Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rattlesnakes sound warning on biodiversity and habitat fragmentation

Date:
April 23, 2010
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
Researchers have discovered that fragmentation of natural habitats by roads -- even smaller, low-traffic highways -- has had a significant effect on genetic structure of timber rattlesnakes. The work reinforces similar research conducted on other species and underlines the grave danger habitat fragmentation poses to wildlife populations.

Like the canary in the coal mine, the timber rattlesnake may be telling us something about the environment we share.
Credit: iStockphoto/Michael Lynch

Like the canary in the coal mine, the timber rattlesnake may be telling us something about the environment we share.

Related Articles


Cornell University researchers -- using cutting-edge tools including fine-scale molecular genetics and microsatellite markers -- tracked the rattlesnakes to understand how wildlife habitats are affected by even modest human encroachment.

"We used this species as a model to investigate general processes underlying population-level responses to habitat fragmentation," said the authors, led by Cornell post-doctoral researcher Rulon Clark, in the paper "Roads, Interrupted Dispersal and Genetic Diversity in Timber Rattlesnakes," currently available online and to be published in the journal Conservation Biology.

Researchers discovered that fragmentation of natural habitats by roads -- even smaller, low-traffic highways -- has had a significant effect over the past 80 years on genetic structure of timber rattlesnakes in four separate regions of upstate New York. Less genetic diversity means populations become more susceptible to illness or environmental changes that threaten their survival.

"Our study adds to a growing body of literature indicating that even anthropogenic habitat modifications that does not destroy a large amount of habitat can create significant barriers to gene flow," said researchers.

While the rattlesnakes shorter lifespan and method of travel may help make the impact of roadways relatively quick and dramatic, the new findings reinforce earlier work on other terrestrial animals -- from grizzly bears to frogs -- and provides a fresh warning about habitat fragmentation that all plans for future human development must consider.

Researchers used fine-scale molecular genetics as well as behavioral and ecological data to look at timber rattlesnakes from 19 different hibernacula -- shared wintering quarters -- in four regions in New York: the Adirondacks, Sterling Forest, Bear Mountain and Chemung County. In each case they used microsatellite markers to track how populations dispersed from their winter dens, their subsequent reproductive patterns, and how roads in these areas altered that gene flow. The roads themselves -- all paved roadways built in the late 1920s to early 19030s for motorized traffic -- were examined for use and relationship to natural barriers. Tissue samples were examined from more than 500 individual snakes.

"Over all four regions and 19 hibernacula, none of the genetic clusters … spanned either major or minor roads; hibernacula belonging to the same genetic deme were always on the same side of the road," the paper states. "This fine-scaled analysis, repeated over four geographic regions, underscores the significance of roads as barrier to dispersal and natural population processes for timber rattlesnakes and perhaps other species."

The research team also included Kelly Zamudio, Cornell University ecology and evolutionary biology professor; William Brown, professor of biology at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; and Randy Stechert, an environmental consultant for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Clark is currently an assistant professor at San Diego State University.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the New York State Biodiversity Research Institute.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Rulon W. Clark, William S. Brown, Randy Stechert, Kelly R. Zamudio. Roads, Interrupted Dispersal, and Genetic Diversity in Timber Rattlesnakes. Conservation Biology, 2010; DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2009.01439.x

Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "Rattlesnakes sound warning on biodiversity and habitat fragmentation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100421102449.htm>.
Cornell University. (2010, April 23). Rattlesnakes sound warning on biodiversity and habitat fragmentation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100421102449.htm
Cornell University. "Rattlesnakes sound warning on biodiversity and habitat fragmentation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100421102449.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Price check on honey? Bear cub startles Oregon drugstore shoppers. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) One man is on a mission to boost the population of wolves in China's violence-wracked far west. The animal - symbol of the Uighur minority there - is under threat with a massive human resettlement program in the region. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins