Evolutionary and behavioural ecology of mammals
About the Project
Between 2004 and 2017, northern flying squirrels and red squirrels where the subjects of a long-term study examining the evolutionary and behavioural ecology of these species. These marked populations where used by MSc students, and undergraduates to test research hypotheses. Data collected include morphological measurements, ecto- and endoparasite samples, tissue samples for genetic profiling, and faecal samples for hormone analysis.
In 2010, the numbers of squirrels on the study site was much reduced compared to 2009 – the populations of both species declined by over 50%. Last year we confirmed the presence of a zoonotic bacteria (Coxiella burnettii) in a number of species including red squirrels and northern flying squirrels.
Later an experimental approach was explored, with testosterone implants being used to assess the effects of testosterone on the immune system and parasite loads in red squirrels, and, as part of collaborative project with the Toronto Zoo, a new study on the effects of stress hormones on parasite loads in the eastern chipmunk was also initiated.