African Zoology

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Ectoparasite diversity in the eastern rock sengis (Elephantulus myurus): the effect of seasonality and host sex

Dina M Fagir, Ivan G Horak, Eddie A Ueckermann, Nigel C Bennett, Heike Lutermann


Globally small mammals are important hosts of ectoparasite vectors of pathogens of medical, veterinary and economic importance. Insectivores are currently understudied as hosts of pathogen vectors. However, data are needed on the diversity of such vectors before we can investigate the underlying factors affecting ectoparasite distribution. Abiotic (e.g. temperature and rainfall) and biotic (e.g. host sex) factors have been identified as the main determinants of host–parasite interactions. The present study describes the ectoparasite community of insectivorous eastern rock sengis (Elephantulus myurus) in a nature reserve in the Gauteng province, South Africa, and how it varies with season and host sex. A total of 81 sengis were examined for the presence of ticks, mites, fleas and lice between April 2010 and April 2011. The ectoparasite assemblage comprised 11 groups of tick species, a single mite family, one louse and two flea species, with ticks and mites being the most numerous ectoparasites recovered. The prevalence and/or abundance of two commonly collected ticks (Ixodes spp. and Rhipicephalus warburtoni/arnoldi) and chigger varied with season. In addition, female-biased tick burdens were apparent for one ectoparasite species possibly due to reproductive investment. The mechanisms causing the observed patterns should be addressed in future studies.

Keywords: ectoparasites, host sex, Macroscelididae, seasonality

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