On a sunny day at Zoo Atlanta in 2020, Kelly the African bush elephant reached for a snack and revealed something strange.
High-speed cameras tracking her movements suggested that the skin on top of Kelly’s trunk stretched more than the skin underneath. “But that didn’t make any sense,” says Andrew Schulz, a mechanical engineer at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
Scientists had assumed that elephant trunk skin largely stretches the same way all over. When Schulz sent data from Kelly and a male elephant, Msholo, to colleagues, they said, “Oh yeah, your data is wrong,” he remembers.
Bottom of Form
Follow-up experiments stretching pieces of elephant skin in the lab showed the same peculiar phenomenon: The skin on the top and bottom of the trunk are two entirely different beasts. “Talk about a great day as a scientist!” Schulz says. “That’s when we really started to believe that what we were saying was true.”
The tough upper skin of an elephant’s trunk, which crumples into creases and crags like the folded furrows of a shar-pei puppy, is about 15 percent stretchier than the gently wrinkled skin on the underside, Schulz and his colleagues report July 18 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
When an elephant elongates its trunk, the upper skin stretches more than the skin on the underside. Green crosses represent initial positions on the skin. As the trunk extends, the crosses turn red and move to the right, indicating how much the skin stretched.
That extra stretch probably helps elephants reach down and wrap their trunks around a log or a tree branch, while the wrinkled skin underneath gives the animals a good grip, Schulz says.
The team also observed that the trunk extends like a telescope, the tip reaching out first, followed by sections farther up. And at the trunk tip, it’s the skin that does most of the straining, not the muscle, mathematical modeling experiments suggest.
Scientists have long studied the muscles in elephant trunks (SN: 3/26/88). But skin has largely been overlooked, says Lucia Beccai, a soft roboticist at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa who wasn’t involved in the research. The new study “tells us that the structure of elephant skin is not all the same.”
Artificial skin is often modeled after human skin, but researchers could learn a lot from other animals, Beccai says. Understanding how Kelly’s and Msholo’s folds and wrinkles stretch is “surely information that will improve the design of soft robots,” she says. For more information visit sciencenews.org
According to a news release from Mexico City’s Environment Department, Shuan Shuan enjoyed a birthday with “hundreds of drawings and a giant cake with dates and apples.” And she passed away the same day – exactly 35 years after she was born.
Shuan Shuan was born in captivity, but her ancestors were born in China and gifted to Mexico in 1975 in honor of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the countries, reports Yahoo News.
The news release did not provide Shuan Shuan’s cause of death, but at 35 years of age, she surpassed the expected lifespan for a giant panda in the wild and even exceeded the expectation for a panda in captivity.
Rest in peace Shuan Shuan.
The Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, has announced the birth of a male addax on July 2, 2022, which is significant as this species is critically endangered and on the verge of extinction in the wild.
According to the Chicago Zoological Society, there is an estimated population of potentially less than 100 addaxes left in the wild.1
The calf was born to 5-year-old female Simone and 8-year-old female Ishnala. Throughout the next few weeks, the infant will mostly remain in a nesting area out of public view though he has started to explore outside where guests can view him in one of the 31st Street habitats on the zoo’s northwest side.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Addax Species Survival Plan (SSP) recommended the pairing of Simone and Ishnala. Since the Addax SSP was launched in 1989, the Chicago Zoological Society has been an active participant. In fact, since 1935 Brookfield Zoo has exhibited addax, and in 1941 was the first zoo in North America to have an addax birth.1
At one time, the addax was found in large numbers throughout the Sahara Desert, unfortunately though because of illegal hunting for its meat, horns, and hide, plus oil exploration and production, the species may not be around for future generations. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has reported the only known remaining population thought to be viable is in the Termit/Tin Toumma region of Niger.2 Collaborative efforts across the globe offer hope for the species.
Fun facts about the addax
The Chicago Zoological Society highlighted some interesting traits of this “desert-adapted antelope”1:
- In older addax, their horns can spiral almost 3 turns and extend about 3 feet
- The addax are one of a group of species called “horse-like antelope,” unique in that the females have horns as long as those of the males.
