Accepted! Maria’s paper on the love life of male mink

31 07 2013

This lovely piece of work, on the enhanced mating success of enriched-housed males and the mechanisms underlying it (in a nutshell: they are not crazy and stereotypic), has been accepted at last, by PloS One. Like Collete’s sex ratio paper, Maria and the rest of us (e.g. Albrecht Schulte-Hofstede) had aimed high with previous submissions, being rejected by Nature, Science and other high-falutin’ journals (losing time and morale in the process). Fabulous to get a “yes” at last – just minor revisions, with one referee (clearly an extremely intelligent, astute individual) saying this:
“This manuscript presents an experiment that is meticulously designed and reported. The results are definitive and valuable to the field of mammalian environmental enrichment”.

Looking at the search terms that get people here by accident…

28 07 2013

… an awful lot of them want to have sex with animals.

Soldier returns to cat after 6 months abroad

28 07 2013


Our house in a national newspaper!

27 07 2013

The odd inaccuracy but all-in-all a nice Globe & Mail piece about our lovely, lovely, eccentric house (it’s why I work at home all the time). The interview was fun too (though I did spend days and days tidying beforehand, to hide the fact that everything is usually covered in paper) — Dave le Blanc was interesting and knowledgable, and it was really wonderful meeting Mrs. Pagani and her daughter Suzanne (the other daughter has 12 cats apparently, so Jonathan and I seemed quite moderate by comparison).

Screen shot 2013-07-27 at 5.03.36 PM

Parrot self-plucking paper accepted by Avian Biology Research

26 07 2013

Accepted, after a long delay and for us, dealing with a very difficult referee. Very relieved it’s in! Screen shot 2013-07-26 at 4.30.03 PMAbstract: Captive parrots (Psittaciformes) commonly engage in “feather-damaging behaviour” (FDB) that suggests compromised welfare. Susceptibilities to FDB have been suggested, 26 but not empirically demonstrated, to vary across the >200 species kept in captivity. Other demographic risk factors have been proposed for particular species – but neither confirmed nor generalized across Psittaciformes. In this preliminary study, we analyzed data from a previously-conducted survey of pet owners: among 538 companion parrots representing ten non-domesticated, non-hybrid species (n≥17/species), FDB prevalence was 15.8% overall. We tested whether individual FDB status was predicted by four previously-suggested demographic risk factors: species, sex, age, or hatch origin. Available (limited) data on husbandry were assessed as potential confounding variables and controlled for as appropriate. Species identity was a predictor of FDB status (P=0.047), even after controlling for all other variables tested; however, in light of multiple statistical testing, this effect cannot be considered robust until it is replicated. The strongest predictors of FDB status were age (P=0.001; with odds of positive FDB status lower in juveniles vs. adolescents or adults [P≤0.036]), and sex (P=0.006; with odds of FDB lower in individuals of unknown, vs. known, sex [P≤0.037]). These findings need to be replicated with data that allow better statistical controls for systematic differences in housing. However, they do provide preliminary empirical evidence for within-species risk factors (suggesting new, testable hypotheses about the etiology of parrot FDB); and for intrinsic, cross-species differences in FDB susceptibility (providing a rationale for future study of the biological factors that might underpin any such taxonomic differences).

Both “mink bunk” papers out

26 07 2013

Screen shot 2013-07-26 at 4.18.33 PMLink to full paper:

And also…

Screen shot 2013-07-26 at 4.17.06 PMNo nice link from Elsevier yet, but will put it up in the Atrium very soon.

Could crowd source funding work for animal welfare?

26 07 2013

So far this strange and intriguing fund-raising method only exists in the US: I can see it working really well for animal welfare, and the momet it reaches Canada will be seeking funds to find out why cats purr

Could crowd source funding work for animal welfare?

Walter not in hideous train crash!

26 07 2013

A couple of days after Walter arrived back in Spain for a few weeks at home, the appalling derailment in Santiago de Compostela happened. Walter did his vet degree there, and although rationally the chances of him being caught up in it were tiny, I couldn’t help worrying, especially when he didn’t reply for 2-3 days. Actually Oviedo, where he is (“A”), is quite a long way from Santiago (yellow arrow), but still, all this anxiety just confirms my long-held belief that all my grad students should reply to my emails within minutes if not seconds. Walter not in hideous train crash!

The whites of my eyes matched my top

26 07 2013

I spent several hours over the last two days taking out mouse brains (from the two dozen or so individuals who were most stereotypic or anhedonic in standard cages, or the most interested in wheel-running and least stereotypic — let’s assume for now wheel-running is not stereotypic — in enriched cages). I steadily went from a sweaty 10 mins/brain during which I mangled everything (I’m guessing it’s not good when you add extra small blobs of neural tissue to your labelled tube, thinking “maybe it was a useful bit that fell off”) to one minute/brain and everything clean, intact and beautiful. However, by the end my aching, streaming eyes matched my top unnervingly well.  I photo-70think it’s finally official – I need reading glasses for close work!

Sophie’s views on stress

24 07 2013

Maria came round to discuss her outline for Chapter 1 before she went off to “Dissertation Boot Camp” to write it. One of the general topics she needs to mention and define is stress. “What have you used?” I asked. “Stress refers any factor which overtaxes an individual’s control systems and reduces its fitness or appears likely to do so (Broom and Johnson 1993)”, came the answer. At that point Sophie got up, lay down heavily on the draft, and looked very grumpy and ready to bite — which is funny because I was just about to do the very same thing.

Sophie's views on stress