San Diego Zoo’s Great Apes Receive First Experimental Covid-19 Vaccine for Animals

ChimpSmithsonian reports that five bonobos and four orangutans were treated with a synthetic form of the virus.

Elizabeth Gamillo reports that the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has vaccinated several apes with an experimental Covid-19 vaccine intended for pets, making the animals the first non-human primates to be vaccinated, reports Rachael Rettner for Live Science.

The vaccine, developed by the veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis, was provided to the San Diego Zoo after they requested help in vaccinating other apes when several gorillas tested positive for Covid-19 in January, reports James Gorman for the New York Times. The gorillas were the first known great apes in the world to test positive for coronavirus.

At San Diego zoo facilities, there are 14 gorillas, eight bonobos, and four orangutans living indoors, which leaves them more prone to the spread of Covid-19 infection, reports National Geographic. To help prevent disease spread among the apes, veterinarians with the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance selected five bonobos and four orangutans to receive the experimental vaccine, reports Stella Chan and Scottie Andrew for CNN. The selected apes were deemed the most at risk. One of the vaccinated orangutans was Karen, an ape that first made headlines in 1994 for being the first orangutan to have open-heart surgery, the New York Times reports.

Zoetis's vaccine works similarly to the Novavax vaccine for humans by giving recipients of the vaccine a synthetic form of the Covid-19's spike protein that will prime and alert immune systems to fight infection, reports Live Science. To confirm if the vaccine was effective, blood will be drawn from the apes to look for the presence of antibodies. By February, the apes had received two doses of the vaccine, and no adverse reactions occurred within the apes, reports National Geographic. The gorillas previously infected with coronavirus will eventually receive the vaccine but are not a priority because they have since recovered, reports the New York Times.


Ben & Jerry's For Dogs

Dog breedsBen & Jerry’s unveiled plans to introduce a line of frozen dog treats. The first up to bowl is Doggie Desserts, four cups of ice cream that come in two flavors: pumpkin with cookies and peanut butter with pretzels.

This from the company's website -

Here at Ben & Jerry's, we love our dogs almost as much as we love our ice cream (okay, maybe the same amount). That's why we are proud to have dog-friendly offices, where we welcome our "K9-5ers" to join their humans at work each day. Members of the K9 crew start their day with a pup-friendly treat at the reception desk, and enjoy plenty of pets, cuddles, and walks throughout the day. It's a "ruff" life for this pack of K9 pals, to be sure. But as any Ben & Jerry's-er will tell you, having their furry friend by their side during the day makes all this hard ice cream work all the sweeter.

Doggie Desserts

Ben & Jerry's Doggie Desserts are the perfect frozen dog treat for your beloved pup! Just like you love Ben & Jerry's ice cream, your dog will love Doggie Desserts.

 
 

Himalayan Songbirds Adapted to the Cold with Thicker Down Jackets

Crimson sunbirdThe old adage “free as a bird” doesn’t quite apply in the world’s tallest mountain ranges. Instead, songbird species are confined to specific elevations, where they have evolved to fit that particular climate.

The crimson sunbird, for instance, lives from the foot of the Himalayas up to about 1,600 feet. The green-tailed sunbird, its evolutionary cousin, lives between about 5,000 feet to 10,000 feet of elevation, while another close relative, the fire-tailed sunbird, rules the roost from about 11,000 feet to 13,000 feet.

Scientists who study birds are still unraveling the factors that keep each bird in its elevational niche. Research published this week in the journal Ecography adds a new piece to the puzzle: the higher a songbird species lives in the Himalayas—and the colder temperatures it faces, because of the altitude—the thicker its downy feather layer. The finding could help researchers predict how songbirds will adapt to a changing climate.

Insulation is pretty important,” says vertebrate zoologist Sahas Barve, a Peter Buck fellow at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the first author on the new study. Temperatures in the Himalayas regularly drop below freezing at night. Birds, however, need to keep their bodies at about 104 degrees Fahrenheit. “The straight-line distance between the outside air and the bird's heart is less than an inch. So, it has to maintain that temperature difference across that little barrier,” says Barve.

Feathers provide key insulation. To investigate the ways that feathers evolved to keep birds warm, Barve measured the downy feathers of more than 200 species of Himalayan songbird specimens held in the museum’s vast collections, where rows and rows of file-like cabinets hold taxidermied examples of the world’s avian species.

“Irrespective of body size, birds that live at the bottom of the mountain have less downy feathers than birds that live at the top of the mountain,” says Barve.

Birds are warm-blooded, like humans, so they use a familiar strategy to heat themselves up when the temperature falls—shivering. But at an elevation of 12,000 feet, nighttime temperatures can drop to between 0- and 20-degrees Fahrenheit. Birds in the Himalayas have to shiver so much to stay warm that they can lose a fifth of their body weight in one night. Birds sometimes starve to death because they burn so many calories simply because they are shivering.

As climate change continues to alter weather patterns, extreme cold events could occur more often and last longer each time. That could put a lot of stress on mountain-dwelling bird populations. “To fully understand how birds will deal with changing temperatures, we need to understand this basic, fundamental concept of how birds use their feathers to stay warm,” says Barve.

Barve analyzed 1,715 specimens from the museum’s collections representing 249 Himalayan songbird species. The species were gathered from a 1,000-mile span of the Himalayas, and at elevations from 246 feet to 16,150 feet. The species were as small as the black-face warbler, which weighs just a fraction of an ounce, to the half-pound blue whistling thrush. The oldest specimen included in the study was a blue rock thrush collected in 1876.

Read the full article here.