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Red deer responding to climate change
Red deer on the Isle of Rum
Scottish Isle provides evidence individuals are evolving to give birth earlier

Field records and genetic data, collected on the Isle of Rum over a 45-year period since 1972, demonstrate that genetic changes to red deer have played a key role in a rapid shift in birth dates in recent years.

Previous studies have shown that the deer have been giving birth earlier since the 1980s at a rate of about three days per decade – partly as a consequence of the effects of warmer temperatures on the deer’s behaviour and physiology. 

Researchers, including scientists from the University of Edinburgh, have now revealed that genetic changes caused by natural selection are also involved – their study providing a rare example of evolution happening quickly enough to be detected over only a few decades.

Female red deer give birth to a single calf each year, and those that reproduce earlier in the year have more offspring over their lifetime, researchers say. Their findings show that this is partly because of an association between the genes that make hinds give birth earlier and higher overall reproductive success. As a result, genes for breeding earlier have become more common in the Rum deer population over time.
 
Dr Timothée Bonnet, of the Australian National University, who led the study, said: “This is one of the few cases where we have documented evolution in action, showing that it may help populations adapt to climate warming.”

Professor Josephine Pemberton, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Biological Sciences, who was also involved in the study, said: “Long-term studies of individual lifetimes are one of the few ways to understand how populations respond to environmental change and how to manage its effects.”

Sally Thomas, Scottish Natural Heritage’s Director of People and Nature, said: “These findings are a fascinating example of the impact climate change may be having on wildlife. More and more research is demonstrating climate change is influencing species across the UK and the world.”

The research, published in PLOS Biology, involved scientists from the Australian National University and the universities of St Andrews and Cambridge. It was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council. The Isle of Rum National Nature Reserve is managed by Scottish Natural Heritage.

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Celebrity chefs urge public to get baking to support Cats Protection fundraiser

News Story 1
 In support of Cats Protection's Pawsome Afternoon Tea fundraiser, Masterchef winner Tim Anderson and Great British Bake Off star Kim-Joy have shared biscuit recipes to help keen bakers raise money for needy cats across April.

The celebrity chefs are both cat owners and have said that they hope this fundraiser will help to raise awareness of cats in need and the importance of adopting a cat, rather than buying one.

This is the fourth year Cats Protection has run its Pawsome Afternoon Tea campaign, which encourages people to hold tea parties, bake sales and fundraising events to help raise money for the charity.

To view the recipes and other fundraising resources please visit the Cats Protection website. 

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News Shorts
BEVA offering free membership to vet students

The British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) is offering free membership to veterinary students. As part of a new initiative with the aim of encouraging more veterinary professionals into equine practice.

According to BEVA, less than one in ten veterinary students choose to work in equine practice. The association hopes that this initiative will provide insight into the field and the benefits of a career in equine medicine.

Benefits of membership include:
▪ access to a network of nearly 3,000 members
▪ special student rates to attend BEVA Congress
▪ online access to BEVA's Equine Veterinary Education (EVE) journal
▪ free access to the association's online learning platform
▪ free access to BEVA's practical veterinary apps
▪ exclusive discounts on a range of things from cinema tickets to grocery shopping.

BEVA will be releasing a series of short videos over the next few months from BEVA Council members, explaining what inspired them to work in equine practice.

Image (c) BEVA.