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Showing posts with label Animals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Animals. Show all posts

Monday, 2 March 2020

The perfect music to relax and calm cats

Taking a cat to the vet can be a stressful, even traumatic, experience for the pet as well as the owner. Today, we highlight a study published in the JFMS (Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery), having shown that making the cat listen to a specific type of music during the visit can help it to be less stressful.

The use of music has become increasingly popular in human medicine, with numerous studies showing a range of benefits, ranging from improved motor and cognitive function in stroke patients, to reduction of anxiety associated with medical examinations, diagnostic procedures and surgery. Now there is evidence to show that the benefits of music are also seen in cats and other animals.

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Research published previously in the JFMS had already indicated that cats, under the effect of general anesthesia, remain physiologically sensitive to music: in addition, they seem to be in a more relaxed state when they hear so. classical music, compared to pop or heavy metal.

Relaxing your cat and reducing anxiety with music is possible

In this latest study, researchers from Louisiana State University (LSU) in the United States took the analysis of the impact of different types of music a step further, exploring the calming effects of composed music. specifically for cats.

It should be noted that the compositions considered to be pleasant to the human ear often have a rhythm similar to the frequency of the human pulse at rest and often contain frequencies of the human vocal range.

Therefore, the researchers based themselves on this principle to create music specifically pleasant for cats, composed of vocalizations of affiliated cats (such as purring and nursing sounds), as well as frequencies similar to the vocal range. feline (two octaves above that of humans).

Then, in order to assess the effects of music specific to cats, 20 company specimens enrolled in the LSU study listened to it for 20 minutes:

The researchers also played classical music (“Elegy”, from Fauré), or no music (silence) in a random order. All of these tests were carried out each time during a visit to the veterinarian, two weeks apart.

They thus assigned “stress scores” to cats, based on their behavior and posture, as well as “average treatment scale scores” (based on cats' reactions to actions performed by their owner). These scores were assigned from video recordings of the exams. The neutrophil / lymphocyte ratios of the blood samples were also measured to look for a response to physiological stress.

Positive results

The study found that cats appeared to be less stressed during the examination (as indicated by stress scores and average treatment scale scores for cats) when they could hear cat-specific music, compared to to classical music and the absence of music.

This effect was not reflected in the neutrophil / lymphocyte ratio, but scientists suggest that 20 minutes may not have been enough to affect this measurement.

By lowering stress levels, researchers conclude that music specially designed for cats can not only have benefits for the well-being of the cat, but also that it would reassure owners during a visit to the veterinarian, allowing their animal to live a less unpleasant experience.

Do you have one or more cats? Do not hesitate to make them listen to this extract and write to us explaining his reaction!


Effects of music on behavior and physiological stress response of domestic cats in a veterinary clinic

Amanda Hampton, Alexandra Ford, Roy E Cox, III, Chin-chi Liu, Ronald Koh

First Published February 12, 2019

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Scientists discovered The First-Ever Animal That Doesn't Need Oxygen to Survive

Some truths about the Universe and our experience in it seem immutable. The sky is up. Gravity sucks. Nothing can travel faster than light. Multicellular life needs oxygen to live. Except we might need to rethink that last one.

The nuclei and membranes of a parasite that does not use oxygen (H. salminicola), highlighted by a fluorescent dye. | Stephen Douglas Atkinson

Scientists have just discovered that a jellyfish-like parasite doesn't have a mitochondrial genome - the first multicellular organism known to have this absence. That means it doesn't breathe; in fact, it lives its life completely free of oxygen dependency.

This discovery isn't just changing our understanding of how life can work here on Earth - it could also have implications for the search for extraterrestrial life.

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Life started to develop the ability to metabolise oxygen - that is, respirate - sometime over 1.45 billion years ago. A larger archaeon engulfed a smaller bacterium, and somehow the bacterium's new home was beneficial to both parties, and the two stayed together.

That symbiotic relationship resulted in the two organisms evolving together, and eventually those bacteria ensconced within became organelles called mitochondria. Every cell in your body except red blood cells has large numbers of mitochondria, and these are essential for the respiration process.

