Expedition to Vodny Island, Lake Manych-Gudilo, Rostov Nature Reserve

    Expedition to Vodny Island, Lake Manych-Gudilo, Rostov Nature Reserve

    • Dates: May 18-26, 2022
    • Location: Lake. Manych-Gudilo, Rostov Nature Reserve, Rostov region.
    • Participants: N.N. Spasskaya, Zoological Museum of Moscow State University; M.A. Letarova and A.V. Letarov, Federal Research Center for Biotechnologies, the Russian Academy of Sciences.

    In May 2022, the regular expedition to Vodny Island in the middle of Lake Manych-Gudilo (Rostov Region) took place. As in previous years, the principal task was studying various aspects of the social organization of the unique feral horse population living there. This included an analysis of the composition of the previously established social groups and describing the new ones; describing and photographing the newly born foals for our card file, with identifying their mothers; checking the foals born the last year and photographing them; searching for the remains of fallen horses to measure their bones to determine their intravital height and other exterior features. All the data were entered into the spreadsheets, serving as a basic source for the subsequent analyses of both dynamics of social life and morphological features of those horses the islanders.

    This year, the expedition was attended by N.N. Spasskaya of the Zoological Museum at the Moscow State University, who studied the social organization of the horse population, and M.A. Letarova and A.V. Letarov of Federal Research Center for Biotechnologies, the Russian Academy of Sciences, who studied specifics of the horse intestines microbiome in this population under effect of its long isolation.

    As a result of this monitoring, 206 horses with 42 newly born foals, 17 harem groups (two previously established groups have decayed and a new one was formed since the last autumn), and 12 bachelor stallions walking in several gangs were identified.

    Our personal impression is that every visit to the island used to bring something new, nothing happened "as always". This spring turned out to be unusually cold and rainy, and the weather began to improve only during the last days. There were a lot of the owls: several of them, hunting the voles, came into our view simultaneously both in the morning and in the evening. And the staff of the Rostov Reserve told us about their having found a short-eared owl’s nest with nine (!) chicks.

    Horses also showed a peculiar social change. One of the old stallions, who had been owning the largest harem for many years, has apparently died the last winter. The entire group remained after him was grabbed by one of the young stallions, in addition to his own. Now 31 mares with nine newly born foals became members of his huge harem, and there even more of them would be anticipated, since several mares still remained pregnant. So the main intrigue for the next seasons seem to be, whether he would possess enough strength and skill to keep such a large group under his leadership?

    A new group of three former bachelors and a young mare was revealed by us. We call such groups mixed multimale. They used to be established not an every year, and the relations between the stallions in them were extremely interesting to study. So we shall be monitoring the fates of the previous and this groups in the future.


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