Analysis of ectoparasites (chigger mites, gamasid mites, fleas and sucking lice) of the Yunnan red-backed vole (Eothenomys miletus) sampled throughout its range in southwest China

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Abstract

The Yunnan red-backed vole Eothenomys miletus (Rodentia: Cricetidae) is an endemic rodent species and reservoir host of zoonoses in southwest China. Based on a large host sample (2463 voles collected from 39 localities between 2001 and 2013), a general analysis of four categories of ectoparasite (fleas, sucking lice, chigger mites and gamasid mites) on E. miletus across its entire range of distribution was made. This analysis identified a total of 71 895 ectoparasites belonging to 320 species (30 species of flea, 9 of sucking louse, 106 of gamasid mite and 175 of chigger mite) with a high prevalence (87%), mean abundance (29.19) and mean intensity (33.69). Of the 18 vector species of zoonoses found on E. miletus, the flea Ctenophthalmus quadratus (Siphonaptera: Hystrichopsyllidae) and chigger mite Leptotrombidium scutellare (Trombidiformes: Trombiculidae) were the dominant species; these are the main vectors of zoonoses in China. All of the dominant parasite species showed an aggregated distribution pattern. Male voles harboured more species of parasite than females. Chigger mites represented the most abundant species group on voles and their prevalence was positively correlated with mean abundance (r = 0.73; P < 0.05). As a single rodent species, E. miletus has a high potential to harbour abundant ectoparasites with high species diversity and high rates of infestation. The sex of the vole affects ectoparasite infestation.

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