a collaborative effort between veterinarians, mahouts, and camp managerial staff. Pursuing this international service-learning experience demonstrates the organizational and teamwork skills critical in the interrelated nature of any research and conservation endeavor.

Throughout my summer, I witnessed the daily operations of elephant camps and clinics while immersing myself in the sights and sounds of Thailand. The experience dovetailed a clinical and research component that enabled me to hone my skills both as a budding clinician and inquisitive scientist. Obtaining a first-hand view of Thailand through a unique veterinary lens ultimately allowed me to delve into a new facet of my career path while assisting EREC in their efforts to champion elephant welfare.

From this experience, I wanted to gain not only clinical knowledge, but also better understand the institutional factors and management strategies that wildlife conservation hinges upon. Veterinary care is essential to maintaining the health of the elephant herd, coupled with educating the global community about these issues in order to promote conservation efforts. At Chiang Mai, I was placed in an incredible position to help provide veterinary services to and conduct research on Asian elephants—a formative and intensive experience during which I learned about the complexities and joys of caring for numerous elephants, and what advocating on their behalf truly entails.

Participating in this international research project last summer therefore provided me with a unique opportunity to broaden my perspective of conservation medicine in developing countries and truly explore the versatility of a DVM degree. As I progress on my veterinary career path and continue to cultivate my professional interests, I am excited to uncover what lies ahead.














Mocha's Many Outfits

This adorable pup is Mocha and he is very fashionable. His mom, Natasha Yeh from Tufts University, enjoys dressing him up in jackets depending on the season!












An Op-Ed on Veterinary Feed Directives


By Heather Reist from LMU

One of the important issues commonly discussed in the veterinary, governmental, and human medicine fields is the concept, “One Health.” One Health discusses the direct health connection between humans, animals, and their environment. Veterinarians, government officials, physicians, and ecologists have been discussing the effects of disease spread between each of these fields. Zoonotic diseases are disease that are spread from animals to humans. Because of the close contact between humans and animals, unfortunately, zoonoses can be spread very easily and be extremely harmful. Many of infections and disease are treated with antibiotics. However, if used too often, humans and animals can build up a resistance to these treatments. To prevent further antimicrobial and antibiotic resistance, the FDA has created a new law that impacts producers and the food animal industry. 

Prior to January 1, 2017, food animal producers used to prevent and treat diseases of all animals in the herd using antibiotics in feed and/or water. Even if the animal did not show signs of the infection, it still was able to receive treatment given in the feed. These drugs were often used to promote growth and increase feed efficiency. They could be obtained “over the counter” and at local feed mills. However, it was noticed that antibiotics, even if not given after the withdrawal time, affected human health. When an animal is given an antibiotic, it kills the bad bacterial, but the resistant bacterial survive and reproduce. The resistant bacterial is in the meat and then can spread to humans by the consumption of meat products, through contaminated soil and water, or through handling feces. Eventually, the resistant bacteria are found in humans and the human gets sick. Antibiotics used in human medicine do not cure these infections because the bacteria is already resistant. 

To reduce the amount of resistant bacteria in the environment, the FDA decided to create VFDs, veterinary feed directives. VFDs eliminate the need to use antibiotics for growth promotion and feed efficiency. They only can be obtained through a licensed veterinarian. Therefore, producers will not be able to obtain these new prescribed drugs without consulting the veterinarian and filling out paperwork. The producer will also have to have a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) in order to be prescribed the feed antibiotic. This will be a temporary inconvenience for food animal producers and the industry, but it will overall help reduce resistance to antibiotics. 

Unfortunately, the VFD will probably cost the producer more in the long run. He will have added veterinary bills, due to having a vet prescribe the feed additive, and his livestock will not be as “feed efficient” due to the lack of antibiotic. Since these drugs were used to promote growth and increase feed efficiency, the producer will have to spend more money feeding his livestock and getting them to market weight. Instead of buying one feed composition, he may have to get more than one if one of the animals needs the antibiotic. It will also be harder to separate the specific animal from the herd when feeding. 

Consumers will most likely have a positive view on veterinary feed directives. Since it impacts their health as well, they will be in favor of preventing antimicrobial resistance. As time goes on, it will probably be determined that it is saving lives of thousands of humans. However, since the cost of production may slightly increase, the cost of meat and products may also increase. The safety of the human population will certainly outweigh the costs. 

Overall, due to the new VFD regulation, antibiotics in feed are now being used with caution and can only be prescribed by a veterinarian. To prevent antibiotic resistance in animals and humans, the VFD will prevent producers from using the drugs to promote growth and increase feed efficiency. Although this could potentially decrease production and/or increase the cost of production, it will overall have a positive affect for consumers. One Health is so important because it connects animal industry to humans and the environment. It is necessary to keep in mind how animals affect humans and vise versa.


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