Human herpes simplex virus type 1 in confiscated gorilla.
ABSTRACT: In 2007, we detected human herpes simplex virus type 1, which caused stomatitis, in a juvenile confiscated eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) that had a high degree of direct contact with human caretakers. Our findings confirm that pathogens can transfer between nonhuman primate hosts and humans.
Project description:Although population-level genomic sequence data have been gathered extensively for humans, similar data from our closest living relatives are just beginning to emerge. Examination of genomic variation within great apes offers many opportunities to increase our understanding of the forces that have differentially shaped the evolutionary history of hominid taxa. Here, we expand upon the work of the Great Ape Genome Project by analyzing medium to high coverage whole-genome sequences from 14 western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), 2 eastern lowland gorillas (G. beringei graueri), and a single Cross River individual (G. gorilla diehli). We infer that the ancestors of western and eastern lowland gorillas diverged from a common ancestor approximately 261 ka, and that the ancestors of the Cross River population diverged from the western lowland gorilla lineage approximately 68 ka. Using a diffusion approximation approach to model the genome-wide site frequency spectrum, we infer a history of western lowland gorillas that includes an ancestral population expansion of 1.4-fold around 970 ka and a recent 5.6-fold contraction in population size 23 ka. The latter may correspond to a major reduction in African equatorial forests around the Last Glacial Maximum. We also analyze patterns of variation among western lowland gorillas to identify several genomic regions with strong signatures of recent selective sweeps. We find that processes related to taste, pancreatic and saliva secretion, sodium ion transmembrane transport, and cardiac muscle function are overrepresented in genomic regions predicted to have experienced recent positive selection.
Project description:Grauer's gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri), the World's largest primate, is confined to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and is threatened by civil war and insecurity. During the war, armed groups in mining camps relied on hunting bushmeat, including gorillas. Insecurity and the presence of several militia groups across Grauer's gorilla's range made it very difficult to assess their population size. Here we use a novel method that enables rigorous assessment of local community and ranger-collected data on gorilla occupancy to evaluate the impacts of civil war on Grauer's gorilla, which prior to the war was estimated to number 16,900 individuals. We show that gorilla numbers in their stronghold of Kahuzi-Biega National Park have declined by 87%. Encounter rate data of gorilla nests at 10 sites across its range indicate declines of 82-100% at six of these sites. Spatial occupancy analysis identifies three key areas as the most critical sites for the remaining populations of this ape and that the range of this taxon is around 19,700 km2. We estimate that only 3,800 Grauer's gorillas remain in the wild, a 77% decline in one generation, justifying its elevation to Critically Endangered status on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Project description:Compared with other African apes, eastern gorillas (Gorilla beringei) have been little studied genetically. We used analysis of autosomal DNA genotypes obtained from non-invasively collected faecal samples to estimate the evolutionary histories of the two extant mountain gorilla populations and the closely related eastern lowland gorillas. Our results suggest that eastern lowland gorillas and mountain gorillas split beginning some 10 000 years ago, followed 5000 years ago by the split of the two mountain gorilla populations of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Virungas Massif. All three populations have decreased in effective population size, with particularly substantial 10-fold decreases for the mountain gorillas. These dynamics probably reflect responses to habitat changes resulting from climate fluctuations over the past 20 000 years as well as increasing human influence in this densely populated region in the last several thousand years.
Project description:All non-human great apes are endangered in the wild, and it is therefore important to gain an understanding of their demography and genetic diversity. Whole genome assembly projects have provided an invaluable foundation for understanding genetics in all four genera, but to date genetic studies of multiple individuals within great ape species have largely been confined to mitochondrial DNA and a small number of other loci. Here, we present a genome-wide survey of genetic variation in gorillas using a reduced representation sequencing approach, focusing on the two lowland subspecies. We identify 3,006,670 polymorphic sites in 14 individuals: 12 western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and 2 eastern lowland gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri). We find that the two species are genetically distinct, based on levels of heterozygosity and patterns of allele sharing. Focusing on the western lowland population, we observe evidence for population substructure, and a deficit of rare genetic variants suggesting a recent episode of population contraction. In western lowland gorillas, there is an elevation of variation towards telomeres and centromeres on the chromosomal scale. On a finer scale, we find substantial variation in genetic diversity, including a marked reduction close to the major histocompatibility locus, perhaps indicative of recent strong selection there. These findings suggest that despite their maintaining an overall level of genetic diversity equal to or greater than that of humans, population decline, perhaps associated with disease, has been a significant factor in recent and long-term pressures on wild gorilla populations.
