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Gastrointestinal parasites in relation to host traits and group factors in wild meerkats Suricata suricatta

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 February 2014

Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, UK Kalahari Meerkat Project, Kuruman River Reserve, 8467 Van Zylsrus, Northern Cape, South Africa CNRS, Université Toulouse 3 Paul Sabatier, ENFA; UMR5174 EDB (Laboratoire évolution et Diversité Biologique); 118 route de Narbonne, 31062 Toulouse, France
College of Veterinary and Comparative Medicine, Lincoln Memorial University, 6965 Cumberland Gap Parkway, Harrogate, TN 37752, USA
*Corresponding author: Present address: Laboratoire Ecologie et Evolution UMR7625 – 7 quai St Bernard – 75252 Paris Cedex 5France. E-mail:


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.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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