- The addax's legs are shorter than those of most antelope, so they have a low center of gravity and remain steady even when sand shifts under foot.
- The addax receives almost all the moisture they need from the sap of vegetation and from dew, going almost their entire lives without drinking water at all. When vegetation is not available, they live off the water stored in their body.
Seneca Park Zoo and Monroe County executive Adam Bello have publicized that a male Masai giraffe calf born earlier this week is receiving veterinary care for a leg tendon issue. With the assistance of animal care staff, zoo veterinarian Chris McKinney, DVM, put a splint on the calf’s leg because of laxity in the tendons of his left front fetlock, resulting in the joint bending outward and forward.
The laxity is something that he was born with, and is also seen in horses and cattle,” shared McKinney, in an organizational release.1 “We placed a splint on the leg, which is kept in place with a bandage and keeps the joint in the proper position to provide support while he gains more strength in the leg.”
McKinney added that the joint should build strength over the next few days so the splint can be removed. Additionally, the calf was found to have an umbilical hernia, which is a congenital abnormality that occurs when the muscle of the body wall doesn’t close completely where the umbilical cord enters the body.1
“This is not painful and at this time is causing him no harm but can worsen as he grows. Once he has had more time to nurse and bond with mom, we will plan to surgically close the hernia to ensure he continues to be healthy.”
Bello noted that aside from the leg tendon issue and hernia, the calf is otherwise healthy and has assimilated nicely with the rest of the giraffe herd.
“But, we do know that baby giraffes have high mortality rates and the first few days and weeks are critical to the success of the birth. Zoo staff will continue monitoring baby and mom 24/7 to watch out for any unforeseen challenges,” Bello concluded, in the release.
It is with a sense of déjà vu that staff at animal hospitals have been fielding a flurry of calls from pet owners worried about Seresto flea and tick collars. More than a year has passed since USA Today reported that the popular product was implicated in hundreds of pet deaths.
Fresh alarm has been stoked by federal lawmakers who, at a hearing in June, called for the collars to be taken off the market. Their concern is based on what they say are an unacceptably high number of adverse-incident reports and claims that the collar is now "linked" to more than 2,500 pet deaths.
In a 23-page report, the lawmakers cited rejection by Canada of the collars in 2016 and internal emails at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to demonstrate that serious concern exists in the regulatory ranks.
Some veterinarians, however, continue to maintain that the evidence doesn't present a consistent or coherent picture of heightened risk for a collar that is effective at protecting pets against fleas and ticks.
Several veterinary toxicologists told the VIN News Service that whether the collar is the true cause of reported harms is unclear. Adverse-event reports are unverified and anecdotal, they say, and drawing conclusions from that raw data is imprudent.
What's more, practitioners are not seeing red flags in their day-to-day experience.
"If you poll toxicologists and the veterinarians who recommend millions of these collars … it's a nonissue," Dr. Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, a board-certified veterinary toxicologist, told VIN News. "But in today's world, any jury or congressional committee can decree to 'know' things that science cannot support."
Directors of two national animal poison centers — Pet Poison Helpline and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center — have reported no deaths associated with the collars.
In a recent message board conversation on the Veterinary Information Network, an online community for the profession and parent of the VIN News Service, practitioners said they don't see worrisome trends with Seresto.
"It's hard to filter through the noise," said Dr. Paul Pion, VIN president and co-founder, who has been watching the conversation. "Most veterinarians aren't seeing [problems with the collars] … but regulators believe they are picking up a signal. Someone has to figure it out."
A more complete picture could be available this fall, when the EPA, which regulates the collars and other pesticide products used on pets, completes a comprehensive reevaluation of incident reports. At that time, the agency will determine whether additional safety measures are needed, according to an EPA spokesperson.
While most humans suspect may dogs have their own way of navigating the world, a new Cornell-conducted study confirms this is true.
Researchers in the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine have discovered dogs’ sense of smell is integrated with their vision and other unique parts of the brain.
Specifically, canines’ olfaction is combined with their sight in terms of how they learn about their environment and orient themselves in it, says the study’s senior author, Pip Johnson, BVSc, CertVDI, DipECVDI, MSc, MRCVS, assistant professor of clinical sciences at Cornell.
