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In order to understand the conditions that are conducive to plague outbreaks and potentially predict spatial and temporal variations in risk, it is important to understand the factors associated with flea abundance and distribution that may lead to plague outbreaks.
We collected and identified 20, fleas from 6, individual prairie dogs of four different species over a 4-year period along a latitudinal gradient from Texas to Montana. We assessed local climate and other factors associated with flea prevalence and abundance, as well as the incidence of plague outbreaks.
Oropsylla hirsuta, a prairie dog specialist flea, and Pulex simulans, a generalist flea species, were the most common fleas found on our pairs.
High elevation pairs in Wyoming and Utah had distinct flea communities compared with the rest of the study pairs.
The results of our regression models indicate that many factors are associated with the presence of fleas. In general, flea abundance number of fleas on hosts is higher during plague outbreaks, lower when prairie dogs are more abundant, and reaches peak levels when climate and weather variables are at intermediate levels.
Changing climate conditions will likely affect aspects of both flea and host communities, including population densities and species composition, which may lead to changes in plague dynamics. Our results support the hypothesis that local conditions, including host, vector, and environmental factors, influence the likelihood of plague outbreaks, and that predicting changes to plague dynamics under climate change scenarios will have to consider both host and vector responses to local factors.Black-tailed prairie dogs, the best known of the five prairie dog species, live in larger communities called towns, which may contain many hundreds of animals.
Prairie Dogs? A Modern Day Plague Almost Every Morning on the plains of eastern Colorado, rancher Ken Holmes squints through a riflescope and sights in . Prairie dogs use a sophisticated vocabulary in their warning barks, which again raises the question of whether mankind alone communicates by audible language.
The ability to formulate and use language has long been considered to be a key differentiating characteristic that distinguishes man from animals. As part of a twenty year study of prairie dogs, researchers led by Con Slobodchikoff, a Northern Arizona University biology professor, have now been able to analyze linguistic characteristics of their warning calls that appear to qualify as a limited language.
Prairie dogs have the ability to use nouns and modifiers, and even coin new "words.". Prairie dogs have a significant effect on biological diversity in prairie ecosystems. More than species of wildlife have been associated with prairie dog towns, with over species benefitting directly ” (Williams 34).
The prairie dog’s affinity for residential and agricultural areas has predictably led to conflict. But fault does not lie with the prairie dog. The true culprit is an Endangered Species Act regulation that pits property owners and prairie dogs against each other.