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  • Print publication year: 2016
  • Online publication date: March 2016

10 - Tiny samples from tiny lemurs: methodological considerations for endoparasite analyses in mouse lemurs

from Part II - Methods for studying captive and wild cheirogaleids



Studies of parasite burden and transmission in wild non-human primates are important for combating emerging infectious diseases in humans, understanding processes of zoonosis, and managing and conserving endangered species (Gillespie et al., 2008). In a biodiversity hotspot facing extreme anthropogenic pressure, lemurs are a high conservation priority (Schwitzer et al., 2014) and the relationship between lemur health and human health is only beginning to be understood (Bublitz et al., 2015; Zohdy et al., 2015). Mouse lemurs (Microcebus spp.) are well positioned to become a very useful model for endoparasite studies in lemurs. As a highly specious genus with 21 recognized species, they are widespread across the island of Madagascar, occurring in diverse habitats including rainforests, dry deciduous forests, littoral forests, etc. (Radespiel, 2006; Sommer et al., 2014; Zimmermann and Radespiel, 2014). In addition, species vary (within and between species) in their diets, use of torpor, degree of sociality, and sympatry with congeneric species (Lahann et al., 2006; Radespiel, 2006; Sommer et al., 2014; Chapter 22). This variation, combined with the ease with which they can be trapped, examined, and sampled without anesthesia, thus yielding reasonable sample sizes, makes them attractive for asking a multitude of questions with implications for understanding host–parasite coevolution, transmission dynamics and zoonosis, conservation, and wildlife management.

Mouse lemurs harbor, in particular, vector-borne parasites and direct lifecycle parasites (Radespiel et al., 2015). They may become infected with vector-borne parasites when feeding on arthropods serving as intermediate hosts (Radespiel et al., 2015). In addition, they are vulnerable to parasites with direct lifecycles when feeding in contaminated vegetation or co-sleeping in tree holes/nests with infected individuals who may defecate in the sleeping sites (Sommer et al., 2014; Radespiel et al., 2015). The endoparasite studies conducted to date have included foci on relationships between parasites and seasonality (Raharivololona and Ganzhorn, 2010), forest fragmentation (Schad et al., 2005), the genetics of parasite resistance (Schad et al., 2005; Schwensow et al., 2010a, 2010b; Sommer et al., 2014), sympatry among host mouse lemur species (Sommer et al., 2014; Radespiel et al., 2015), and parasites with the potential to be zoonotic with human populations (Rasambainarivo et al., 2013; Bublitz et al., 2015; Zohdy et al., 2015). Many of these studies were conducted within the last five years and meeting abstracts suggest that several other studies are underway (e.g., Alldredge et al., 2013, 2014; Rodriguez et al., 2013).

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