“When we walk into a room, we primarily use our vision to work out where the door is, who’s in the room, where the table is,” she says. “Whereas, in dogs, this study shows olfaction is really integrated with vision in terms of how they learn about their environment and orient themselves in it.”
The findings corroborate Dr. Johnson’s clinical experiences with blind dogs and their abilities, Cornell reports.
“[These dogs] can still play fetch and navigate their surroundings much better than humans with the same condition,” she says. “Knowing there’s that information freeway going between those two areas could be hugely comforting to owners of dogs with incurable eye diseases.”
The findings have been published in The Journal of Neuroscience.
During the tragic Fourth of July Parade shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, this year the open fire set the crowd into hysteria as they fled the scene. Among those petrified was a 6.5-pound Yorkshire terrier named Lola.
According to the Chicago Sun Times,1 simultaneously Katie Gillman, accompanied by her husband Max and 4.5- and 16-month-old daughters in a double stroller ran down Second Street in Highland Park after the shooting started at the parade. Right before Walnut Street, Katie turned back and witnessed a swarm of people running for their lives. “And leading the pack was this little dog,” Katie said.1 Heroically, Katie ran back and scooped up the horrified dog separated from its family "football style" under one arm.1 Katie caught up with her family and noticed the dog bleeding from her right eye.
On a day that caused so much disaster and heartbreak, the family went on a mission to assist Lola. When they arrived home, Max wrapped the Yorkshire terrier in a bath towel and then rushed her to the Pet Hospital in Northfield, Illinois. Todd Horowitz, DVM, quickly gave her an IV and saw she hadn’t been shot or injured from shrapnel, though she did suffer significant trauma to her right cornea and eyelid.1
“She was really scared, but you could tell she was a nice dog. She was used to people,” Horowitz said, of Lola.1 Though the wound was due to unknown causes, Horowitz predicted that someone running from the gunman may have incidentally kicked the dog.
As Lola received treatment, Max texted his neighbor Megan O’Meara, who posted a photo of the injured pet on Nextdoor.com asking if anyone knew the dog’s owner. Around the same time, a woman posted a message in the group in search of her sister’s Yorkshire terrier who went missing amid the turmoil.
The dog’s owner Reina Conner and her family participated in the Highland Park’s kiddie parade earlier that morning along with her 4-year-old grand-niece. Conner was already at home by the time shots were fired, so her relatives still there picked up the young girl and ran to an adjacent pancake restaurant for safety. “Everybody kind of ran in different directions,” Conner described. “It was horrific what they went through.”
When Conner’s family caught word of O’Meara’s post, an aunt went to visit Lola at the pet hospital, and the dog was cleared to return home after 6 hours. “Our pets are family & during this difficult time we are lucky to have Lola back with us. Wishing all of you [love] & healing,” one of Conner’s relatives wrote in a post appreciating all who helped. Conner plans to visit an animal eye specialist soon and hopes that the dog can regain vision in the affected eye.1
The Gillmans noted that their oldest daughter can’t comprehend what occurred that day except for the fact that there was noise, people running, and a tiny dog who was lost and hurt. “She talks about the ‘firecrackers’ at the parade that day, but she also talks about Lola,” Max said. “Getting the dog back with its family, that’s her memory of the day. That’s our silver lining.”1
Ensuring animal health professionals understand their critical role in the fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the driving force behind a new set of recommendations, published jointly by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP).
The 2022 AAFP/AAHA Antimicrobial Stewardship Guidelines present evidence-led strategies veterinary teams can use in choosing appropriate antimicrobial therapy to best serve their patients and minimize the development of AMR, AAHA reports. The resource offers a practical approach for veterinary teams, which emphasizes making decisions that optimize patient outcome and ensure antibiotics are used only when necessary to treat infections.
