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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Arthropod Ectoparasites of Two Rodent Species Occurring in Varied Elevations on Tanzania's Second Highest Mountain

Gebrezgiher, Genet B. B.; Makundi, Rhodes H. H.; Katakweba, Abdul A. S.; Belmain, Steven R. R.; Lyimo, Charles M. M.; Meheretu, Yonas

Abstract

Simple Summary The interaction of small mammals in the ecosystem is not limited to humans and other wildlife; it also includes organisms that inhibit their bodies, so-called "parasites". Arthropod ectoparasites are a diverse and well-adapted group of invertebrates that live on the body surfaces of their hosts, typically vertebrates but rarely other invertebrates. Ectoparasites such as fleas and some mite species are of veterinary and medical importance because they are associated with the transmission of zoonotic diseases. The study determined factors influencing ectoparasite infestation on two rodent species on Mount Meru, one of Tanzania's most popular research and ecotourism sites. Host sex, species, and environmental temperature predicted ectoparasite infestation patterns in the two rodent species. We expected host density to predict parasite prevalences and abundances, because hosts in higher densities should have more parasites due to increased contact between individuals. However, temperature, not host density, affected ectoparasite distribution. Since temperatures decrease with elevation, parasite prevalences and abundances were lower at higher elevations, highlighting that cold conditions at higher elevations limit reproduction and development-this shows that higher elevation zones are ideal for conservation. Climate change causes organisms, including species that act as parasite reservoirs and vectors, to shift their distribution to higher altitudes, affecting wildlife infestation patterns. We studied how ectoparasite distributions varied with altitude using two rodent species, Montemys delectorum and Rhabdomys dilectus, at different elevations (1500-3500 m). The ectoparasites infesting the two rodent species were influenced by the host sex, species, and temperature. We expected host density to predict parasite infestation patterns, because hosts in higher densities should have more parasites due to increased contact between individuals. However, temperature, not host density, affected ectoparasite distribution. Since temperatures decrease with elevation, parasite prevalences and abundances were lower at higher elevations, highlighting that the cold conditions at higher elevations limit reproduction and development-this shows that higher elevation zones are ideal for conservation. The rodents and ectoparasite species described in this study have been reported as vectors of diseases of medical and veterinary importance, necessitating precautions. Moreover, Mount Meru is a refuge for a number of endemic and threatened species on the IUCN Red List. Thus, the parasitic infection can also be an additional risk to these critical species as well as biodiversity in general. Therefore, our study lays the groundwork for future wildlife disease surveillance and biodiversity conservation management actions. The study found a previously uncharacterized mite species in the Mesostigmata group that was previously known to be a parasite of honeybees. Further investigations may shed light into the role of this mite species on Mount Meru.

Keywords

Montemys delectorum; Rhabdomys dilectus; Varroa mite; PCR; fleas; Mount Meru

Published in

Biology
2023, Volume: 12, number: 3, article number: 394
Publisher: MDPI

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG15 Life on land

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Ecology
    Zoology

    Publication identifier

    DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/biology12030394

    Permanent link to this page (URI)

    https://res.slu.se/id/publ/121972