They break down oxygen to produce a molecule called adenosine triphosphate, which multicellular organisms use to power cellular processes.

We know there are adaptations that allow some organisms to thrive in low-oxygen, or hypoxic, conditions. Some single-celled organisms have evolved mitochondria-related organelles for anaerobic metabolism; but the possibility of exclusively anaerobic multicellular organisms has been the subject of some scientific debate.

That is, until a team of researchers led by Dayana Yahalomi of Tel Aviv University in Israel decided to take another look at a common salmon parasite called Henneguya salminicola.

Henneguya Slminicola is a common parasite of salmon. It is part of the same family as corals and jellyfish. Its genome, however, has just been mapped for the first time. Credit: Stephen Douglas Atkinson

It's a cnidarian, belonging to the same phylum as corals, jellyfish and anemones. Although the cysts it creates in the fish's flesh are unsightly, the parasites are not harmful, and will live with the salmon for its entire life cycle.

Tucked away inside its host, the tiny cnidarian can survive quite hypoxic conditions. But exactly how it does so is difficult to know without looking at the creature's DNA - so that's what the researchers did.

They used deep sequencing and fluorescence microscopy to conduct a close study of H. salminicola, and found that it has lost its mitochondrial genome. In addition, it's also lost the capacity for aerobic respiration, and almost all of the nuclear genes involved in transcribing and replicating mitochondria.

Like the single-celled organisms, it had evolved mitochondria-related organelles, but these are unusual too - they have folds in the inner membrane not usually seen.

The same sequencing and microscopic methods in a closely related cnidarian fish parasite, Myxobolus squamalis, was used as a control, and clearly showed a mitochondrial genome.

These results show that here, at last, is a multicellular organism that doesn't need oxygen to survive.

Exactly how it survives is still something of a mystery. It could be leeching adenosine triphosphate from its host, but that's yet to be determined.

But the loss is pretty consistent with an overall trend in these creatures - one of genetic simplification. Over many, many years, they have basically devolved from a free-living jellyfish ancestor into the much more simple parasite we see today.

They've lost most of the original jellyfish genome, but retaining - oddly - a complex structure resembling jellyfish stinging cells. They don't use these to sting, but to cling to their hosts: an evolutionary adaptation from the free-living jellyfish's needs to the parasite's. You can see them in the image above - they're the things that look like eyes.

The discovery could help fisheries adapt their strategies for dealing with the parasite; although it's harmless to humans, no one wants to buy salmon riddled with tiny weird jellyfish.

But it's also a heck of a discovery for helping us to understand how life works.

"Our discovery confirms that adaptation to an anaerobic environment is not unique to single-celled eukaryotes, but has also evolved in a multicellular, parasitic animal," the researchers wrote in their paper.

"Hence, H. salminicola provides an opportunity for understanding the evolutionary transition from an aerobic to an exclusive anaerobic metabolism."


A cnidarian parasite of salmon (Myxozoa: Henneguya) lacks a mitochondrial genome

Dayana Yahalomi, Stephen D. Atkinson, Moran Neuhof, E. Sally Chang, Hervé Philippe, Paulyn Cartwright, Jerri L. Bartholomew, and Dorothée Huchon

PNAS first published February 24, 2020

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Researchers have finally solved the long pending mystery between jellyfish and stinging water

A jellyfish of the genus Cassiopea (different from that of the study). This is a Cassiopea andromeda. | Pete Oxford

Researchers at the US Naval Research Laboratory have discovered that a particular species of mangrove jellyfish hunts for prey by launching venom grenades, creating areas of “stinging water”. The discovery solves a long-standing mystery about how they gather food without using their tentacles.

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The Cassiopea xamachana jellyfish , commonly called “upside-down jellyfish” by English speakers, was first described by marine biologist Henry Bryant Bigelow in 1892. In French, the common name indicates its habitat, or “mangrove jellyfish”. These two names apply to all jellyfish of the genus Cassiopea.

It is found in particular in the shallow waters of Florida, the Caribbean and Micronesia. The animal is a frequent nuisance for divers and surfers, who seem to be bitten without even touching it.

