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The ecology of parasite transmission during fauna translocations: Observations from the woylie (Bettongia penicillata)

Northover, Amy Susan (2019) The ecology of parasite transmission during fauna translocations: Observations from the woylie (Bettongia penicillata). PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Fauna translocations play a pivotal role in the management of threatened wildlife, though we are limited by our understanding of how the host-parasite community changes during translocation and in response to antiparasitic drug treatment. This project aimed to quantify changes in parasite community structure and host health in woylies following translocation, and in response to ivermectin treatment. This is the first study to evaluate changes to the broader parasite community in translocated and resident animals following translocation. During two fauna translocations to three different locations within south-western Australia, woylies were sampled for blood-borne, ecto- and gastrointestinal parasites, and morphometrics were measured. Prior to translocation, half of the translocated woylies were treated with ivermectin. Post-translocation monitoring was undertaken for up to 12 months following translocation.

Destination site and time since translocation had the strongest effect on parasite dynamics and host health following translocation. Significant changes to the parasite community occurred within the first few months after translocation, and the parasite communities of translocated and resident woylies generally converged to become more similar over time, with failure of some parasite taxa to persist and new host-parasite associations emerging. Trypanosoma spp. richness and the prevalence of haemoparasite coinfection increased after translocation. Ivermectin treatment did not significantly reduce the prevalence/abundance of target parasites, or improve body condition in treated hosts. In translocated woylies, the presence of coccidia during the first three months following translocation, and increasing Strongyloides-like egg counts were associated with lower body condition. Results from this study highlight the importance of long-term parasite monitoring to better understand the biological implications (for individuals, populations and ecosystems) of wildlife translocations on host-parasite ecology. Insights gained from this study are broadly applicable to the management of threatened fauna and their parasite taxa, and enhance our fundamental understanding of the potential ecosystem impacts of wildlife translocations.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
United Nations SDGs: Goal 15: Life on Land
Supervisor(s): Thompson, Andrew, Lymbery, Alan, Godfrey, Stephanie and Wayne, Adrian
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