Project description:Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) reside in a wide range of mammals, such as autochthonous intestinal bacteria. In this paper, we present the phenotypic and phylogenetic characteristics of gorilla-specific LAB. Lactobacillus gorillae-previously isolated from the wild and captive western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla)-were successfully isolated from wild mountain gorillas (Gorilla gorilla beringei) in addition to other captive and wild western lowland gorillas. The strains from wild gorillas could ferment D-xylose, arbutine, cellobiose, and trehalose better than those from captive gorillas. By contrast, tolerance to NaCl was higher in isolates from captive gorillas than in those from wild gorillas. This tendency may have been induced by regular foods in zoos, which contain sufficient amount of salts but less amount of indigestible fiber and plant secondary metabolites compared to foods in the wild. All strains of L. gorillae showed inhibitory activities to enteric pathogenic bacteria; however, the activity was significantly higher for strains from wild gorillas than for those from captive gorillas. This may have been induced by the captive condition with routine veterinary intervention. Since L. gorillae can grow in the gastrointestinal tract of gorillas in captivity, the strains from wild mountain gorillas are potential probiotics for gorillas under captive conditions.
Project description:The Western and Eastern species of gorillas (Gorilla gorilla and Gorilla beringei) began diverging in the mid-Pleistocene, but in a complex pattern with ongoing gene flow following their initial split. We sequenced the complete mitochondrial genomes of 1 Eastern and 1 Western gorilla to provide the most accurate date for their mitochondrial divergence, and to analyze patterns of nucleotide substitutions. The most recent common ancestor of these genomes existed about 1.9 million years ago, slightly more recent than that of chimpanzee and bonobo. We in turn use this date as a calibration to reanalyze sequences from the Eastern lowland and mountain gorilla subspecies to estimate their mitochondrial divergence at approximately 380000 years ago. These dates help frame a hypothesis whereby populations became isolated nearly 2 million years ago with restricted maternal gene flow, followed by ongoing male migration until the recent past. This process of divergence with prolonged hybridization occurred against the backdrop of the African Pleistocene, characterized by intense fluctuations in temperature and aridity, while at the same time experiencing tectonic uplifting and consequent shifts in the drainage of major river systems. Interestingly, this same pattern of introgression following divergence and discrepancies between mitochondrial and nuclear loci is seen in fossil hominins from Eurasia, suggesting that such processes may be common in hominids and that living gorillas may provide a useful model for understanding isolation and migration in our extinct relatives.
Project description:Many nonhuman primates produce food-associated vocalizations upon encountering or ingesting particular food. Concerning the great apes, only food-associated vocalizations of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (Pan paniscus) have been studied in detail, providing evidence that these vocalizations can be produced flexibly in relation to a variety of factors, such as the quantity and quality of food and/or the type of audience. Only anecdotal evidence exists of eastern (Gorilla beringei) and western gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) producing food-associated vocalizations, termed SINGING or HUMMING. To enable a better understanding of the context in which these calls are produced, we investigated and compared the vocal behavior of two free-ranging groups of western lowland gorillas (Gorilla g. gorilla) at Mondika, Republic of Congo. Our results show that (a) food-associated call production occurs only during feeding and not in other contexts; (b) calling is not uniformly distributed across age and sex classes; (c) calls are only produced during feeding on specific foods; and (d) normally just one individual gives calls during group feeding sessions, however, certain food types elicit simultaneous calling of two or more individuals. Our findings provide new insight into the vocal abilities of gorillas but also carry larger implications for questions concerning vocal variability among the great apes. Food-associated calls of nonhuman primates have been shown to be flexible in terms of when they are used and who they are directed at, making them interesting vocalizations from the viewpoint of language evolution. Food-associated vocalizations in great apes can offer new opportunities to investigate the phylogenetic development of vocal communication within the primate lineage and can possibly contribute novel insights into the origins of human language.
