Ectoparasites of the Pallas squirrel, Callosciurus erythraeus, introduced to Japan

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The squirrel Callosciurus erythraeus (Pallas) (Rodentia: Sciuridae) was intentionally introduced to Japan in 1935 and has become established throughout much of the country. Although they live mainly in forests, Pallas squirrels come into gardens and are frequently fed by people or kept as pets, so their ectoparasites could be of potential medical as well as veterinary importance. During 2001–2003 we conducted the first ectoparasite survey of Pallas squirrels in Japan. From 105 C. erythraeus captured in Kamakura District of Kanagawa Prefecture on Honshu Island, three types of ectoparasite were found: 52 specimens of the sucking louse Neohaematopinus callosciuri Johnson (Anoplura: Haematopinidae), 26 fleas Ceratophyllus (Monopsyllus) anisus Rothschild (Siphonaptera: Ceratophyllidae) and four nymphs of the tick Haemaphysalis flava Neumann (Acari: Ixodidae) on 22, 13 and one squirrels, respectively. Evidently in Japan C. erythraeus carries relatively few ectoparasite species; this may be a contributory factor to their invasive success. Further investigations are needed to assess risks of zoonotic transmission of plague or murine typhus by C. anisus, of louse-borne typhus by N. callosciuri and of tularaemia and especially Japanese spotted fever (Rickettsia japonica) by H. flava.

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