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Families of infected animals may suffer the most
birds
Scientists studied cormorant-like birds during breeding season on the Isle of May National Nature Reserve.

Edinburgh scientists explore wild seabird infections
 
For the first time, research suggests parasite infections in some wild seabirds can have a serious impact on how well their relatives do - having a greater impact on them than the infected birds themselves.

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh say their findings could also have implications for the conservation of other wild animals.

While it is not clear why infections in some birds can affect others, researchers suggest it may be due to the impact it has on the ability to nurture young, or the fact that infected chicks need more care.

Edinburgh scientists worked with those from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. They studied cormorant-like birds during breeding season on the Isle of May National Nature Reserve, off the east coast of Scotland.

Worm infections in parent birds or their nestlings were found to have a greater impact on others in the family group, than the infected birds themselves.

In their experiments, the researchers treated either the parents or chicks with anti-worming injections. They discovered this could have positive results for others in the nest.

When parents were treated, chicks born early in the breeding season had improve survival chances. If chicks born early in the season received treatment, their parents gained weight. Parents of the treated chicks also went on to breed earlier in the next breeding season, giving those offspring a better chance of survival.

However, chicks born later in the season to parents that had received worming treatments were found to have a slightly poorer chance of survival, while the parents of treated chicks born late in the season went our to lose weight.

Scientists suggest this may be due to the fact that those born later are more at risk of secondary infection, and food is in short supply.

Lead researcher Hanna Granroth-Wilding said: "Our knowledge of disease in wild animals has tended to focus on the individual, but our study shows that we need to pay more attention to the broader consequences of disease to fully appreciate the role that it plays in wild populations, especially those whose numbers may be under threat."

Image © Mark Newell

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Scheme to protect wildlife and reduce flooding

News Story 1
 Natural England has announced a new scheme to improve flood protection, boost wildlife and create 160 hectares of new saltmarsh. The £6 million scheme in Lancashire will effectively unite the RSPB’s Hesketh Out Marsh Reserve and Natural England’s Ribble Estuary National Nature Reserve. The completed reserve will be the largest site of its kind in the north of England. 

News Shorts
Welfare event to discuss ethical dilemmas faced by vets

Students and ethics experts will host an event on the difficult moral challenges facing vets. Ethical issues, such as euthanasia and breeding animals for certain physical traits, will be discussed by prominent speakers including TV vet Emma Milne and RSPCA chief vet James Yeates. Other topics will include how to tackle suspected animal abuse and the extent of surgical intervention.

The conference will look at how these dilemmas affect the wellbeing of vets, and explore how to better prepare veterinary students for work. It will be held at the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush Campus from 30 September - 1 October 2017. Tickets can be purchased here.