“This effort is critical to ensure we continue to have drugs that are effective against bacterial infections,” says the guide’s coauthor and task force chair, Erin Frey, DVM, MPH, DACVPM. “Bacterial pathogens will always find ways to resist antibiotics, but overuse of antibiotics or using them when it’s not necessary expedites this process, ultimately leaving us with bacteria that are impervious to treatment. The result is a scenario in which we don’t have the tools to treat life-threatening bacterial infections because the available antibiotics are no longer effective.”
The top tenets of the guidelines include:
- Practice good preventive medicine, monitor health routinely, and keep vaccinations updated
- Teach clients about good animal care practices and hygiene
- Use other alternatives to oral antibiotics (i.e. bathing, sprays, ointments)
- Consider “watchful waiting” to observe whether a condition truly needs antibiotics or if patients can clear it on their own
- Use diagnostic testing to determine if an infection is bacterial and would respond to antibiotics
Additionally, client education about preventive care is an important element in these guidelines, says AAFP CEO, Heather O’Steen. “The entire veterinary team as well as clients should be involved in this effort,” she adds. “These guidelines will support our collective responsibility to make good decisions about antimicrobial use.”
AMR due to antibiotic overuse and misuse is a growing threat to human and animal health, the groups report. Recognizing the role veterinary professionals play can help keep this danger at bay. “Antimicrobial stewardship is one of the most important public health issues facing the profession,” says AAHA chief medical officer, Jessica Vogelsang, DVM.
A “unicorn of the cat world” has popped up at an animal shelter in the Peach State.
Specifically, the kitten (appropriately christened “Pegasus”) is a male calico, which occurs only once in every 3,000 births of the breed.
The eight- to 10-week-old kitten was presumed female when he was surrendered to the Humane Society of South Coastal Georgia (HSSCG) last month alongside his mother and bi-color orange and white brother. Staff member Bonnie Miller happened to check Pegasus and was surprised to find the calico was male.
“I thought I was wrong,’’ she tells the Brunswick News. “I had someone else check under the tail.”
The calico pattern is attached to X chromosomes (meaning, two X chromosomes are required to achieve the white, black, and orange color palette). To produce a male, a Y must accompany the double X chromosomes, making the cat XXY.
The discovery was a first at the shelter, says the facility’s veterinarian, Missy Weaver, DVM.
“I’ve been practicing 25 years, and I’ve never seen one,’’ she adds.
Weaver knows of a Humane Society volunteer who once had a male calico, and there have also been reports of one in Savannah, Ga.
“So, obviously it happens,” she says.
More than 600 kittens come through HSSCG each year and are adopted. Pegasus will also go up for adoption.
The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) announced the formation of the Commission on Equine Veterinary Sustainability to help fight the shortage of equine veterinarians within the United States and other countries. The Commission will help create strategies that will help retain and recruit more veterinarians into equine medicine.
“The equine veterinary profession is in crisis,” said Emma Read, DVM, MVSc, DACVS, AAEP president, in an organizational release, “In order to transform equine practice, we must address the pain points which are driving exceptional horse doctors away. Without change, future veterinary care for our nation’s horses will be greatly jeopardized.”1
According to the release,1 this new Commission will be made up of AAEP member volunteers who will focus on compensation, strategies for effective emergency coverage, internships, veterinary practice, and supporting equine veterinary students’ growth and development. With 50% of AAEP members operating one or two veterinarian practices, the Commission will ensure their needs are considered.
“Every person in the profession has a role to play in its transformation,” Read continued, “This is one of the largest initiatives ever undertaken by the AAEP and we look forward to collaborating with equine veterinarians and those who help support them in all facets of practice to change the numbers.”
In data collected by the AAEP,1 1.3% of new veterinary graduates enter equine practice directly each year 4.5% pursue further training in equine internship positions. Yet within 6 years, 50% of all these equine veterinarians leave for small animal practice or leave the industry together.
According to a recent study, starch-rich diets may help improve digestibility of fiber when horses are fed low-quality forages. On the flip side, horses fed high-quality hay did not benefit from the addition of a concentrate with regard to fiber digestibility.* “These findings suggest that feeding concentrates, which are often high in starch, may have more benefit than simply providing horses with additional calories from a lower-quality forage,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research. This finding was discovered during an in vitro digestibility study conducted by researchers at Missouri State University. “In vitro digestibility systems are an alternative to digestibility studies used in live horses (in vivo). To determine digestibility in vivo, nutrients in the horses’ feed are measured against nutrients found in the horse’s feces,” she said. “The difference determines how much of a given nutrient is digested and absorbed by the horse.”
