Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

100-year-old specimens at California museum help determine when avian pox hit Galapagos

14.01.2011
3,607 finches and mockingbirds housed at the California Academy of Sciences provided critical data for research about the spread of disease in Darwin's famous islands

A research team from across the United States and Ecuador has pinpointed 1898 as the year the avipoxvirus, or avian pox, hit the Galapagos Islands and started infecting its birds. This estimation is vital to understanding avian diseases that affect today's Galapagos birds. The scientists' paper on the subject, "110 Years of Avipoxvirus on the Galapagos Islands," will be published on January 13 in PLoS ONE, an international, open-access science publication.

The research team, led by Dr. Patricia Parker of the University of Missouri–St. Louis, examined 3,607 finches and mockingbirds collected in the Galapagos between 1898 and 1906 that are currently held at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, along with 266 birds collected in 1891 and 1897 held at the Zoologische Staatssammlung in Munich, Germany. The scientists inspected the birds for skin lesions associated with avian pox infection and found 226 candidates dating from 1898 or later. For a small subset of these (59 specimens), the scientists took tissue samples for further pathological studies. In the end, a total of 21 specimens scored positive for avipoxvirus using histology (tissue examination under a microscope) and genotyping (screening for viral DNA).

"Without museum collections, work like this would never be possible," said Dr. Jack Dumbacher, Curator of Ornithology at the California Academy of Sciences. "Because museum specimens include detailed collection date and location data, they can be used to study not only a particular species, but also historical events and environmental conditions. Without this library of specimens, we might never have learned when or how this potentially devastating disease made its way to Darwin's famous islands."
The Academy has a deeply rooted history of research in the Galapagos, where it helped to found the Charles Darwin Research Station at Academy Bay, as well as the Galapagos National Park. The museum sent its first expedition to these storied islands in 1905. For about a year, the Academy's team of scientists inventoried everything from plants, fossils, and birds that are now extinct to the iconic marine iguanas that still bask on coastal rocks. By the time the team returned to San Francisco, the 1906 earthquake and fire had destroyed most of the Academy's research collections, so the 70,000 scientific specimens collected during the expedition formed the basis for rebuilding the institution. Since then, the Academy has organized dozens of return trips and is now home to the world's largest collection of scientific specimens from the Galapagos. Most of the museum's current field work in the Galapagos focuses on the marine environment, where dozens of new species have been discovered in the last decade.

The PLoS ONE study is the latest example of how this invaluable collection continues to provide insight into evolutionary and ecological processes on the islands. According to the paper, the role of disease in regulating populations is controversial, partly owing to the absence of good disease records in historic wildlife populations. The authors hope to fill that void with the new approaches taken in their paper.

"The combination of an extensive museum collection and modern genetics and histology have allowed us to home in on the arrival date of an important virus that threatens today's populations of unique birds," said Parker, Professor of Zoological Studies at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and lead author on the paper. "We are all excited to not only have the arrival date estimate, but to have important insights into the role that humans have played (and still play) in spreading pathogens like this virus."

Parker and her colleagues note that while there have been no known extinctions of bird species on the Galapagos Islands as a whole, the extinction rate on individual islands is approximately 100 times higher since human colonization than before human arrival. The history of avipoxvirus on the Galapagos is an important data point for understanding this accelerated population-level extinction. The museum specimens demonstrate that shortly after its arrival, the virus was much more likely to be found on human-inhabited islands, suggesting that humans inadvertently helped it to spread.

"Now that we know that humans likely played a role in facilitating the spread of avian pox in the Galapagos, we'll be better equipped to develop policies designed to prevent further spread of the disease," says Dumbacher.

About the California Academy of Sciences

Founded in 1853, the Academy is an international center for scientific education and research and is at the forefront of efforts to understand and protect the diversity of Earth's living things. The Academy has a staff of over 50 professional educators and Ph.D.-level scientists, supported by more than 100 Research and Field Associates and over 300 Fellows. It houses 26 million biological, geological, and cultural specimens from around the world and conducts research in 11 scientific fields: anthropology, aquatic biology, botany, comparative genomics, entomology, geology, herpetology, ichthyology, invertebrate zoology, mammalogy, and ornithology. Visit research.calacademy.org.

Stephanie Stone | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.calacademy.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
18.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>