Effects of Parasitism and Morphology on Squirrelpox Virus Seroprevalence in Grey Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis)

Natasha E. McGowan, Nikki J. Marks, Colin J. McInnes, David Deane, Aaron G. Maule, Michael Scantlebury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)
275 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Invasive species have been cited as major causes of population extinctions in several animal and plant classes worldwide. The North American grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) has a major detrimental effect on native red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) populations across Britain and Ireland, in part because it can be a reservoir host for the deadly squirrelpox virus (SQPV). Whilst various researchers have investigated the epizootiology of SQPV disease in grey squirrels and have modelled the consequent effects on red squirrel populations, less work has examined morphological and physiological characteristics that might make individual grey squirrels more susceptible to contracting SQPV. The current study investigated the putative relationships between morphology, parasitism, and SQPV exposure in grey squirrels. We found geographical, sex, and morphological differences in SQPV seroprevalence. In particular, larger animals, those with wide zygomatic arch widths (ZAW), males with large testes, and individuals with concurrent nematode and/or coccidial infections had an increased seroprevalence of SQPV. In addition, males with larger spleens, particularly those with narrow ZAW, were more likely to be exposed to SQPV. Overall these results show that there is variation in SQPV seroprevalence in grey squirrels and that, consequently, certain individual, or populations of, grey squirrels might be more responsible for transmitting SQPV to native red squirrel populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere83106
Number of pages7
JournalPloS one
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 08 Jan 2014

Keywords

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Ireland
  • Male
  • Models, Statistical
  • Organ Size
  • Parasites
  • Rodent Diseases
  • Sciuridae
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Spleen

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