Effects of rainfall, host demography, and musth on strongyle fecal egg counts in African elephants (Loxodonta Africana) in Namibia
Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA. Journal of wildlife diseases
(Impact Factor: 1.36).
01/2011; 47(1):172-81. DOI: 10.7589/0090-3558-47.1.172
Wild African elephants (Loxodonta africana) are commonly infected with intestinal strongyle parasites. Our objective was to determine baseline fecal strongyle egg counts for elephants in the northeast region of Etosha National Park, Namibia and determine if these numbers were affected by annual rainfall, elephant demography (age of individuals and composition of groups), and hormonal state of males. We found that matriarchal family group members have significantly higher fecal egg counts than male elephants (bulls). Among family group members, strongyle egg counts increased with age, whereas among bulls, strongyle egg counts decreased with age. Years of higher rainfall were correlated with decreased numbers of strongyle eggs among bulls. Finally, bulls were not affected by their physiologic (hormonal) status (musth vs. nonmusth). These results suggest that infection by strongyle parasites in Namibian African elephants is a dynamic process affected by intrinsic and extrinsic factors including host demography and rainfall.
Available from: Eric Morgan
- "Due to the relatively limited amount of work that has been carried out on these parasites in African elephants, very little is known about their identity, occurrence , importance, life cycles and transmission dynamics. Among African elephants, nematodes are frequently found (Kinsella et al., 2004; Fowler and Mikota, 2006; Thurber et al., 2011), with hookworms in particular reported to cause pathological lesions and haemorrhages in the bile ducts and liver, as well as the intestines (Obanda et al., 2011). The elephant-specific intestinal fluke Protofasciola robusta, likely to be an ancestral species within the Fasciolidae (Lotfy et al., 2008), has been associated with intestinal tissue damage, haemorrhage and death in free-ranging African elephants (Vitovec et al., 1984; Obanda et al., 2011). "
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ABSTRACT: It is known from studies in a wide range of wild and domestic animals, including elephants, that parasites can affect growth, reproduction and health. A total of 458 faecal samples from wild elephants were analysed using a combination of flotation and sedimentation methods. Coccidian oocysts (prevalence 51%), and nematode (77%) and trematode (24%) eggs were found. Species were not identified, though trematode egg morphology was consistent with that of the intestinal fluke Protofasciola robusta. The following factors were found to have a significant effect on parasite infection: month, year, sex, age, and group size and composition. There was some evidence of peak transmission of coccidia and nematodes during the rainy season, confirmed for coccidia in a parallel study of seven sympatric domesticated elephants over a three month period. Nematode eggs were more common in larger groups and nematode egg counts were significantly higher in elephants living in maternal groups (mean 1116 eggs per gram, standard deviation 685) than in all-male groups (529, 468). Fluke egg prevalence increased with increasing elephant age. Preservation of samples in formalin progressively decreased the probability of detecting all types of parasite over a storage time of 1–15 months. Possible reasons for associations between other factors and infection levels are discussed.
Available from: Sarah Leclaire
- "The increase of strongyle egg counts with age in meerkats is in accord with other studies. In African elephants Loxodonta africana and plain zebra Equus quagga, strongyle egg count is lower in younger family group members than in older animals (Thurber et al. 2011; Fugazzola and Stancampiano, 2012). The pattern of infection observed in this study suggests chronic exposure, and accumulation of infective parasite stages over time. "
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ABSTRACT: SUMMARY Meerkats are one of the most endearing of South African's wildlife celebrities and one of the most highly studied social mammals. However, although parasites are widely recognized as important regulatory factors in animal population, basic knowledge on meerkats' parasites is lacking. Here 100 fresh fecal samples of wild meerkats were examined for the presence of endoparasitic infection. Endoparasitic taxa identified by the presence of eggs or oocysts included Toxocara suricattae, Oxynema suricattae, Pseudandrya suricattae, Cystoisospora sp. and Eimeria sp. Non-specific diagnoses were made for parasites in the Order Strongylida, Order Spirurida and coccidian based on the morphology and size of the eggs and oocysts. The prevalence of infection with T. suricattae and the strongylate species increased with age, while prevalence of coccidia and intensity of infection by the strongylate species increased with decreasing group size, suggesting that stress associated with living in smaller group may increase susceptibility to parasitism. Moreover, parasite communities were more similar between individuals from the same group than between individuals from different groups, suggesting an important role of the environment in parasite infestation. We did not detect any differences between males and females. This study represents the first detailed report of gastrointestinal parasites in wild meerkats, and is a key starting point for future studies on the effect of endoparasite load in the life history of this species.
Available from: Mike Kinsella
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ABSTRACT: African savannah elephants (Loxodonta africana) are an ecologically and economically important species in many African habitats. However, despite the importance of elephants, research on their parasites is limited, especially in wild populations. Currently, we lack genetic tools to identify elephant parasites. We present genetic markers from ribosomal DNA (rDNA) and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) to identify five elephant-specific nematode parasites in the family Strongylidae: Murshidia linstowi, Murshidia longicaudata, Murshidia africana, Quilonia africana, and Khalilia sameera. We collected adult nematodes from feces deposited by wild elephants living in Amboseli National Park, Kenya. Using both morphologic and genetic techniques, we found that the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region in rDNA provides a reliable marker to distinguish these species of strongyles. We found no evidence for cryptic genetic species within these morphologic species according to the cox-1 region of mtDNA. Levels of genetic diversity in strongyles from elephants were consistent with the genetic diversity seen within other strongyle species. We anticipate that these results will be a useful tool for identifying gastrointestinal nematode parasites in elephants.
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