Biochemical genetics, physiology and ecotoxicology of Southern African vulture species

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dc.contributor.advisor Prof. F.H. van der Bank; Prof. G.H. Verdoorn en_US
dc.contributor.author Van Wyk, Erika
dc.date.accessioned 2012-09-11T10:21:24Z
dc.date.available 2012-09-11T10:21:24Z
dc.date.issued 2012-09-11
dc.date.submitted 1999
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10210/7463
dc.description D.Phil. en_US
dc.description.abstract The main objective of this study was to describe the population genetic structure of African Whitebacked Vultures (Pseudogyps africanus) and to compare values to those previously documented for the Cape Griffon Vulture (Gyps coprotheres). The percentage of polymorphic .loci (P = 34.15%, 0.99 criterion) and average heterozygosity (17 = 0.108, ±0.032) calculated for P. africanus, confirm low levels of genetic -variation as reported for G. coprotheres. Blood samples' obtained from Lappetfaced (Torgos, tracheliotos) and Egyptian (Neophron percnopterus) Vultures enabled an evaluation of the genetic differentiation among the four southern African vulture species from allele frequency data assessed at 19 presumptive gene loci. Six (31.58%) of the 19 shared loci were polymorphic. Values of 1.26 (10.1), 26.32% and 0.076 (±0.047) for P.'africanus, 1.21 (±0.1), 21.05% and 0.097 (±0.045) for T. tracheliotos, 1.11 (±0.7), 21.05%. and 0.053 .(±0.053) for N: percnopterus and 1.05 (±0.5), 5.26% and 0.044 (±0.047) for G. coprotheres were obtained for the mean number of alleles per locus, P and Ti respectively. An average between-population fixigion index (FsT) value of 0.322 was obtained, which is indicative of significant (P < 0.01) differentiation between the four accipitrid species studied. Reference values for some haematological and plasma chemical parameters were established in 33 apparently normal, free-living, African Whitebacked Vulture nestlings. This .information can be. used in future ornithological research. A total of 27 variables . were examined, which include: leucocyte and erythrocyte counts, haemoglobin concentration, .haematocrit, haematimetric indices, glucose, creatinine, urea, total prOtein, albumin, globulin, albumin/globulin ratio, cholesterol, total lipids, triglycerides, aspartate aminotransferase, cholinesterase, lactate dehydrogenase, alkaline phosphatase, calcium, phosphorus, chloride, potassium, sodium and osmolarity. Only five parameters exhibited statistically significant (p < 0.05) differences between the two populations assayed. The Sandveld population showed elevated mean corpuscular haemoglobin concentration and alkaline phosphatase levels relative to the Dronfield population, whereas, the latter group displayed higher erythrocyte counts and potassium and sodium values than birds from the Sandveld community. Gaschromatography was used to establish the presence of quantifiable . residues .of 14 persistent chlorinated hydrocarbon pollutants in whole blood, clotted blood, heart, kidney, liver, bone, fat and muscle samples obtained from individual African Whitebacked, Cape. Griffon and Lappetfaced Vultures from different localities in South Africa. Concentrations of seven essential elements (Ca, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Mn and Zn) and four toxic metals (Al, Ni, Pb and Sr) were, furthermore, measured. The levels of pollutants measured in whole blood samples of live specimens were compared between nestlings from two natural breeding colonies, adults from a wildlife area and birds held in captivity. Statistically significant differences between populations were detected in geometric means calculated for y-BHC, a-chlordane and a-endosulfan. Five of the organochlorine contaminants displayed significant variations between concentrations detected in the clotted blood, organs and muscles excised from vulture carcasses. This includes residues ofy-BHC, a-chlordane, dieldrin, ,8-endosulfan and heptachlor epoxide. Values of the respective organochlorines obtained in vulture samples were generally low in comparison to results documented for a number of avian species. Levels of the , majority of metals analysed differed significantly- between two or more of the sampling localities, between adults and nestlings, and between captive and wild individuals. Metals which did not occur in such distinctly defining concentrations were Sr, Cu and Fe. Birds from Moholoholo maintained the highest overall blood metal burden, while nestlings from Dronfield were the least contaminated Significant differences were present between two or more tissues types for all the metals. The predominant sites for metal accumulation in vultures were the fatty tissues and bones. Most of the levels of metals measured in vultures compared well with concentrations reported for other avian species, and were generally within the range documented for species devoid of deleterious symptoms induced from heavy metal poisoning. However; certain individuals exhibited potentially toxic concentrations of specific metals such as Cu, Fe, Ni, and Pb. Continual monitoring of breeding colonies is recommended. The suitability of African Whitebacked Vulture nestlings as basic bioindicatori is highly advocated. The genetic data from this study can be used to compare levels of genetic diversity remaining in captive and wild vulture populations. An assessment of the amount and pattern of genetic variation of current populations of vulture species is an essential step towards ensuring the longterm survival of these birds. The phylogenetic conclusions found in. this study through allozyme electrophoresis correspond to results obtained from nucleotide sequence studies of the mitochondrial cytochrome b. gene. This points to an extent of positive corroboration between the two techniques. The haematological profile established for African Whitebacked Vulture nestlings constitutes a set of reference values that was previously unavailable for southern African vulture species. This data can assist in diagnosing and monitoring pathological and clinical' incidents detected in vultures. Values for a number of organochlo?ine pesticides and heavy metals, which have not been analysed in vulture species in the past, are documented. These values can serve as guidelines for future research, as well as control values for monitoring the occurrence and distribution of these contaminants within the habitats of vulture species. This study, therefore, presents information for research fields directly related to the survival of vulture populations. These factors must be included in future vulture management and reintroduction programmes as they will serve to enhance the success of conservation attempts. en_US
dc.language.iso en en_US
dc.subject Vultures - Africa en_US
dc.subject Vultures - Physiology - Africa en_US
dc.subject Vultures - Toxicology - Africa en_US
dc.subject Biochemical genetics. en_US
dc.subject Heavy metals - Toxicology - Africa en_US
dc.title Biochemical genetics, physiology and ecotoxicology of Southern African vulture species en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US

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