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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 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.
  5. Abstract

    Toxoplasma gondiiis hypothesized to manipulate the behavior of warm-blooded hosts to promote trophic transmission into the parasite’s definitive feline hosts. A key prediction of this hypothesis is thatT. gondiiinfections of non-feline hosts are associated with costly behavior towardT. gondii’s definitive hosts; however, this effect has not been documented in any of the parasite’s diverse wild hosts during naturally occurring interactions with felines. Here, three decades of field observations reveal thatT. gondii-infected hyena cubs approach lions more closely than uninfected peers and have higher rates of lion mortality. We discuss these results in light of 1) the possibility that hyena boldness represents an extended phenotype of the parasite, and 2) alternative scenarios in whichT. gondiihas not undergone selection to manipulate behavior in host hyenas. Both cases remain plausible and have important ramifications forT. gondii’s impacts on host behavior and fitness in the wild.

  6. Understanding the factors that facilitate the emergence of cooperation among organisms is central to the study of social evolution. Spotted hyenas Crocuta crocuta frequently cooperate to mob lions Panthera leo, approaching the lions as a tightknit group while vocalizing loudly in an attempt to overwhelm them and drive them away. Whereas cooperative mobbing behavior has been well documented in birds and some mammals, to our knowledge it has never been described during interactions between 2 apex predators. Using a 27-year dataset, we characterize lion–hyena encoun- ters, assess rates of mobbing behavior observed during these interactions, and inquire whether mobbing results in successful acquisition of food. Lions and hyenas interacted most often at fresh kills, especially as prey size and the number of hyenas present increased. Possession of food at the beginning of an interaction positively affected retention of that food by each predator species. The presence of male lions increased the probability of an interspecific interaction but decreased the likelihood of hyenas obtaining or retaining possession of the food. Hyena mobbing rates were high- est at fresh kills, but lower when adult male lions were present. The occurrence of mobbing was pre- dicted by an increase in the number ofmore »hyenas present. Whether or not mobbing resulted in acquisi- tion of food from lions was predicted by an increase in the number of mobs formed by the hyenas present, suggesting that cooperation among hyenas enhances their fitness.« less