Co-infection patterns in the ectoparasitic community affecting the Iberian ibex Capra pyrenaica

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2023
Authors:M. J. Fernández-Muñoz, Castillo-Contreras, R., Pérez, J. M., Granados, J. E., Márquez, F. J., López-Montoya, A. J.
Journal:Parasites & Vectors
Pagination:12 pp
Date Published:May-30-2023
Keywords:co-infection, ectoparasites, epidemiology, Iberian Peninsula, lice, Sarcoptes scabiei, ticks

Background Sarcoptic mange is one of the main parasitic diseases affecting the Iberian ibex Capra pyrenaica. Scabietic animals suffer a decline in body condition and reproductive fitness and in severe cases may die. Although several previous studies of the pathology of this disease and the physiological changes it produces in ibex have been carried out in recent years, our knowledge of the relationship between Sarcoptes scabiei and other ectoparasites of this host is still limited.

Methods We analysed 430 Iberian ibex skin samples. Ectoparasites were removed, counted and identified. Mite (S. scabiei) numbers were obtained after digesting the skin samples in a 5% KOH solution. We modelled mite numbers in terms of host sex and age, site, year, season and the presence of other ectoparasites such as ticks and lice using generalized linear mixed models (GLMMs) and ectoparasite co-occurrence patterns using two different models: the probabilistic model species co-occurrence and the generalized linear latent variable model (GLLVM).

Results The ectoparasite community was mainly composed of S. scabiei, six ticks (Haemaphysalis sulcata, Haemaphysalis punctata, Rhipicephalus bursa, Rhipicephalus turanicus, Dermacentor marginatus and Ixodes ricinus) and two lice (Bovicola crassipes and Linognathus stenopsis). Adult male ibex harboured more mites than females. Mite numbers varied greatly spatially and seasonally and increased with the presence of other parasites. Some positive co-occurrence relationships between pairs of different ectoparasites were observed, particularly between ticks. The presence of S. scabiei negatively affected lice and H. sulcata numbers.

Conclusions Sarcoptic mange has spread above all in ibex populations in and around the Mediterranean Basin, where it is now found in almost a third of its host’s range. Mite numbers varied seasonally and spatially and were higher in male hosts. The presence of S. scabiei had a negative effect on lice numbers but favoured the presence of ticks. Graphical Abstract

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