Appeasing pheromones in African wild dogs

Novel appeasing pheromones to minimise stress & aggression, & bolster reproductive & immune function in African wild dogs.

African wild dogs are highly endangered, and have a complex pack structure with separate male and female dominance hierarchies in which reproduction is typically exclusive to the alpha male and female. Current efforts to maintain genetic diversity involve translocation of live animals in both captivity and the wild; a process that involves the combination of male and female single-sex groups to form a new social pack. Due to their complex social structure, such introductions are difficult; regularly leading to aggression and injuries to the animals.

We are investigating the use of dog appeasing pheromone (DAP) to down-regulate stress & aggression associated with the formation of new packs in captivity. We have just completed a series of trials across 5 US Zoos and in situ in Namibia to determine whether DAP is a useful mitigation strategy during interventions on individual animals within existing packs. Our initial findings indicate that DAP reduces androgen levels and behaviours associated with aggression in captive packs. However, we believe that a more robust effective might be achieved using African wild dog-specific appeasing pheromones.

We seek a dedicated, self-driven & highly motivated student to undertake a Masters project to isolate & test the effectiveness of several novel African wild dog-specific pheromones during pack formation in both captive & wild populations (Europe & Southern Africa). The major component of the research will involve: (i) mass spectrometry/gas chromatography for pheromone isolation. This work will be done at IRSEA, a laboratory in the Southern part of France where accommodation is available. Once isolation has been successful, preliminary studies will be conducted in some European Zoos to undertake (ii) comprehensive behavioural observations of dominant/ subdominant interactions and aggression in pheromone-treated African wild dogs; & (iii) non-invasive measurement of reproductive & stress hormones as well as immune markers to validate underlying beneficial physiological effects.

This work forms part of a broader collaboration with the Research Institute in Semiochemistry & Applied Ethology (IRSEA, France), & the Wild Dog Advisory Group (South Africa), & is funded by the Morris Animal Foundation.

We require a student to start the project as soon as possible.

Local contact: Henk Siepel

Interested individuals should email curriculum vitae to Monique Paris, Director IBREAM at Dr Paris is located in the Netherlands.

Relevant Publications

Van den Berghe F, Paris MCJ, Sarnyai Z, Vlamings B, Millar RP, Ganswindt A, Cozzi A, Pageat P, Paris DBBP (2018) Dog appeasing pheromone prevents the androgen surge and may reduce contact dominance and active submission after stressful interventions in African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus). PLOS ONE (submitted).

Van den Berghe F, Paris MCJ, Sarnyai Z, Briggs MB, Millar RP, Ganswindt A, Paris DBBP (2018) Social rank does not affect fertility during the breeding season in male African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus). Reproduction, Fertility and Development (submitted).

Van den Berghe F, Paris MCJ, Briggs MB, Farstad WK, Paris DBBP (2018) A two-step dilution tris-egg yolk extender containing Equex STM significantly improves sperm cryopreservation in the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus). Cryobiology 80,18-25.

Van den Berghe F, Paris DBBP, Briggs MB, Vander Weyde LK, Martin GB, Vlamings BHAC, Paris MCJ (2014) A Genetic Management Toolkit: Hormonal and behavioural research towards the development of artificial insemination technology in the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus). In 'African Painted Dog Conference'. Chicago, IL, USA p. 32.

Van den Berghe F, Paris DBBP, Van Soom A, Rijsselaere T, Van der Weyde L, Bertschinger H, Paris MCJ (2012) Reproduction in the endangered African wild dog: Basic physiology, reproductive suppression and possible benefits of artificial insemination. Animal Reproduction Science 133, 1-9.

Vlamings BHAC (2011). Dog appeasing pheromone: A useful tool to minimize stress and aggression of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus)? Universiteit Utrecht MSc. thesis pp. 1-54.