ECTOPARASITE BURDENS OF THE DAMARALAND MOLE-RAT (FUKOMYS DAMARENSIS) FROM SOUTHERN AFRICA

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Abstract

Damaraland mole-rats (Fukomys damarensis) of the family Bathyergidae are widely distributed subterranean rodents in sub-Saharan Africa. No parasites have ever been reported for this species and only 1 ectoparasite is described for the entire genus. In the current study ectoparasites were collected from individuals captured at 3 localities in South Africa and Namibia to document the ectoparasite community of F. damarensis, investigate their aggregation patterns, and evaluate the influence of season on ectoparasite burden. A total of 2,071 arthropods from 9 mite taxa and 1 louse species (Eulinognathus hilli) were collected from 293 hosts sampled. Of these, 5 mite species (Androlaelaps scapularis, Androlaelaps capensis, Androlaelaps tauffliebi, Radfordia sp., and unidentified chiggers) and the louse were parasites while the remainder was soil mites. All ectoparasites were highly aggregated and the species richness as well as the prevalence and abundance of 4 of them were significantly greater in summer compared to winter, possibly as a result of seasonal changes in rainfall patterns affecting the ectoparasites, host behavior, or both.

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