Cassiopea: a kind of atypical jellyfish

Cassiopea are not common jellyfish already by the simple fact that they are photosynthetic, seeming to draw a large part of their energy from solar radiation thanks to their dorsal symbiotic algae.

So far, some have believed that the bites came from loose tentacles or from younger specimens. But recently, a team from the US Naval Research Laboratory realized that Cassiopea had actually developed a new way of hunting, without using its tentacles. The results of the study were published in the journal Communications Biology.

To hunt, C. xamachana generally lands on the seabed, on the back, and sends globs of mucus filled with venom above it. These structures, called cassiosomes, can kill small prey and are probably the cause of the aforementioned ghost bites, a phenomenon particularly experienced by snorkelers and fishermen in tropical waters.

The life cycle stages of C. xamachana and its cassiosome-laden mucus. Credits: Ames et al., Communications Biology, 2020

The team analyzed the cassiosomes expelled and discovered that the outer layer was covered with thousands of stinging cells. Although the venom is not powerful enough to pose a significant risk to humans, it is known to destroy skin cells and is fatal for small organisms.

a, b : C. xamachana (5-12 cm in diameter) resting on their apex (white arrow) with the oral arms (cyan arrows) facing upwards, observed by researchers in their natural habitat (mangroves) in Key Largo, Florida (United States). c - f: Cassiosome nests (pink arrows) observed in the form of curved white spots at the end of the vesicular appendages (green arrows), on the oral arms of the jellyfish (cyan arrows). Scale bars: a = 2 cm; b = 5 cm; c, d = 1 mm; e, f = 0.5 mm. Credits: Ames et al., Communications Biology, 2020

According to Cheryl Ames, of the Tohoku University Graduate School of Agricultural Science in Japan, the animal's hunting method "causes itching and burning sensations and, depending on the person, can cause enough discomfort to make him want to to get out of the water". According to her, the results of the study could help tourists, divers and even aquarium staff to avoid this type of discomfort in the future.

Ames said the scientific community still has a lot to learn about jellyfish. "They have a complex and coordinated behavior with their eyes, and some specimens are even capable of killing humans in a few minutes," she explained to AFP. "There is still a lot to learn about them and their applications to biotechnology."


Cassiosomes are stinging-cell structures in the mucus of the upside-down jellyfish Cassiopea xamachana

Cheryl L. Ames, Anna M. L. Klompen, Krishna Badhiwala, Kade Muffett, Abigail J. Reft, Mehr Kumar, Jennie D. Janssen, Janna N. Schultzhaus, Lauren D. Field, Megan E. Muroski, Nick Bezio, Jacob T. Robinson, Dagmar H. Leary, Paulyn Cartwright, Allen G. Collins & Gary J. Vora

Communications Biology volume 3, Article number: 67

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Are animals immune systems prepared for climate change?

The accelerated melting of polar ice, the upsurge in natural fires or the slowing of ocean currents, are among the most remarkable consequences of climate change. However, more "silent" consequences must also be considered. This has been demonstrated by Swedish researchers by showing that the immune systems of many animals, especially birds, depend on their preferred environment and the climate there. As a result, climate change could lead to the emergence of new diseases that animals' immune systems may not be able to manage.

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Researchers have for the first time found a link between the immune systems of different bird species and the different climatic conditions in which they live. Researchers at Lund University in Sweden believe that, as the climate changes, some birds may be exposed to diseases that they are not equipped to manage.

The results of the study, published in the journal PRSB: Biological Sciences , indicate that evolution has calibrated the immune system of a number of bird species over millions of years, enabling them to cope with diseases specific to the particular environment and climate in which they live.

An immune system potentially vulnerable to climate change

Rapid climate change increases the risk that these tailor-made immune systems will be weak, not just in birds. Emily O'Connor, one of the study's biologists, thinks that the results could also apply to some other animals because the immune system genes they examined are common to all vertebrates .

“Evolution may not be able to 'keep up' with climate change. There is a risk that many animals will simply not be able to cope with changes in the number and type of pathogens to which they will be exposed,” she explains.

