The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Cross-species Parasite Patterns: Pinworm Prevalence in Captive Lemurs


1Evolutionary Anthropology, Duke University, 2Veterinary Department, Duke Lemur Center

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Parasite infection in primates is thought to be costly and to have shaped behavioral and physiological adaptations of hosts and parasites. Assessing patterns of infection will inform our understanding of the interactions between parasites and their primate hosts and the adaptations that mitigate costs of infection. Ten years of parasite occurrence data in 14 diurnal lemur species with outdoor access were extracted from routine veterinary visit records at the Duke Lemur Center. These data were combined with demographic information on the individuals sampled to facilitate cross-species comparisons.

The most prevalent parasite across this population was a pinworm from the family Oxyuridae. A G-test showed that pinworm ova appeared significantly more frequently than did strongylid ova (p <.0001), which were the second most frequently found ova. Based on the contact and airborne transmission routes of species within Oxyuridae, it was hypothesized that lemur species housed in larger groups would have increased exposure risk and would be more frequently diagnosed with pinworms. This hypothesis was not supported by the data, which show that pinworms were significantly more frequently diagnosed in eight Eulemur species, which are housed in small groups, than in L. catta, P. coquereli, V. rubra, and V. variegata, which are housed in larger groups. Future analyses will integrate age, sex, and more detailed housing data to determine whether the observed pattern can be further explained by these parameters. Articulating the risk factors for parasites provides the framework in which adaptations to minimize infection or pathogenesis in lemurs can be understood.

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