Project description:Humans were once considered unique in having a concept of death but a growing number of observations of animal responses to dying and dead conspecifics suggests otherwise. Complex arrays of behaviors have been described ranging from corpse removal and burial among social insects to quiet attendance and caregiving among elephants and primates. Less frequently described, however, are behavioral responses of individuals from different age/sex classes or social position toward the death of conspecifics. We describe behavioral responses of mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) to the deaths of a dominant silverback and a dominant adult female from the same social group in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and the responses of Grauer's gorillas (Gorilla b. graueri) to the corpse of an extra-group silverback in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo. In gorillas, interactions between groups or with a lone silverback often result in avoidance or aggression. We predicted that: (i) more individuals should interact with the corpses of same-group members than with the corpse of the extra-group silverback; (ii) adult females with infants should avoid the corpse of the extra-group silverback; and (iii) in the mountain gorilla cases, individuals that shared close social relationships with the dead individual should spend more time with the corpse than other individuals in the group. We used a combination of detailed qualitative reports, photos, and videos to describe all occurrences of affiliative/investigative and agonistic behaviors observed at the corpses. We observed similar responses toward the corpses of group and extra-group individuals. Animals in all three cases showed a variety of affiliative/investigative and agonistic behaviors directed to the corpses. Animals of all age/sex classes interacted with the corpses in affiliative/investigative ways but there was a notable absence of all adult females at the corpse of the extra-group silverback. In all three cases, we observed only silverbacks and blackbacks being agonistic around and/or toward the corpses. In the mountain gorilla cases, the individuals who spent the most time with the corpses were animals who shared close social relationships with the deceased. We emphasize the similarity in the behavioral responses around the corpses of group and extra-group individuals, and suggest that the behavioral responses were influenced in part by close social relationships between the deceased and certain group members and by a general curiosity about death. We further discuss the implications close interactions with corpses have for disease transmission within and between gorilla social groups.
Project description:Species and populations are disappearing at an alarming rate as a direct result of human activities. Loss of genetic diversity associated with population decline directly impacts species' long-term survival. Therefore, preserving genetic diversity is of considerable conservation importance. However, to assist in conservation efforts, it is important to understand how genetic diversity is spatially distributed and how it changes due to anthropogenic pressures. In this study, we use historical museum and modern faecal samples of two critically endangered eastern gorilla taxa, Grauer's (Gorilla beringei graueri) and mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei), to directly infer temporal changes in genetic diversity within the last century. Using over 100 complete mitochondrial genomes, we observe a significant decline in haplotype and nucleotide diversity in Grauer's gorillas. By including historical samples from now extinct populations we show that this decline can be attributed to the loss of peripheral populations rather than a decrease in genetic diversity within the core range of the species. By directly quantifying genetic changes in the recent past, our study shows that human activities have severely impacted eastern gorilla genetic diversity within only four to five generations. This rapid loss calls for dedicated conservation actions, which should include preservation of the remaining peripheral populations.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Research into great ape genomes has revealed widely divergent activity levels over time for Alu elements. However, the diversity of this mobile element family in the genome of the western lowland gorilla has previously been uncharacterized. Alu elements are primate-specific short interspersed elements that have been used as phylogenetic and population genetic markers for more than two decades. Alu elements are present at high copy number in the genomes of all primates surveyed thus far. The AluY subfamily and its derivatives have been recognized as the evolutionarily youngest Alu subfamily in the Old World primate lineage. RESULTS:Here we use a combination of computational and wet-bench laboratory methods to assess and catalog AluY subfamily activity level and composition in the western lowland gorilla genome (gorGor3.1). A total of 1,075 independent AluY insertions were identified and computationally divided into 10 subfamilies, with the largest number of gorilla-specific elements assigned to the canonical AluY subfamily. CONCLUSIONS:The retrotransposition activity level appears to be significantly lower than that seen in the human and chimpanzee lineages, while higher than that seen in orangutan genomes, indicative of differential Alu amplification in the western lowland gorilla lineage as compared to other Homininae.