The Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology is a biological research institute for the study of animal behavior. Ethology (or Behavioral Biology) is an integrative field that addresses questions about how and why animals do what they do. Since spring 2015 it is also the headquaters of the Österreichischen Vogelwarte/Austrian Ornithological Centre (AOC).
Departure of migratory birds from stopover sites is hormone-controlled
Migratory birds often stop along their long journeys to replenish their fat stores. The purpose of these stopovers – rest and refuelling – is clear. To date, however, it had been unclear which physiological signals triggered the birds’ decision to continue their flight. A team led by researchers from Vetmeduni Vienna has now identified, for the first time, the hormone ghrelin as a signal for the birds’ brains. Ghrelin, which is known to be an appetite-regulating hormone in humans, was measured at high levels in satiated garden warblers. Moreover, birds injected with additional ghrelin exhibited decreased appetite and increased the highly active state of migratory restlessness. The results, which were published in the journal PNAS, confirm the hormonal influence on avian migratory behaviour and could even lead to an improved understanding of eating disorders among humans.
The article “Ghrelin affects stopover decisions and food intake in a long-distance migrant [Link 2]” by Wolfgang Goymann, Sara Lupi, Hiroyuki Kaiya, Massimiliano Cardinale und Leonida Fusani was published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America).
More information [Link 3]
(Web editor, 7 February 2017)
Major Urinary Proteins do not allow kin recognition in male mice
Male house mice produce large quantities of proteins called ‘major urinary proteins’ or MUPs, which transport volatile pheromones to urine and stabilize their release from scent marks. Many studies have concluded that MUPs provide a unique individual signature or ‘barcode’ and thereby control individual and kin recognition. Researchers from Vetmeduni Vienna now found evidence that directly refutes this hypothesis. They discovered that the MUP genes of wild house mice show a surprising lack of variability, and rather than providing a stable barcode, individuals dynamically regulate the number of MUP excreted depending upon social context. These findings contradict the widely assumed hypothesis that MUPs control kin recognition.
The article "Diversity of major urinary proteins (MUPs) in wild house mice [Link 5]" by Michaela Thoß, Viktoria Enk, Hans Yu, Ingrid Miller, Kenneth C. Luzynski, Boglarka Balint, Steve Smith, Ebrahim Razzazi-Fazeli, and Dustin J. Penn was published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The article "Regulation of highly homologous major urinary proteins in house mice quantified with label-free methods [Link 6]" by Viktoria Enk, Christian Baumann, Michaela Thoß, Kenneth C. Luzynski, Ebrahim Razzazi-Fazeli, and Dustin J. Penn appeared in the journal Molecular Biosystems.
More info [Link 7]
(Web editor, 7 December 2016)
Edible Dormice: The older they get, the more they rejuvenate their cells
In normal somatic cells, telomeres are shortened with every cell division. Besides, oxidative stress has a strong effect on telomere erosion. However, the rate of telomere shortening differs between species. For instance, it has been shown before that telomeres in fast-aging, short-lived wild animals erode more rapidly than in slow-aging, long-lived species. The shortening of telomeres in cells was thought to be an important biomarker for lifespan and aging. The edible dormouse (Glis glis), a small hibernating rodent, now turns everything upside down. In contrast to humans and other animals, telomere length in the edible dormouse significantly increases in the second half of its life, as Franz Hoelzl and other researchers from the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology and the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology of the Vetmeduni Vienna found out just recently.
The article "Telomeres are elongated in older individuals in a hibernating rodent, the edible dormouse (Glis glis) [Link 9]" by Franz Hoelzl, Steve Smith, Jessica S. Cornils, Denise Aydinonat, Claudia Bieber, and Thomas Ruf was published in Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group).
More info [Link 10]
(Web editor, 24 November 2016)
Fly larvae clean bee-eater’s nest
Bird´s nests are home not only to the bird parents and their offspring but also to other inhabitants, such as insect larvae, which take advantage of the favourable climatic conditions and abundant supply of food in the nests. So far, there has been no research into the possible benefit for birds from this living arrangement. A team of researchers around Herbert Hoi from the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology of the Vetmeduni Vienna has now shown that fly larvae in nests of European bee-eaters help clean the nest by foraging on faeces and uneaten food. This “waste removal” has a positive effect on offspring development and benefits the nest ecosystem.
The article "Housekeeping by lodgers: the importance of bird nest fauna on offspring condition [Link 12]“ von Jan Kristofık, Alzbeta Darolova, Christine Hoi, and Herbert Hoi was published in the Journal of Ornithology.
More info [Link 13]
(Web editor, 22 November 2016)
Sensitive ecosystem of the African Great Lakes jeopardized by oil extraction
Despite all warnings about their negative impact on global climate change the demand for fossil fuels is rising. Now there are plans to exploit the oil resources of the remote African Great Lakes, such as Lake Tanganyika, the second largest lake in Africa, or Lake Malawi. The relatively remote and difficult to reach Great Lakes are surrounded by the states of Burundi, Malawi, Mozambique, parts of the Democtractic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. The regions is among the most densely populated areas of the world, home to more than 107 million people. Governments expect much needed large income-sources from oil exploration.
However, for the fragile ecosystems of these unique lakes, which are habitat for thousands of endemic species, and on which a largely poor riparian human population depends for a living, oil exploration could be disastrous. Oil spills would not just impact nature, but also destroy the livelihoods of local people. Even without oil extraction the lake ecosystems are under pressure from human activities, such as overfishing, deforestation, and climate change. A group of scientists, including from the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology, has issued a warning that oil pollution could be the death knell for the environment both for animals and humans in the region and argues that regional governments should explore other options for regional development in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The letter "Oil extraction imperils Africa's Great Lakes [Link 15]" was published on 4 November 2016 in Science Magazine.
(Web editor, 10 November 2016)
A method for measuring telomeres in Sand martins
Telomeres are protective end caps on chromosomes. They are important for the stability of chromosomes, as they protect cells against the degradation of reactive oxygen species. However, with each cell division they are shortened. The rate of telomeric loss is increasingly used as a marker for biological aging and survival probability. In studies in many organisms, telomeric loss has been associated with increased metabolism, biological stress and disease.
Researchers from the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology and the Institute of Environmental Sciences at the University of Nyíregyháza in Hungary have validated a medium-throughput and reliable method for measuring the relative length of telomeres in Sand martins (Riparia riparia). They tested a population of different aged individuals from East Hungary and found a significant negative relationship between relative telomere length and age, and observed a marked decrease in telomere length in older age classes (> 4 years) but no relationship to sex or body mass. The described test method will allow scientists to carry out long-term studies on the telomeric dynamics of wild Sand martins in populations with different life-history and health characteristics.
The article "A Simple and Reliable Medium-Throughput Method to Measure Relative Telomere Length in Sand Martins [Link 16]Riparia riparia [Link ]" by Steve Smith, Richard Wagner, Tibor Szép, Franz Hoelzl & Mónika Molnár was published in the journal BioOne.
(Web-Redaktion am 7.11.2016)
The Symbolic Animal Evolution and Neuroethology of Aesthetics
From 15 -19 October 2016 a workshop on the interesting topic "Das symbolische Tier - Evolution und Neuroethologie der Ästhetik" was held in Erice, Sicily.
The overall purpose of the workshop was to investigate the biological mechanisms that underlie symbol making and the perception and appreciation of beauty, from the attractive features of sexually selected traits to human figurative arts.
The workshop was organised by Leonida Fusani of the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology, Vetmeduni Vienna and Vittorio Gallese of Parma University & University of London.
More info [Link 18]
News Archive... [Link 19]