Biology students place top at Mammalogists meeting
Students showcase research on skunks, bats and other animals
Published: Friday, March 8, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013 16:03
Two ASU biology students won top prizes for their research presentations at the annual meeting of the Texas Society of Mammalogists held at Texas Tech University Feb. 15 – 17.
Senior Malorri Hughes won the Vernon Bailey Award and a $400 honorarium for best poster presentation in classical mammalogy at the organismal level for her project entitled “Prevalence of the Sinus Roundworm, Skrjabingylus chitwoodorum, in Rabies-Negative Texas Skunks (Mephitis mephitis).”
“Classical Mammalogy at the Organismal Level simply means studying the mammal as a whole,” Hughes said. “We would study the animal’s environment, habitat, behavior, ecological niche, etc.”
Graduate student Wesley Brashear won the Clyde Jones Award and a $400 honorarium for best poster presentation in studies pertaining to mammalian cytology, evolution, and systematics. Brashear’s project on bat systematics is entitled “Further Evidence for the Basal Divergence of Cheiromeles (Chiroptera: Molossidae).”
“The Clyde Jones Award is an award given for the best poster presentation in studies pertaining to mammalian cytology; a study of cellular processes, structure and function, evolution and systematics—the study of the evolutionary relationships of groups of organisms,” Brashear said.
Using a DNA sequencer, Brashear discovered that a rather unique Malaysian species of bat called the Naked Bulldog is the oldest species of bat in the Basal Divergence of Cherinomeles, or the Chiropetra Molossidae.
18 ASU undergraduate and graduate students attended the TSM meeting, including Krysta Demere, who presented a research poster entitled “Investigation of Bat Populations and Activity in Northern Tom Green and Southwestern Coke Counties.”
Hughes’ research over rabid skunks proved to be particularly interesting for Dr. Robert Dowler, who became her mentor.
Hughes’ mentor, Dr. Robert Dowler, assisted Hughes with her project.
“Dr. Dowler salvages the heads of rabies-negative skunks from the Texas Department of State Health Services, and eventually they are added to the Angelo State Natural History Collection,” Hughes said.
The Skrjabingylus chitwoodorum is a very common kind of roundworm found in rabies-negative skunks. Based on Hughes’ findings, this particular roundworm is causing the skunks in the San Angelo area to act erratically and exhibit signs of rabies.
“When we realized how common this roundworm was, we began to wonder why so many rabies-negative skunks that had been submitted for testing were infected with this roundworm,” Hughes said. “In processing these skulls, we began to notice the presence of a parasitic roundworm that embeds itself in the bones of the skull, specifically near the sinuses.”
In the future, Hughes hopes to establish a geographic distribution or seasonality in hopes of better analyzing the prevalence and intensity of this parasite in skunks. Hughes is also looking to see if there are trends in certain age groups.