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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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Cats Protection launches Christmas animation

News Story 1
 Leading feline charity Cats Protection has launched a heartwarming Christmas animation to raise awareness of the important work it does. The animation is based on a true story of a kitten that went missing earlier this year. Freezing cold and hungry, the kitten was dumped in a box on a roadside and somehow became separated from her brother and sisters.


Thankfully there is a happy end to this tail, and Libby - now named Misty - was eventually reunited with her littermates. Misty’s owner, Amy Smith, said: “Misty has settled amazingly well into our home, she has found a best friend in my daughter Lily and likes to follow her around the house. She also loves to chase bugs in the garden. We feel very lucky to have her.” 

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WSAVA launches certificate programme focusing on companion animals in One Health

The first certificate programme focusing specifically on the role of companion animals in One Health has been launched by the One Health Committee (OHC) of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA).

The online programme, which is free of charge for WSAVA members, has been developed in recognition of the growing impact of companion animals in human society. Pet ownership is becoming more popular globally, and this has increased the implications for One Health, regarding the human-companion animal bond. The WSAVA OHC hopes that this course will bridge the knowledge gap between veterinary surgeons and human physicians. New modules are being added weekly, with a total of 20 modules expected to be available by early 2020.