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Seasonal and biogeographical patterns of gastrointestinal parasites in large carnivores: wolves in a coastal archipelago

  • HEATHER M. BRYAN (a1) (a2) (a3), CHRIS T. DARIMONT (a2) (a4), JANET E. HILL (a5), PAUL C. PAQUET (a2) (a6), R. C. ANDREW THOMPSON (a7), BRENT WAGNER (a5) and JUDIT E. G. SMITS (a1) (a3)...
Summary

Parasites are increasingly recognized for their profound influences on individual, population and ecosystem health. We provide the first report of gastrointestinal parasites in gray wolves from the central and north coasts of British Columbia, Canada. Across 60 000 km2, wolf feces were collected from 34 packs in 2005–2008. At a smaller spatial scale (3300 km2), 8 packs were sampled in spring and autumn. Parasite eggs, larvae, and cysts were identified using standard flotation techniques and morphology. A subset of samples was analysed by PCR and sequencing to identify tapeworm eggs (n=9) and Giardia cysts (n=14). We detected ⩾14 parasite taxa in 1558 fecal samples. Sarcocystis sporocysts occurred most frequently in feces (43·7%), followed by taeniid eggs (23·9%), Diphyllobothrium eggs (9·1%), Giardia cysts (6·8%), Toxocara canis eggs (2·1%), and Cryptosporidium oocysts (1·7%). Other parasites occurred in ⩽1% of feces. Genetic analyses revealed Echinococcus canadensis strains G8 and G10, Taenia ovis krabbei, Diphyllobothrium nehonkaiense, and Giardia duodenalis assemblages A and B. Parasite prevalence differed between seasons and island/mainland sites. Patterns in parasite prevalence reflect seasonal and spatial resource use by wolves and wolf-salmon associations. These data provide a unique, extensive and solid baseline for monitoring parasite community structure in relation to environmental change.

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Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Department of Ecosystem and Public Health, University of Calgary, 3280 Hospital Drive NW, Alberta T2N 4N1, Canada. Tel: +403 210 7869. Fax: +403 210 9740. E-mail: hmbryan@ucalgary.ca
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