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Creators/Authors contains: "Holekamp, Kay E."

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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2023
  2. Hopkins, Jack (Ed.)
    Abstract As fecal steroid methods increasingly are used by researchers to monitor the physiology of captive and wild populations, we need to expand our validation protocols to test the effects of procedural variation and to identify contamination by exogenous sources of steroid hormones. Mammalian carnivore feces often contain large amounts of hair from the prey they consume, which itself may contain high concentrations of hormones. In this study, we report first a validation of two steroid hormone antibodies, corticosterone and progesterone, to determine fecal concentrations of these hormones in wild spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta). Next, we expand on these standard validation protocols to test two additional metrics: (i) whether hair from consumed prey or (ii) the specific drying method (oven incubation vs. lyophilization) affect steroid hormone concentrations in feces. In the first biological validation for the progesterone antibody in this species, progesterone concentrations met our expectations: (i) concentrations of plasma and fecal progesterone were lowest in immature females, higher in lactating females, and highest in pregnant females; (ii) across pregnant females, fecal progesterone concentrations were highest during late pregnancy; and (iii) among lactating females, fecal progesterone concentrations were highest after parturition. Our additional validation experiments indicated that contamination with preymore »hair and drying method are hormone-specific. Although prey hair did not release hormones into samples during storage or extraction for either hormone, its presence appeared to “dilute” progesterone (but not corticosterone) measures indirectly by increasing the dry weight of samples. In addition, fecal progesterone, but not corticosterone, values were lower for lyophilized than for incubated samples. Therefore, in addition to the standard analytical and biological validation steps, additional methodological variables need to be tested whenever we measure fecal hormone concentrations, particularly from predatory mammals.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 27, 2023
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  4. Abstract

    The gut microbiota is critical for host function. Among mammals, host phylogenetic relatedness and diet are strong drivers of gut microbiota structure, but one factor may be more influential than the other. Here, we used 16S rRNA gene sequencing to determine the relative contributions of host phylogeny and host diet in structuring the gut microbiotas of 11 herbivore species from 5 families living sympatrically in southwest Kenya. Herbivore species were classified as grazers, browsers, or mixed-feeders and dietary data (% C4 grasses in diet) were compiled from previously published sources. We found that herbivore gut microbiotas were highly species-specific, and that host taxonomy accounted for more variation in the gut microbiota (30%) than did host dietary guild (10%) or sample month (8%). Overall, similarity in the gut microbiota increased with host phylogenetic relatedness (r = 0.74) across the 11 species of herbivores, but among 7 closely related Bovid species, dietary %C4 grass values more strongly predicted gut microbiota structure (r = 0.64). Additionally, within bovids, host dietary guild explained more of the variation in the gut microbiota (17%) than did host species (12%). Lastly, while we found that the gut microbiotas of herbivores residing in southwest Kenya converge with those of distinct populations of conspecificsmore »from central Kenya, fine-scale differences in the abundances of bacterial amplicon sequence variants (ASVs) between individuals from the two regions were also observed. Overall, our findings suggest that host phylogeny and taxonomy strongly structure the gut microbiota across broad host taxonomic scales, but these gut microbiotas can be further modified by host ecology (i.e., diet, geography), especially among closely related host species.

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  5. Abstract Studies in rodents and captive primates suggest that the early-life social environment affects future phenotype, potentially through alterations to DNA methylation. Little is known of these associations in wild animals. In a wild population of spotted hyenas, we test the hypothesis that maternal care during the first year of life and social connectedness during two periods of early development leads to differences in DNA methylation and fecal glucocorticoid metabolites (fGCMs) later in life. Here we report that although maternal care and social connectedness during the den-dependent life stage are not associated with fGCMs, greater social connectedness during the subadult den-independent life stage is associated with lower adult fGCMs. Additionally, more maternal care and social connectedness after den independence correspond with higher global (%CCGG) DNA methylation. We also note differential DNA methylation near 5 genes involved in inflammation, immune response, and aging that may link maternal care with stress phenotype.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  6. Abstract The reproductive biology of many female mammals is affected by their social environment and their interactions with conspecifics. In mammalian societies structured by linear dominance hierarchies, such as that of the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), a female’s social rank can have profound effects on both her reproductive success and her longevity. In this species, social rank determines priority of access to food, which is the resource limiting reproduction. Due largely to rank-related variation in access to food, reproduction from the perspective of a female spotted hyena can only be understood in the context of her position in the social hierarchy. In this review, we examine the effects of rank on the various phases of reproduction, from mating to weaning. Summed over many individual reproductive lifespans, the effect of rank at these different reproductive phases leads to dramatic rank-related variation in fitness among females and their lineages. Finally, we ask why females reproduce socially despite these apparent costs of group living to low-ranking females. Gregariousness enhances the fitness of females regardless of their positions in the social hierarchy, and females attempting to survive and reproduce without clanmates lose all their offspring. The positive effects of gregariousness appear to result frommore »having female allies, both kin and non-kin, who cooperate to advertise and defend a shared territory, acquire, and defend food resources, maintain the status quo, and occasionally also to rise in social rank.« less
  7. Abstract

    Individual differences in behavior are the raw material upon which natural selection acts, but despite increasing recognition of the value of considering individual differences in the behavior of wild animals to test evolutionary hypotheses, this approach has only recently become popular for testing cognitive abilities. In order for the intraspecific approach with wild animals to be useful for testing evolutionary hypotheses about cognition, researchers must provide evidence that measures of cognitive ability obtained from wild subjects reflect stable, general traits. Here, we used a multi-access box paradigm to investigate the intra-individual reliability of innovative problem-solving ability across time and contexts in wild spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta). We also asked whether estimates of reliability were affected by factors such as age-sex class, the length of the interval between tests, or the number of times subjects were tested. We found significant contextual and temporal reliability for problem-solving. However, problem-solving was not reliable for adult subjects, when trials were separated by more than 17 days, or when fewer than seven trials were conducted per subject. In general, the estimates of reliability for problem-solving were comparable to estimates from the literature for other animal behaviors, which suggests that problem-solving is a stable, general traitmore »in wild spotted hyenas.

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