Poster presentation 12th International Mammalogical Congress

The role of urban environment in shaping parasite communities of wild red foxes in Edinburgh (#776)

Lisa V Gecchele 1 , Amy B Pedersen 1 , Matthew Bell 1
  1. The university of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Urbanisation of wild carnivores has become a common and taxonomically diverse phenomenon. This forced proximity between people and carnivores may substantially alter the ecology of urban species and influence ecological relationships of wild populations, especially predator-prey and host-parasite. The demographic, epidemiological and human health consequences of these changes are as yet poorly understood. Here we use the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) population of Edinburgh (UK) as a model system to investigate how human generated environmental variation influences parasite prevalence and community structure. We conducted an extensive survey in the Edinburgh area, collecting red fox faecal samples from public green spaces, and measured burden and prevalence of intestinal parasites using flotation analysis. We then used generalised linear mixed models to investigate how patterns of variation in parasite burden and prevalence are influenced by ecological and socio-economic variables.  Preliminary results indicate that parasite community structure changes markedly across the city, with higher intensity of urbanisation being associated with higher parasite prevalence and lower diversity as a result of higher host population density and differences in marking behaviour. The increase was not linear and in suburban areas we measured an overall decrease of parasite prevalence, even lower than in rural areas. Understanding these fine scale patterns will help design more effective management plans for urban carnivores.