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 How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH

nachricht A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>