Search Results

Exploring the Evolutionary History of North American Prairie Grouse (Genus: Tympanuchus) Using Multi-locus Coalescent Analyses

Description: Conservation biologists are increasingly using phylogenetics as a tool to understand evolutionary relationships and taxonomic classification. The taxonomy of North American prairie grouse (sharp-tailed grouse, T. phasianellus; lesser prairie-chicken, T. pallidicinctus; greater prairie-chicken, T. cupido; including multiple subspecies) has been designated based on physical characteristics, geography, and behavior. However, previous studies have been inconclusive in determining the evolutionary history of prairie grouse based on genetic data. Therefore, additional research investigating the evolutionary history of prairie grouse is warranted. In this study, ten loci (including mitochondrial, autosomal, and Z-linked markers) were sequenced across multiple populations of prairie grouse, and both traditional and coalescent-based phylogenetic analyses were used to address the evolutionary history of this genus. Results from this study indicate that North American prairie grouse diverged in the last 200,000 years, with species-level taxa forming well-supported monophyletic clades in species tree analyses. With these results, managers of the critically endangered Attwater's prairie-chicken (T. c. attwateri) can better evaluate whether outcrossing Attwater's with greater prairie-chickens would be a viable management tool for Attwater's conservation.
Date: May 2013
Creator: Galla, Stephanie J.
Partner: UNT Libraries

Evaluating the Habitat Requirements of the Golden Orb Mussel (Quadrula Aurea) for Conservation Purposes

Description: Many freshwater mussels are imperiled, due to a number of interrelated factors such as habitat alteration, degradation of water quality, and impoundments. The Golden Orb mussel (Quadrula aurea, I. Lea, 1859) is endemic to the state of Texas and is currently a candidate for the endangered species list, as the number of known populations has been declining in recent years. Little is currently known about Q. aurea aside from basic distribution data. This study is focused on evaluating a combination of macro-habitat and micro-habitat variables to determine their influence on the distribution and density of this species. Macro-habitat variables, including dominant land cover, surface geology, and soil erodibility factor, did not have a significant relationship with mussel distributions. The best model of micro-habitat variables that impacts the Q. aurea distributions is comprised of relative substrate stability (RSS) at moderate flows and current velocity at low flows. For all mussel species in this study, current velocity at low flows is the primary variable that influences distribution. Q. aurea are associated with habitats where larger sediment particles (large gravel and cobble) help to stabilize the substrate in areas with higher current velocities. An understanding of the preferred habitats for Q. aurea can be used to help focus conservation efforts and practices.
Date: May 2013
Creator: Hammontree, Sarah
Partner: UNT Libraries

Biodiversity and Genetic Structure of Benthic Macroinvertebrates along an Altitudinal Gradient: A Comparison of the Windhond and Róbalo River Communities on Navarino Island, Chile

Description: Altitudinal gradients in Sub-Antarctic freshwater systems present unique opportunities to study the effect of distinct environmental gradients on benthic macroinvertebrate community composition and dispersal. This study investigates patterns in biodiversity, dispersal and population genetic structure of benthic macroinvertebrate fauna across an altitudinal gradient between two watersheds on Navarino Island in southern Chile. Patterns in diversity, density, evenness and functional feeding groups were not significantly different across the altitudinal gradient in both the Windhond and Róbalo Rivers. Taxa richness in both rivers generally increased from the headwaters of the river to the mouth, and functional feeding group patterns were consistent with the predictions of the River Continuum Concept. Population genetic structure and gene flow was investigated by sampling the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I gene in two invertebrate species with different dispersal strategies. Hyalella simplex (Amphipoda) is an obligate aquatic species, and Meridialaris chiloeense (Ephemeroptera) is an aquatic larvae and a terrestrial winged adult. Contrasting patterns of population genetic structure were observed. Results for Hyalella simplex indicate significant differentiation in genetic structure in the Amphipod populations between watersheds and lower genetic diversity in the Róbalo River samples, which may be a result of instream dispersal barriers. Meridialaris chiloeense exhibited weak population structure but higher genetic diversity, which suggests this species is able to disperse widely as a winged adult.
Date: May 2016
Creator: Pulliam, Lauren
Partner: UNT Libraries

The Effects of Neonicotinoid Exposure on Embryonic Development and Organ Mass in Northern Bobwhite Quail

