Tick paralysis in spectacled flying-foxes (Pteropus conspicillatus) in North Queensland, Australia: impact of a ground-dwelling ectoparasite finding an arboreal host

Buttner, Petra G., Westcott, David A., Maclean, Jennefer, Brown, Lawrence, McKeown, Adam, Johnson, Ashleigh, Wilson, Karen, Blair, David, Luly, Jonathan, Skerratt, Lee, Muller, Reinhold, and Speare, Richard (2013) Tick paralysis in spectacled flying-foxes (Pteropus conspicillatus) in North Queensland, Australia: impact of a ground-dwelling ectoparasite finding an arboreal host. PLoS ONE, 8 (9). e73078. pp. 1-10.

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Abstract

When a parasite finds a new wildlife host, impacts can be significant. In the late 1980s populations of Spectacled Flying-foxes (SFF) (Pteropus conspicillatus), a species confined, in Australia, to north Queensland became infected by paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus), resulting in mortality. This Pteropus-tick relationship was new to Australia. Curiously, the relationship was confined to several camps on the Atherton Tableland, north Queensland. It was hypothesised that an introduced plant, wild tobacco (Solanum mauritianum), had facilitated this new host-tick interaction. This study quantifies the impact of tick paralysis on SFF and investigates the relationship with climate. Retrospective analysis was carried out on records from the Tolga Bat Hospital for 1998–2010. Juvenile mortality rates were correlated to climate data using vector auto-regression. Mortality rates due to tick paralysis ranged between 11.6 per 10,000 bats in 2003 and 102.5 in 2009; more female than male adult bats were affected. Juvenile mortality rates were negatively correlated with the total rainfall in January to March and July to September of the same year while a positive correlation of these quarterly total rainfalls existed with the total population. All tick affected camps of SFF were located in the 80% core range of S. mauritianum. This initial analysis justifies further exploration of how an exotic plant might alter the relationship between a formerly ground-dwelling parasite and an arboreal host.

Item ID: 29510
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
Additional Information:

© 2013 Buettner et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funders: James Cook University (JCU)
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2013 07:05
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060208 Terrestrial Ecology @ 50%
11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111799 Public Health and Health Services not elsewhere classified @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9604 Control of Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species > 960414 Control of Plant Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species in Forest and Woodlands Environments @ 50%
92 HEALTH > 9204 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) > 920499 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) not elsewhere classified @ 50%
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