[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Infectious diseases impact African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus), but the nature and magnitude of this threat likely varies among populations according to different factors, such as the presence and prevalence of pathogens and land-use characteristics. We systematically evaluated these factors to assist development of locally appropriate strategies to mitigate disease risk. Wild dogs from 16 sites representing five unconnected populations were examined for rabies virus, canine distemper virus (CDV), canine parvovirus, canine coronavirus, and Babesia spp. exposure. Analyses revealed widespread exposure to viral pathogens, but Babesia was never detected. Exposure to CDV was associated with unprotected and protected-unfenced areas where wild dogs likely have a high probability of domestic dog contact and, in the case of protected-unfenced areas, likely reside amongst high wildlife densities. Our findings also suggest that domestic dog contact may increase rabies and coronavirus exposure risk. Therefore, domestic dogs may be a source of CDV, rabies and coronavirus, while wildlife may also play an important role in CDV transmission dynamics. Relatively high parvovirus seroprevalence across land-use types suggests that it might persist in the absence of spillover from domestic dogs. Should intervention be needed to control pathogens in wild dogs, efforts to prevent rabies and coronavirus exposure might be directed at reducing infection in the presumed domestic dog reservoir through vaccination. If prevention of CDV and parvovirus infections were deemed a management necessity, control of disease in domestic dogs may be insufficient to reduce transmission risks, and vaccination of wild dogs themselves may be the optimal strategy.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Deciphering patterns of genetic variation within a species is essential for understanding population structure, local adaptation and differences in diversity between populations. Whilst neutrally evolving genetic markers can be used to elucidate demographic processes and genetic structure, they are not subject to selection and therefore are not informative about patterns of adaptive variation. As such, assessments of pertinent adaptive loci, such as the immunity genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), are increasingly being incorporated into genetic studies. In this study, we combined neutral (microsatellite, mtDNA) and adaptive (MHC class II DLA-DRB1 locus) markers to elucidate the factors influencing patterns of genetic variation in the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus); an endangered canid that has suffered extensive declines in distribution and abundance. Our genetic analyses found all extant wild dog populations to be relatively small (N(e) < 30). Furthermore, through coalescent modelling, we detected a genetic signature of a recent and substantial demographic decline, which correlates with human expansion, but contrasts with findings in some other African mammals. We found strong structuring of wild dog populations, indicating the negative influence of extensive habitat fragmentation and loss of gene flow between habitat patches. Across populations, we found that the spatial and temporal structure of microsatellite diversity and MHC diversity were correlated and strongly influenced by demographic stability and population size, indicating the effects of genetic drift in these small populations. Despite this correlation, we detected signatures of selection at the MHC, implying that selection has not been completely overwhelmed by genetic drift.