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

What’s eating Microcebus? Endo- and ectoparasite ecology of Microcebus griseorufus at Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve, Madagascar


Anthropology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Saturday 4:45-5:00, 200ABC Add to calendar

Prior parasitological surveys of lemurs at Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve (BMSR) in southwest Madagascar have documented a single species of tick, Haemaphysalis lemuris, and a single louse, Trichophyloterus babakotus, infesting lemurs. However, little attention has been paid to parasites infesting Microcebus griseorufus, which may serve as intermediate hosts to immature stages of haemaphysaline ticks, enabling adult ticks to preferentially parasitize larger-bodied lemurs. Because mouse lemurs at BMSR live in relatively high densities, often descend to the ground, engage in social grooming, and regularly consume insects, and because single tick species may infest multiple hosts in single forests, understanding the parasitic loads carried by these lemurs is very important.

By analyzing fecal samples collected during the dry season, we found Microcebus griseorufus at BMSR to host at least ten species of helminthes and protists. Additionally, over a period of 12 months, we collected two species of ticks, Haemaphysalis lemuris and H. simplex, and one sucking louse (possibly Lemurpediculus verruculosus) from the ears and pelage of Microcebus. Endo- and ectoparasite infestation patterns suggest that Microcebus does indeed serve as an intermediate host to immature haemaphysaline ticks; the synchronous development of immature ticks during the austral winter may pose a risk for vector-borne disease. Microcebus likely also shares certain endoparasites (Hymenolepis sp.) and ectoparasites (H. simplex) with introduced rodents (Rattus rattus and Mus musculus). The BMSR has experienced drastic changes in habitat and mammalian communities and these changes may have consequences for interspecific parasite transmission and for parasite ecology.

This research was funded by the International Foundation for Science (IFS), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), National Geographic Society (NGS), Primate Conservation Inc. (PCI), and American Society of Primatologists (ASP).

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