Urban development may influence endoparasite prevalence in kangaroo rats

Sunday, 15 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Gizelle Hurtado, New Mexico State University, Biology Department, Las Cruces, NM
Urban development can fragment and degrade remnant habitat. These alterations in habitat can have profound impacts on wildlife populations that can be isolated by development. Urban wildlife populations may also be exposed to novel pressures and stimuli that may impact their ecology. These pressures may influence the prevalence of pathogens along wild land - urban gradients. I investigated the influence of urbanization on populations of Merriam’s kangaroo rat (Dipodomys merriami) and their pathogens. I hypothesized that urban development would affect the prevalence of endoparasites in kangaroo rats in urban areas versus wild land areas. I live trapped kangaroo rats at 10 sites in and around Las Cruces, NM: 5 urban and 5 wild land, from June to November 2013, and collected fecal samples from 70 kangaroo rats. Endoparasite presence was determined using fecal flotation, and both roundworms and protozoans were detected. Roundworm (Mastophorus dipodomis) prevalence was higher in wild land populations, but (Pterygodermatites dipodomis) prevalence did not differ between urban and wild land populations. Further, protozoans were only detected in wild land populations and kangaroo rats with multiple infections of different pathogens were only detected in wild land populations. These results indicate that kangaroo rat endoparasite prevalence may be influenced by the impacts of urban development on physical, biological or behavioral factors. Increased availability of anthropogenic resources or fragmentation acting as a barrier to transmission may be physical factors influencing prevalence. Alterations to plant cover or intermediate host abundance may be biological factors and there may be behavioral differences in kangaroo rat populations between urban and wild populations that may influence endoparasite prevalence. The mechanism(s) driving these differences requires further investigation.