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Tuesday, July 23

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2018 was a banner year for research

Zoo Atlanta had yet another banner year in producing major research publications in 2018! Zoo Atlanta and colleagues have now been responsible for a minimum of 350 publications since 1978, when we started keeping records. Below are a few highlights of some of our published works in 2018.

A brief overview of research at Zoo Atlanta
Zoo Atlanta’s contributions to the world of research on primate behavior and biology, especially those of western lowland gorillas and orangutans, is renowned and dates back to the late 1970s. The arrival of giant pandas in 1999 launched our giant panda research program, and around 2000, our herpetology research program began to formalize. Through efforts of Zoo Atlanta team members and collaborations with researchers at other institutions and academia, the animal population here at the Zoo continues to further our knowledge about the basic biology of these animals, as well improves and advances veterinary care and animal well-being.

Highlights of 2018 publications

Chau, L.M., A.M. Groh, E.C. Anderson, M.O. Alcala, J.R. Mendelson III, S.B. Slade, K. Kerns, S. Sarro, C. Lusardi, and M.A.D.        Goodisman. 2018.. Genetic diversity and sex ratio of naked mole rat, Heterocephalus glaber, zoo populations. Zoo Biology          2018:1–12. DOI: 10.1002/zoo.21417

Murphy, H.W., and M.D. Danforth. 2018. Update on the Great Ape Heart Project. Pp. 581–587 In: E. Miller, N. Lamberski, and P.P. Calle (Eds.), Fowler’s Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine Current Therapy, Vol. 9, Elsevier Press.

Murphy, H.W., M.D. Danforth, and V.L. Clyde. 2018. The Great Ape Heart Project. International Zoo Yearbook 52:1–10. doi:10.1111/izy.12180

Mendelson, J. R., III. 2018. Frogs in glass boxes: responses of zoos to global amphibian extinctions. Pp. 298–310, In: B. Minteer and J.P. Collins (Eds.) The Ark and Beyond: The Evolution of Zoo and Aquarium Conservation. University of Chicago Press. ISBN-13:978-0226538464

Hill, R.L., K.G. Martin, E. Stanley, and J.R. Mendelson III. 2018. A taxonomic review of the genus Hemiphractus (Anura: Hemiphractidae) in Panama: description of two new species, resurrection of Hemiphractus panamensis (Stejneger, 1917), and discussion of Hemiphractus fasciatus Peters, 1862. Zootaxa 4429: 495–512.

Anon. Batrachochytrium salamandivorans (Bsal) Rapid Response Template (ver. 8 June 2018). US Geological Survey National Bsal Task Force. [J. R. Mendelson III, co-author]

Hill, R.L., S. Huskisson, E. Weigel, and J.R. Mendelson III. 2018. Growth rates of juvenile Boa constrictor under two feeding regimes. Zoo Biology 2018:1–5.

2018 Summaries – Highlights

Genetic diversity and sex ratio of naked mole rat, Heterocephalus glaber, zoo populations
This is the first-ever effort to document levels of genetic variation and sex ratios in eusocial mammals in zoological settings, which is crucial for their care.

Update on the Great Ape Heart Project
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major cause of mortality in all four great ape taxa in zoological settings: western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus, P. abelii, and P. hybrids), chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), and bonobos (Pan paniscus). CVD has been seen in wild living great apes, but there is limited information available on CVD prevalence and severity. The Great Ape Heart Project headquartered at Zoo Atlanta is an innovative and coordinated program to investigate ape CVD and establish uniform strategies for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of great ape CVD. A focus of the Great Ape Heart Project has been to develop guidelines and recommendations that support zoological professionals in diagnosing and treating CVD in great apes. This has been accomplished by professional capacity-building, cardiac examination reviews, clinical support to attending veterinarians, and easy access to subject matter experts (SMEs) such as cardiologists, pathologists and species experts. The Great Ape Heart Project is led by a Project Director and a dedicated full-time Database Manager, assisted by an Executive Committee made up of cardiologists, sonog­raphers, pathologists and Species Survival Plan® (SSP) veterinarians and pathologists.           

Frogs in glass boxes: responses of zoos to global amphibian extinctions.   
A historical review of the roles zoos (primarily U.S.) have played in the conservation of amphibians during their recent global declines.

A taxonomic review of the genus Hemiphractus (Anura: Hemiphractidae) in Panama: description of two new species, resurrection of Hemiphractus panamensis (Stejneger, 1917), and discussion of Hemiphractus fasciatus Peters, 1862.
Description of two new species of horned frogs from Panama, plus resolution of some century-old taxonomic problems. The three species of horned frogs known in Panama now are likely all critically endangered.

Batrachochytrium salamandivorans (Bsal) Rapid Response Template (ver. 8 June 2018).
The possibility of the arrival and establishment of the newly discovered “Salamander Fungus” in North America has prompted federal agencies (USFWS, USGS) to assemble specialist panels to develop proactive policies and protocols to reduce the risks of introduction and, if introduced, to delimit damage to native North American salamanders—the most diverse salamander fauna in the world.

Growth rates of juvenile boa constrictor under two feeding regimes
Essential animal well-being includes study and monitoring of diet, growth and health. This paper found remarkable differences in growth rates of juvenile snakes that were fed the same total amount of food, but at different intervals during their first year of life. There are virtually no well-controlled studies on this crucial aspect of snake husbandry and well-being.  

Joseph Mendelson, PhD
Director of Research

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