Number of complex histocompatible alleles (allelic diversity) as a function of precipitation (A) and temperature (C). The data show that the immune genome is directly dependent on the climate. Credits: Emily A. O'Connor et al. 2020

As the climate changes and, for example, northern Europe becomes warmer and wetter, diseases that did not previously exist in temperate climates may begin to appear. This can be a challenge for some animals.

Emily O'Connor and her colleagues studied 37 different bird species living in different climatic regions. They studied the diversity of genes in the immune system of each species, which influences their effectiveness in fighting disease.

An immune genome directly linked to the environment and its climate

They also looked at temperature and precipitation for different regions from 1901 to 2017. In this way, they demonstrated that the diversity of genes in a species' immune system is linked to the climate in which it lives.

Species that live their whole lives in tropical regions, areas rich in precipitation and which do not move, have the most varied immune system genes. This great diversity allows these species to resist more pathogens.

Number of complex histocompatible alleles (allelic diversity) according to the resident or migratory character (A) and the climate (B). Credits: Emily A. O'Connor et al. 2020

Migratory birds which spend their winters in tropical regions and breed in temperate climates have an immune system similar to that of resident European birds. According to the researchers, this could be due to the fact that they are able to escape the disease by moving around.


Wetter climates select for higher immune gene diversity in resident, but not migratory, songbirds

Emily A. O'Connor, Dennis Hasselquist, Jan-Åke Nilsson, Helena Westerdahl and Charlie K. Cornwallis

Published:29 January 2020

Thursday, 6 February 2020

What does the language of African penguins have in common with human language?

Although it is a dream for most people living with pets, communicating intelligently with our favorite animals turns out to be relatively impossible. Quite simply because inter-species communication is extremely difficult, each animal having its own language. However, this does not mean that some animals do not comply with the linguistic standards followed by different human languages. Indeed, a team of researchers has demonstrated that the language of African penguins conforms to the two main linguistic laws that govern human languages.

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A team of researchers from France and Italy discovered that the vocalizations of African penguins conformed to the linguistic laws to which human languages ​​conform. In their article published in the journal Biology Letters , the group describes their study of penguin voice recordings and what they learned from them.

The laws of Zipf and Menzerath-Altmann: linguistic laws governing human languages

In 1945, linguist George Kingsley Zipf developed what is known as Zipf's brevity law, which states that the more a word is used, the shorter it tends to be, regardless of the language. Later work by other linguists in the following years not only confirmed this conclusion, but showed that its law was true for all human languages.

Several years later, Paul Menzerath and Gabriel Altmann developed what is called the Menzerath-Altmann law, which stipulates that the increase in the size of linguistic constructions leads to a decrease in the size of their constituents - very long words. usually have short syllables. However, the law states that the opposite is also true. Previous research has shown that other animal communications than humans (mainly by primates) also comply with both laws.

Language of African penguins: it conforms to human linguistic laws

The authors found that the African penguin calls were also consistent with them. The endangered African penguin is known for its distinctive calls - some have described them as similar to a roaring donkey, which has led to the nickname “jackass penguins”. The researchers wanted to know more about the birds' calls, so they collected and analyzed 590 vocalizations from 28 adult males living in Italian zoos.

Previous research had shown that the vocalizations of African penguins are constructed using sequences of three types of clean sounds, which are similar to syllables in human languages. The analysis revealed that the birds' baits conformed to the two linguistic laws developed to explain the functioning of human languages.

The first sound is a little croak made at the expiration of the bird, which lasts 0.18 seconds. The second is a longer noise at expiration which lasts 1.14 seconds. These are the most and least common noises made during songs, respectively. "This is the first notable proof of compliance with linguistic laws in the vocal sequences of a non-primate species. As expected, we saw that the duration of the syllables was inversely correlated with the frequency of occurrence.”

Researchers suggest that language laws are a sign of energy conservation - people and other animals who communicate in the most concise manner are more likely to succeed in efforts such as mating - a skill passed on to the offspring.


Research article:
Do penguins’ vocal sequences conform to linguistic laws?

Livio Favaro, Marco Gamba, Eleonora Cresta, Elena Fumagalli, Francesca Bandoli, Cristina Pilenga, Valentina Isaja, Nicolas Mathevon and David Reby

Published:05 February 2020

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