Description: Since their emergence in the early 1990s, neonicotinoid use has increased exponentially to make them the world's most prevalent insecticides. Although there is considerable research concerning the lethality of neonicotinoids, their sub-lethal and developmental effects are still being explored, especially with regards to non-mammalian species. The goal of this research was to investigate the effects of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid on the morphological and physiological development of northern bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus). Bobwhite eggs (n = 650) were injected with imidacloprid concentrations of 0 (sham), 10, 50, 100 and 150 grams per kilogram of egg mass, which was administered at day 0 (pre-incubation), 3, 6, 9, or 12 of growth. Embryos were dissected on day 19 when they were weighed, staged, and examined for any overt structural deformities. Embryonic heart, liver, lungs and kidneys were also weighed and preserved for future use. Treated embryos exhibited increased frequency of severely deformed beaks and legs, as well as larger hearts and smaller lungs at the higher dosing concentrations. Some impacts are more pronounced in specific dosing periods, implying that there may be critical windows of development when embryos are highly susceptible to neonicotinoid exposure. This investigation suggests that imidacloprid could play a significant role in chick survival and declining quail populations in treated regions of the country.
Date: May 2016
Creator: Gobeli, Amanda
Partner: UNT Libraries

Ultraviolet Radiation Tolerance in High Elevation Copepods from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA

Description: Copepods in high elevation lakes and ponds in Colorado are exposed to significant levels of ultraviolet radiation (UV), necessitating development of UV avoidance behavior and photoprotective physiological adaptations. The copepods are brightly pigmented due to accumulation of astaxanthin, a carotenoid which has photoprotective and antioxidant properties. Astaxanthin interacts with a crustacyanin-like protein, shifting its absorbance from 473 nm (hydrophobic free form, appears red) to 632 nm (protein-bound complex, appears blue). In six sites in Colorado, habitat-specific coloration patterns related to carotenoprotein complex have been observed. The objective of this study was to determine whether pigment accumulation or carotenoprotein expression has a greater effect on resistance to UV exposure. For each site, copepod tolerance to UV was assessed by survivorship during UV exposure trials. Average UV exposure was determined for each habitat. Astaxanthin profiles were generated for copepods in each site. Ability to withstand UV exposure during exposure trials was significantly different between color morphs (p < 0.0001). Red copepods were found to tolerate 2-fold greater levels of UVB than blue or mixed copepods. Additionally, red copepods have much higher levels of total astaxanthin than blue or mixed copepods (p < 0.0001) and receive a higher daily UV dose (p < 0.0003). Diaptomid carotenoprotein sequence is not homologous with that of other crustaceans in which crustacyanin has been characterized which prevented quantification of carotenoprotein transcript expression. Overall, diaptomid color morph may be an important indicator of UV conditions in high elevation lentic ecosystems.
Date: December 2011
Creator: Hudelson, Karista
Partner: UNT Libraries

Cloacal Microbiota of Captive-bred and Wild Attwater’s Prairie-chicken, Tympanuchus Cupido Attwateri

Description: The Attwater’s prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus cupido attwateri; APC) is a species of grouse native to Texas coastal prairies and is on the critically endangered species list as a result of habitat destruction and overhunting. All of the current populations were captively bred and released into the wild. Survivorship for released APCs is very low, and individuals seldom survive to reproduce in the wild. One factor contributing to this may be an alteration in the gut microbiota as a result of captivity. Factors potentially influencing the gut microbial composition in captivity include antibiotic therapy, stress, and a predominantly commercially formulated diet. Recent studies have begun to shed light on the importance of the host microbial endosymbionts. Antibiotic administration, stress, diet, age, genotype and other factors have been shown to influence microbial populations in the gastrointestinal tracts of many different vertebrates. Sequencing of 16S rRNA gene amplicons on the Ion Torrent™ platform was used in this study to identify groups of bacteria in the cloacas as a surrogate for the gut microbiota in the APC. Antibiotic-treated and untreated birds, wild-hatched and captive-bred birds, and individuals sampled before and after release to the wild were examined. Significant differences were found between wild-hatched and captive raised birds both pre- and post release. In addition, there was extensive variation among the populations at the lower taxonomic ranks between individuals for each group of APCs. Principal coordinate analysis based on the weighted UniFrac distance metric further exhibited some clustering of individuals by treatment. These data suggest that captive breeding may have long-term effects on the cloacal microbiota of APCs with unknown consequences to their long-term health and survivorship.
Date: August 2014
Creator: Simon, Stephanie E.
Partner: UNT Libraries

The Effects of Inbreeding on Fitness Traits in the Critically Endangered Attwater’s Prairie-chicken

