ANNOUNCEMENT: Head of Biochemistry Laboratory

We seek highly motivated applicants with a PhD in Biochemistry or related disciplines and experience in multiple methodologies.

Application deadline: 7 November 2020

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FIWI Annual Report 2019

You can download the FIWI Annual Report (in German) by clicking on the photo.
Cover photo of the FIWI Annual Report 2019








Temperature fluctuations influence the distribution of the Balkan jumping snake

Cover photo of a Caspian whispsnake by Balint Halpern
Cover of Genes 10/2020 1

Adaptation to changing environment is a growing challenge in the era of the “Anthropocene”, and populations capable of rapid adaptation to novel selection pressures are more likely to survive. The Caspian whipsnake (Dolichophis caspius) is a large-bodied, non-venomous colubrid and inhabits dry steppe and Mediterranean habitats, from Eastern Europe around the Caspian and Black Sea to the north-western edge of its distribution in Hungary.

Applying ddRAD sequencing a research team around Pamela Burger of the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology at Vetmeduni Vienna investigated the genetic diversity and adaptive evolution to local habitat types. They identified 751 selected genotypes correlated with seven key climatic variables. They found that isothermality, the day-to-night temperature oscillation in comparison to the summer-to-winter oscillation, may have an important role in the distribution and adaptation of Caspian whipsnakes.

The article "Landscape Genomics of a Widely Distributed Snake, Dolichophis caspius (Gmelin, 1789) across Eastern Europe and Western Asia 2" by Mahtani-Williams S, Fulton W, Desvars-Larrive A, Lado S, Elbers JP, Halpern B, Herczeg D, Babocsay G, Lauš B, Nagy ZT, Jablonski D, Kukushkin O, Orozco-terWengel P, Vörös J, and Burger PA was recently published in the journal Genes. The article even made it onto the cover of this journal edition.

(Web editor, 29 October 2020)


LIFE DINALP BEAR judged best European nature project

The LIFE DINALP BEAR project won this year´s EU LIFE award as best nature project. (Photo Miha Krofel)
brown bar in the forest 3

On Wednesday, October 21, 2020, the EU Commission's jury announced the best LIFE projects that were completed in the past year as part of the European Green Week celebrations. The LIFE Awards, which are now in their 14th year, honor the most innovative, inspiring and effective LIFE projects. The best projects were awarded in the following categories: environment, nature and climate protection. Among the 15 selected projects, LIFE DINALP BEAR won as best nature project. The project is coordinated by the Slovenian Forest Service, supporting management and protection of brown bear populations in the northern Dinaric Mountains and in the Alps, and brings together partners from four countries - Slovenia, Croatia, Italy and Austria. It was also financially supported by the Austrian Ministry of the Environment. The project partner in Austria is the Research Institute of WIldlife Ecology of the Vetmeduni Vienna.

More information:

Presentation video of the LIFE DINALP BEAR Project. 4

LIFE DINALP BEAR Project Website 5

Press release of the European Union 6

(Web editor, 27 October 2020)


Set-asides are good for hares

Young brown hare (Photo Kirschner A. / CC BY-SA (creative commons))
young brown hare 7

Since the beginning of the intensification of agriculture, biodiversity in agricultural areas has decreased more and more. The use of pesticides and artificial fertilizers, a decline in the diversity of crops grown, drainage, the use of large machines on ever larger fields with monocultures - all of these play a role. As a result of the intensification of agriculture, fallow land, i.e. periodically set-aside arable land, has also decreased significantly. It is precisely these uncultivated green areas that are particularly important for biodiversity. They provide a diverse habitat for a wide variety of insects, spiders, birds and mammals.

Brown hares are particularly badly affected by the lack of fallow land in the modern cultural landscape. This is mainly due to the high mortality of young rabbits. Their survival rate determines the annual population growth and the spring density of the following year. In a long-term study in Lower Austria, we found a clear positive relationship between the survival rate of young rabbits and the proportion of fallow land.

Fallow areas provide valuable support for the brown hare population. The more there are, the better the brown hares are doing. It has been shown that habitat improvement measures that increase biodiversity have a significantly greater positive effect on prey populations than the decimation of predators. Our study highlights the importance of fallow agricultural land. In contrast, the planting of energy crops on previously fallow land has negative effects on mammal and bird populations in the open cultural landscape.

The article "Positive effects of set-asides on European hare (Lepus europaeus) populations: Leverets benefit from an enhanced survival rate 8" by Stéphanie C. Schai-Braun, Thomas Ruf, Erich Klansek, Walter Arnold, and Klaus Hackländer was published in the journal Biological Conservation.

(Web editor, 13 October 2020)


Dr. Gabrielle Stalder was awarded the title of "Fachtierärztin" (specialized veterinarian) for zoo- and wildlife Gabrielle Stalder
Gabrielle Stalder

In July Dr. Gabrielle Stalder, head of the working group wildlife medicine at the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology passed the "Fachtierarzt" exam in the area of wildlife medicine.  Our veterinarians at the institute are all specialized in wildlife medicine, but this title is an additional post-graduate qualification for veterinarians. More about this (in German) in the July edition of the Vetjournal  9(p.42).  

Congratulations, Gabrielle, on passing this challenging exam!


(Web editor, 3 August 2020)


An animal of the past, present and future

Dromedaries in India (Photo P. Burger)
Dromedaries in India 10

Camels are amazing animals. Because of their unique adaptation to different and extreme environments, no other domestic animal (e.g. cattle, sheep or goats) can serve people as much as the domestic camel. Dromedaries and Bactrian camels, the two native camels of the Old World, were invaluable for the transportation of goods along the Silk Road.

Due to centuries of domestication, hybridization is very common, but difficult to see with an “untrained” eye. FIWI researchers have collected samples from over 120 dromedaries worldwide. Through genetic analyses, they were able to identify effective migration patterns that fit well-known trade routes on the Mediterranean coast, connecting northwest Africa with the north of the Arabian Peninsula. This is in line with the routes of the well-known caravans that traveled along the Silk Road to South Asia.

More about that in the nature ecology & evolution 11 article BEHIND THE PAPER 12: Camel - the animal of the past, present and future by Sara Lado, Pamela Burger, and Elena Ciani.

The scientific article "Genome-wide diversity and global migration patterns in dromedaries follow ancient caravan routes 13" by Sara Lado, Jean Pierre Elbers, Angela Doskocil, Davide Scaglione, Emiliano Trucchi, Mohammad Hossein Banabazi, Faisal Almathen, Naruya Saitou, Elena Ciani, and Pamela Anna Burger was published on 16 July 2020 in the journal Communications Biology.

A further article on the topic, "Genomic signatures of domestication in Old World camels 14" by Robert Rodgers Fitak, Elmira Mohandesan, Jukka Corander, Adiya Yadamsuren, Battsetseg Chuluunbat, Omer Abdelhadi, Abdul Raziq, Peter Nagy, Chris Walzer, Bernard Faye, and Pamela Anna Burger was published in Communications Biology on 19 June 2020. There is also a related press release by the Vetmeduni Vienna 15.

(Web editor, 20 July 2020)



News archive... 16



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