When using in vitro systems, anaerobic microbes are isolated from fecal samples collected from donor horses. They are placed in fermentation jars along with the feed to be digested to mimic the cecal environment. The feed and microbial mixture are incubated at a constant body temperature (39°C) for a set amount of time (48 hours), the same length of time feed would remain in the hindgut. The nutrients in the feed before and after fermentation are measured to calculate digestibility. “Regardless of the system used, high digestibility means that horses are able to extract the nutrients efficiently from their feed and less feed is ‘wasted’ compared to low digestibility in which horses get less out of the feed,” explained Crandell.
Researchers use in vitro digestibility systems when conducting research on dry matter, organic matter, and fiber digestibility. According to Crandell, it is easier to quantify fiber fermentation in a laboratory setting rather than in the field. In a recent in vitro digestibility study, researchers hypothesized that the diets of donor horses would affect the microbial populations in the feces that were then used to digest forages in digestibility studies, thus affecting results.* If this hypothesis proved true, then the digestibility study results would vary depending on the diet and fecal microbiome of the donor. This may prompt the use of pooled fecal samples from various donors to help decrease the effect of the donor’s individual fecal microbiome and make digestibility study results more generalizable.
“As expected, the donor diets altered the digestibility of feeds. But it was somewhat surprising that the high-starch diets improved the digestibility of low-quality forages that had crude protein levels less than 8% and more than 72% neutral detergent fiber,” Crandell said. “These results suggest that horses can get more out of a low-quality hay if they are offered a concentrate with it. This is encouraging because there are times when it is difficult to get high-quality hay and owners need to feed what they can get their hands on.” Crandell also pointed out that it was likely the starch in the concentrate that affected the microbial population that fermented the low-quality hay for it to be more digestible.
It’s important to understand, according to Crandell, that there is a difference between low-quality hay (clean but higher fiber and lower protein) and poor-quality hay (bleached, heat damaged, moldy, or dusty). This research does not suggest that adding grain will make up for nutrients not found in poor-quality hay. “For horses that can get enough calories from hay, a low-intake ration balancer or a well-formulated vitamin and mineral supplement should also be fed. This ensures that any nutritional shortfalls of the forage are met,” Crandell recommended.
Animal Dermatology Group, Inc. ("ADG"), the largest veterinary dermatology specialty business in the U.S., today announced that Dr. Julia Miller has joined ADG's Kentucky practice at its new facility, Animal Dermatology Clinic – Louisville.
Prior to joining ADG, Dr. Miller was the Assistant Clinical Professor in Dermatology at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. She received her veterinary medicine degree as well as completed her dermatology residency at Cornell and achieved diplomate status with the American College of Veterinary Dermatology in 2019. Dr. Miller was honored with the New York State Veterinary Conference Speaker of the Year in 2018, the Zoetis Distinguished Teacher Award in 2021 and has contributed significantly to published research in the fields of veterinary dermatology and equine medicine.
"I'm excited to return to clinical practice and work with the ADG team," said Dr. Miller, "With my love for both companion animal and equine medicine, Louisville is the ideal place for me to make a difference in the health and quality of life of my patients."
Dr. Miller's addition coincides with the grand opening of ADG's new practice location for Animal Dermatology Clinic – Louisville, a 4,000 square foot state-of-the-art veterinary specialty facility dedicated to the advanced practice of veterinary dermatology and the management of acute and chronic skin and ear conditions in dogs, cats and horses. The Louisville practice serves as one of the leading centers for clinical practice and education in the area.
Steve Mrha, ADG's Chief Executive Officer stated, "We are delighted to welcome Dr. Miller to our new Louisville facility, joining Drs. Joya Griffin, Katie Lake Robertson and Jeff Tinsley. This team exemplifies our commitment to building a center of dermatology excellence that supports the needs of clients and referring veterinarians in Kentucky and the surrounding markets as well as providing a solid foundation to help train the next generation of veterinary dermatology specialists."