Description: The goals of captive breeding programs for endangered species include preserving genetic diversity and avoiding inbreeding. Typically this is accomplished by minimizing population mean kinship; however, this approach becomes less effective when errors in the pedigree exist and may result in inbreeding depression, or reduced survival. Here, both pedigree- and DNA-based methods were used to assess inbreeding depression in the critically endangered Attwater’s prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus cupido attwateri). Less variation in the pedigree-based inbreeding coefficients and parental relatedness values were observed compared to DNA-based measures suggesting that errors exist in the pedigree. Further, chicks identified with high parental DNA-based relatedness exhibited decreased survival at both 14- and 50-days post-hatch. A similar pattern was observed in later life stages (> 50 days post-hatch) with birds released to the wild; however, the pattern varied depending on the time post-release. While DNA-based inbreeding coefficient was positively correlated with mortality to one month post-release, an opposite pattern was observed at nine months suggesting purging of deleterious alleles. I also investigated whether immunocompetence, or the ability to produce a normal immune response, was correlated with survival; however, no significant correlation was observed suggesting that inbreeding was a more important factor influencing survival. Pairing individuals for breeding by minimizing DNA-based parental relatedness values resulted in a significant increase in chick survival. This study highlights the importance of using DNA-based methods to avoid inbreeding depression when errors exist in the pedigree.
Date: August 2014
Creator: Hammerly, Susan C.
Partner: UNT Libraries

Improving Processing Efficiency for Forensic DNA Samples

Description: The goal of this project was to reduce processing time for forensic DNA testing without incurring significant added costs and/or the need for new instrumentation, while still generating high quality profiles. This was accomplished by: 1) extraction normalization using the ChargeSwitch® Forensic DNA Purification Kit such that a small range of DNA concentrations was consistently obtained, eliminating the need for sample quantification and dilution; 2) developing fast PCR protocols for STR primer sets using shorter amplification methods, low volume reactions and non-fast thermal cyclers; and 3) developing a quicker 3130xl Genetic Analyzer detection method using an alternative polymer/array length combination. Extraction normalization was achieved through a reduction in bead quantity, thereby forcing an increase in bead binding efficiency. Four products (AmpliTaq Gold® Fast PCR Master Mix, KAPA2G™ Fast Multiplex PCR Kit, SpeedSTAR™ HS DNA Polymerase and Type-it Microsatellite PCR Kit) were evaluated for low volume (3μl) fast PCR on a 384-well Veriti® thermal cycler with the Identifiler primer set. KAPA2G™ was selected for 3μl fast PCR protocols using PowerPlex 16 HS and Identifiler Plus primer sets (42-51min), as well as 5μl and 6μl Identifiler fast reactions on a 9700 thermal cycler (51-60min). Alternative detection (POP-6™/22cm) achieved 24-28min run times, but with decreased resolution as compared to traditional POP-4®/36cm detection for alleles >200bp; however, 1bp resolution was still obtainable for alleles <300bp. These modifications resulted in robust databasing processes with up to a 37% reduction in processing time for buccal swabs and Buccal DNA Collectors™ using the three primer sets evaluated (3μl fast PCR reactions) and generated high quality STR profiles with ≥90% pass rates.
Date: May 2015
Creator: Connon, Catherine Cupples
Partner: UNT Libraries

Dynamics of Stream Fish Metacommunities in Response to Drought and Re-connectivity

Description: This dissertation investigates the spatio-temporal dynamics of intermittent stream fish metacommunities in response drought-induced fragmentation and re-connectivity using both field and experimental approaches. A detailed field study was conducted in two streams and included pre-drought, drought, and post-drought hydrological periods. Fish assemblages and metacommunity structure responded strongly to changes in hydrological conditions with dramatic declines in species richness and abundance during prolonged drought. Return of stream flows resulted in a trend toward recovery but ultimately assemblages failed to fully recover. Differential mortality, dispersal, recruitment among species indicates species specific responses to hydrologic fragmentation, connectivity, and habitat refugia. Two manipulative experiments tested the effects of drought conditions on realistic fish assemblages. Fishes responded strongly to drought conditions in which deeper pools acted as refugia, harboring greater numbers of fish. Variability in assemblage structure and movement patterns among stream pools indicated species specific habitat preferences in response predation, resource competition, and desiccation. Connecting stream flows mediated the impacts of drought conditions and metacommunity dynamics in both experiments. Results from field and experimental studies indicate that stream fish metacommunities are influenced by changes in hydrological conditions and that the timing, duration, and magnitude of drought-induced fragmentation and reconnecting stream flows have important consequences metacommunity dynamics.
Date: August 2015
Creator: Driver, Lucas J.
Partner: UNT Libraries