Ectoparasite assemblage of the four-striped mouse, Rhabdomys pumilio : the effect of anthropogenic habitat transformation and temporal variation

Van der Mescht, Luther (2011-03)

Thesis (MScConsEcol)--University of Stellenbosch, 2011.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Anthropogenic habitat transformation and subsequent fragmentation of natural vegetation is regarded as one of the largest threats to biodiversity in the world. The Cape Floristic Region (CFR) in the Western Cape Province of South Africa is classified as a biodiversity hotspot due to its high plant species diversity and endemism. Increasing growth in agricultural activities in this region has contributed to fragmentation of pristine natural vegetation. A diverse assemblage of small mammal species are found in this region, but very little is known with regard to their ectoparasite diversity. More importantly, no information is available on the effect of fragmentation on parasite burdens or species assemblages. The aims of the study were first to record relative density, average body size and body condition of an endemic rodent, Rhabdomys pumilio, trapped in two habitat types (pristine natural areas and remnant fragments). Secondly, compare diversity and species composition of ectoparasite species on this rodent in the two habitat types. In addition, body size measurements of the two most abundant flea species were recorded and compared for the two habitat types. Lastly, temporal variation in mean abundance of fleas, mites, ticks and the louse were recorded within a habitat fragment surrounded by vineyards. Three hundred and ten individuals of the Four-striped mouse, R. pumilio, were trapped and euthanized at 8 localities (4 remnant habitat fragments and 4 pristine natural areas) in the CFR. All ectoparasites were removed and identified. A total of 8361 ectoparasites that consisted of 6 flea, 1 louse, 8 mites and 11 tick species were recorded. Mites and fleas were found to be more abundant on mice during cool wet months, whereas ticks and the louse were more abundant during the hot dry months of the year. Rodent host body size was larger and they were in better body condition in remnant fragments compared to pristine natural localities. A positive body size relationship was found between the flea, Listropsylla agrippinae, and the host, with larger fleas recorded on rodents that occur in fragments. Mean abundance and prevalence of overall ectoparasites combined and separately for ticks, mites, louse and fleas were higher in fragments compared to natural localities. The study shows that R. pumilio is host to a large diversity of ectoparasite species in the CFR. Moreover, habitat fragments within agricultural landscapes can facilitate higher parasite burdens and prevalence in rodent populations. This can lead to an increase in disease risk given that several of the parasite species are important vectors of pathogens that can cause disease in domestic, wild animals and humans.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Menslike habitat transformasie en die daaropvolgende fragmentasie van natuurlike plantegroei word beskou as een van die grootste bedreigings vir biodiversiteit in die wêreld. Die Kaap Floristiese Streek (KFS) in die Wes-Kaap Provinsie van Suid-Afrika word geklassifiseer as 'n biodiversiteit ‘hotspot’ as gevolg van sy hoë plant spesies diversiteit en endemisme. Toenemende groei in landbou-aktiwiteite in hierdie streek het ook bygedra tot die fragmentasie van ongerepte natuurlike plantegroei. 'n Diverse versameling van die klein soogdier spesies word in hierdie streek aangetref, maar baie min is bekend met betrekking tot hul ektoparasiet diversiteit. Meer belangrik, geen inligting is beskikbaar oor die effek van fragmentasie op parasietladings of spesie samestelling nie. Die doel van die studie was eerstens om relatiewe digtheid, gemiddelde liggaams grootte en kondisie van Rhabdomys pumilio aan te teken vir twee habitat tipes (ongerepte natuurlike area en oorblyfsel fragment). Tweedens was die diversiteit en spesiesamestelling van ektoparasiete op R. pumilio vergelyk vir die twee habitat tipes. Daarna was die liggaams grootte metings van die twee mees volopste vlooi spesies aangeteken en vergelyk vir die twee habitat tipes. Laastens was die seisonale variasie van die gemiddelde hoeveelheid vlooie, myte, bosluise en die luis aangeteken binne 'n habitat fragment omring deur wingerde. Drie honderd en tien individue van die vier-gestreepte muis, R. pumilio, was gevang op 8 plekke (4 oorblyfsel habitat fragmente en 4 ongerepte natuurlike areas) in die KFS en daarna was die diere uitgesit. Alle ektoparasiete was verwyder en geïdentifiseer. 'n Totaal van 8361 ektoparasiete wat bestaan het uit 6 vlooie, 1 luis, 8 myte en 11 bosluis spesies was aangeteken. Myte en vlooie gevind was meer volop op muise tydens die koel nat maande, terwyl bosluise en die luis meer volop was gedurende die warm droë maande van die jaar. Knaagdier gasheer liggaam was groter en in 'n beter kondisie in die habitat fragmente in vergelyking met ongerepte natuurlike areas. 'n Positiewe liggaam grootte verwantskap was tussen die vlooi, Listropsylla agrippinae, en die gasheer gevind, met groter vlooie aangeteken op knaagdiere wat voorkom in fragmente. Gemiddelde hoeveelheid en voorkoms van die totale ektoparasiete gekombineer en afsonderlik vir bosluise, myte, die luis en vlooie was hoër in fragmente in vergelyking met natuurlike areas. Die studie toon dat R. pumilio gasheer is vir 'n groot verskeidenheid van ektoparasiet spesies in die KFS. Daarbenewens kan habitat fragmente binne landbou landskappe hoër parasietladings en voorkoms in knaagdier bevolkings fasiliteer. Dit kan lei tot 'n toename in siekte risiko, gegee dat verskeie van die parasietspesies belangrike vektore is van patogene wat siektes kan veroorsaak in huishoudelike, wilde diere en die mens.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/6850
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