Gastrointestinal parasite infestation in the alpine mountain hare (Lepus timidus varronis): Are abiotic environmental factors such as elevation, temperature and precipitation affecting prevalence of parasite species?

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Abstract

Information concerning factors regulating Alpine mountain hare (Lepus timidus varronis)populations such as host-parasite interactions is missing as only a few parasitological surveys exist of this subspecies. Parasites are not only dependent on their host but also on suitable environmental conditions for infestation. Abiotic environmental factors have an important regulating role on parasites in mammals. It is estimated that the elevation range of parasites is likely to shift in response to alternate host movement and changes in climate. Here we assess the parasitic infestation in the Alpine mountain hare by analysing the parasites in faeces and comparing the parasite infestation at different elevation ranges and at varied weather conditions for two years in the Austrian Alps. Almost half of the faecal samples were free of parasites (46.2%, n = 52). Most frequent was the infection by Coccidia (46.2%), whereas stomach intestine strongylids, Trichuris spp, and Cestoda were only found in 9.6% of all faeces. Hence, only Coccidia may be prevalent enough to regulate Alpine mountain hare populations in the Austrian Alps. Elevation had a significant positive effect on the infection of animals by Trichuris spp, whereas temperature had a significant negative effect on the infection by any parasite traceable in faeces and, when looking at the parasite groups individually, on Coccidia.

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Schai-Braun, S. C., Posautz, A., Alves, P. C., & Hackländer, K. (2019). Gastrointestinal parasite infestation in the alpine mountain hare (Lepus timidus varronis): Are abiotic environmental factors such as elevation, temperature and precipitation affecting prevalence of parasite species? International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife, 9, 202–208. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijppaw.2019.05.009

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