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Metadata record for data from ASAC Project 2954. See the link below for public details on this project.
Public The primary goal of this project is to determine the status and origin of diseases in Emperor Penguins at Auster Rookery near Mawson Station, Antarctica. We will investigate the origins of such disease and the role humans may have played. We will sample adults and chicks in order to isolate and describe the pathogens. A high percentage of Emperor Penguin chicks have antibodies to infectious bursal disease (IBDV). This study will investigate the role the adults play in transmitting IBDV to their chicks. The high prevalence of IBDV antibodies should help us to isolate the virus and discover its origin.
Project objectives: Status of Disease in the Emperor Penguins of Auster Rookery
1) To determine the prevalence of disease in adult Emperor Penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) at Auster Rookery. Over 65% of Emperor Penguin chicks at Auster Rookery had serum antibodies to Infectious Bursal Disease Virus (IBDV) in December 1995 (Gardner et al. 1997). We have no information on the presence of the same antibodies on adult Emperor Penguins. We will focus on IBDV, but will also test for other common avian diseases.
2) To repeat the sampling of Emperor Penguin Chicks by Gardner et al. (1997) in order to compare the prevalence of IBDV in Emperor Penguin chicks in 2008 with 1995.
3) To determine the seasonal progression of IBDV antibody prevalence in both adults and chicks.
4) To determine the possible source(s) of viral infection in Emperor Penguin chicks. Because Gardner et al. (1997) had no information on adult Emperor Penguins we do not know how the chicks are exposed to IBDV. Gardner et al. (1997) suggested that poultry waste from the nearby Mawson Station may be a source of virus for the Emperor Penguin chicks. Penguins do not scavenge food, however, so the source of infection must be either from the environment, local predators/scavenger, or from parents feeding their young. By sampling both adults and chicks in different parts of the season, we will determine when antibodies first appear in the chicks. If they have antibodies in the early season, then scavengers/predators can not account for their exposure to IBDV.
5) To determine the source of the IBDV. We will attempt to isolate virus from Emperor Penguins in order to identify the strains responsible for the antibody reactions in Emperor Penguins. Using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), we will sequence genes from the virus which can be compared with known gene sequences from serotypes available from GenBank.
6) To monitor the chick mortality and conduct field necropsies of the Emperor Penguins at the Auster colony to determine whether IBDV or other diseases are a factor in reproductive success.
7) To contribute to a conservation strategy for Antarctic wildlife. By developing information on the importance and origins of disease in Emperor Penguins we can clarify the role of human visitors in the transmission of disease in Antarctic wildlife.
Progress against objectives: Excellent progress has been made towards all the stated goals.
By spending the winter of 2008 at Mawson Station we had access to the emperor penguin colony at Auster. We successfully sampled 400 adults and 200 chicks as stated in the proposal. We now have the samples back in Australia and analyses are beginning. No sample analysis for disease could be undertaken while still in Antarctica.
The samples will 1) give us a determination of the prevalence of IBDV antibodies (also some other disease viruses) for both adults and chicks. 2) One of our sampling periods was a repeat of the sampling conducted by Gardner et al. so we can compare the prevalence of IBDV antibodies in chicks from 2 different years and relate that to the prevalence in adults. 4) We conducted our sampling at four different times during the winter so that we were able to sample chicks before any other species visited the colony, then sample them again 6 weeks after skuas and giant petrels were in the area. 5) In order to determine the source of IBDV we want to determine its RNA sequence. To that end, a full set of samples have been sent to Dr. Daral Jackwood at Ohio State University, a colleague and IBDV expert. He has just begun to analyse the samples to isolate and sequence the IBDV RNA. 6) We monitored chick mortality with visits to the colony on average once per week. We noted approximately 800 dead chicks and collected 120 of the chicks for field necropsies. They mostly died of starvation with a few exceptions. We found parasites in one dead chick. We also collected 9 carcasses of adult emperor penguins. Eight of the 9 were females who all died with complications of egg laying. 7) This goal will require the completion of all the analyses for us to make conservation recommendations.
This collection of files represents the data (including samples) collected for Project 2954 on E...