An An, the world's oldest male giant panda in captivity, died Thursday following health problems at age 35.
The panda was euthanized to prevent further suffering, Hong Kong's Ocean Park said in a statement. His "cleverness and playfulness" would be dearly missed, the park's chairman Paulo Pong said.
An An was gifted to the theme park 23 years ago by the Chinese central government, along with Jia Jia, a female believed to be the world's oldest ever giant panda before her death in 2016 at age 38.
The pair were seen by millions of tourists and schoolchildren over the years, many of whom posted their memories of An An online Thursday in photos and videos.
A panda's average life span in the wild is 14-20 years, but they can live far longer in captivity, according to wildlife conservationists World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
Pong said that An An's survival beyond the average life expectancy demonstrates the theme park's ongoing commitment to giant pandas.
The theme park still houses two other giant pandas -- female Ying Ying and male Le Le -- which were gifted by the Chinese government in 2007.
China has spent half a century attempting to boost the population of its iconic animals, creating sprawling panda reserves across several mountain ranges in an effort to save them from extinction.
Giant pandas are notoriously hard to breed in captivity, but after years of decline, their numbers in the wild have increased in recent years.
In 2017 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) upgraded the species from "endangered" to "vulnerable" after their population grew nearly 17% over the previous decade. That move was mirrored by the Chinese government last year after the wild giant panda population increased to 1,800.
In China, pandas are considered an umbrella species, which means experts believe measures to protect them will help protect other species, as well as the larger ecosystem.
the Humane Society of the United States and several shelter and rescue partners embarked on a historic operation and removed the first 432 out of approximately 4,000 beagles at Envigo RMS LLC’s facility in Cumberland, Virginia, which bred dogs to be sold to laboratories for animal experimentation.
Homeward Trails, Priceless Pets, Helen Woodward Animal Center and Kindness Ranch Animal Sanctuary picked up groups of dogs removed from the facility yesterday. The Humane Society of the United States brought 201 beagles to its care and rehabilitation center where they will receive care and TLC until they are transported to MSPCA, Wisconsin Humane and Dakin Humane later in the week. RedRover Responders are assisting the HSUS with daily animal needs.
The removal of these dogs occurred pursuant to a transfer plan that was submitted by the Department of Justice and Envigo RMS LLC, with the agreement of the Humane Society of the United States to assume the responsibility of coordinating placement. The transfer plan comes as a result of a lawsuit filed against Envigo by the Department of Justice in May, alleging Animal Welfare Act violations at the facility. Government inspectors found that beagles there were being killed instead of receiving veterinary treatment for easily treated conditions; nursing mother beagles were denied food; the food that they did receive contained maggots, mold and feces; and over an eight-week period, 25 beagle puppies died from cold exposure. Other dogs suffered from injuries when they were attacked by other dogs in overcrowded conditions.
“Despite the long day, the puppies perked up and immediately started bounding around their kennels and playing as soon as they settled in,” said Jessica Johnson, senior director of the Animal Rescue Team for the Humane Society of the United States. “For these resilient puppies, hopefully their ear tattoos are the only reminders of their past.”
“It takes a massive network of compassionate, expert shelters and rescue groups to make an operation of this scale possible,” said Lindsay Hamrick, shelter outreach and engagement director for the Humane Society of the United States. “We are deeply grateful to each organization that is stepping up to find these dogs the loving homes they so deserve.”
Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said: “This is a truly historic moment in animal protection, as 4,000 beagles are spared a life of animal testing. We are honored that the Department of Justice asked us to lead this massive operation. Our Animal Rescue Team is ready for this challenge because this is who we are—what we have trained for—we take on what otherwise seems impossible. We are grateful to our dedicated independent rescue and shelter partners, a network of organizations in communities throughout the country. These remarkable dogs now have wonderful homes and lives ahead of them, just as they deserve.”
People interested in adopting one of the beagles should view the HSUS’ list of partners that are accepting the beagles into their adoption program visit www.humanesociety.org