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Urbanisation and small marsupials in the greater Perth region, Western Australia

Hillman, Alison (2016) Urbanisation and small marsupials in the greater Perth region, Western Australia. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Quenda (Isoodon obesulus) and brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) remain in many areas of Perth, Western Australia, despite urbanisation. This thesis investigated the impacts of urbanisation on the parasitic infections, morphometrics and reproductive fitness of these marsupials. Parasite screening particularly investigated the presence of parasites that quenda and possums may be acquiring from humans and pets in urbanised environments.

This cross sectional study targeted free-ranging quenda and brushtail possums in Perth. Trapping was undertaken on 29 bushland sites and 35 urbanised sites. Trapped marsupials were sampled for gastrointestinal and macroscopic ecto- parasites and Toxoplasma gondii antibodies, and morphometrics were measured. Statistical analyses included linear and logistic regression, Kulldorff’s spatial scan statistic and analysis of similarities in parasite communities.

287 quenda and 33 brushtail possums were sampled across 55 sites. Parasitic infections were common in Perth quenda, and less so in brushtail possums. Twelve parasite taxa were identified infecting these host species for the first time. In quenda, some differences in parasite prevalences, odds of infection, intensities of infection, and parasite communities, were observed in quenda trapped in urbanised environments compared to bushland. In quenda, Giardia spp. infection was common, and typically the non-zoonotic G. peramelis. Analyses suggest that the primary influence on the distribution of Giardia spp. infection in quenda is population density. Quenda trapped in urbanised environments were heavier on average than quenda trapped in bushland, in the absence of convincing evidence of a difference in skeletal morphometrics. Bushland adult female quenda had increased odds of having an active pouch than those in urbanised environments.

Quenda and brushtail possums in Perth are not commonly infected with gastrointestinal and macroscopic ecto- parasites of humans and domestic animal origin. Quenda in urbanised environments have a tendency towards obesity. Urbanised environments may negatively impact fecundity of female quenda.

Publication Type: Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Thompson, Andrew, Lymbery, Alan and Robertson, Ian
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