Oral presentation- Open Session 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Dynamics of three flea species parasitizing the Namaqua rock mouse (Micaelamys namaquensis) in South Africa (#348)

Heike Lutermann 1 , Stephanie W Wilson 1 , Dina Fagir 1
  1. Department of Zoology & Entomology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa

Rodents are hosts to a multitude of parasites and pathogens and exhibit a large diversity on the African continent. Despite this, most research on rodent parasites has focused on invasive but rarely endemic rodents. The Namaqua rock mouse (Micaelamys namaquensis) is widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa and frequently parasitised by three flea species, Xenopsylla brasiliensis, Chiastopsylla godfreyi and Epirimia aganippes. While the latter two are probably host specific, X. brasiliensis has been identified as a plague vector globally. Nevertheless, little is known about either species’ biology. This study aimed to evaluate the contributions of abiotic (e.g. climate) and biotic (e.g. host, parasite) factors to the patterns of prevalence and abundance of these flea species on their natural host. Mice were sampled four times a year between April 2010 and August 2016 in a nature reserve in South Africa’s Gauteng Province. We assessed the entire ectoparasite community and took morphometric and condition measurements for all hosts and their fleas. All flea species show seasonal variation in prevalence and abundance that differed between the species. In combination with the marked size differences, this might be indicative of competitive interactions between these fleas. There was little evidence that host condition was linked to flea burden. At the same time, our data suggest that other (non-flea) ectoparasites may affect the distribution of fleas. The implications of these findings for the dynamic of the three flea species will be discussed.