Coccidia Presence in Midwest Prairie Dog Communities

Winkler, Alison B.
Swope, Zach
Coccidia, members of the Phylum Apicomplexa, comprise a taxonomically diverse and cosmopolitan group of potentially pathogenic protists infecting a wide range of vertebrate and invertebrate hosts. Since 2013, we have been investigating the prevalence, diversity, and distribution of coccidia in passerines in the Big Horn Basin. Recently, we have begun investigations into these parameters across mammal species by relying upon passive collection of fecal materials; in this case, black-tailed and white-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus and C. leucurus, respectively). We collected fecal samples from two black-tailed prairie dog towns in Butte County, SD, and two white-tailed prairie dog towns in Park County, WY to determine if coccidian parasites could have an effect on their population status (increasing or decreasing). Preliminary analyses indicated that one black-tailed prairie dog colony was increasing in size (54.4 hectares) while the other was decreasing (33.4 hectares). Furthermore, we showed the decreasing colony tended to exhibit higher numbers of Eimeria sp. oocysts/g fecal material than did the increasing colony (x̅ = 682.40 + 235.63, x̅ = 388.92 + 128.48, means + SE, respectively; t = 1.444, df = 21, P = 0.163). The white-tailed prairie dog colonies have no associated preliminary information. All samples were collected, air dried, incubated for 7-10d in 2.5% potassium dichromate, and floated for 30 min in 1.28 sg sucrose solution with one drop Schiff's reagent added. Slides of the samples were made and viewed at 200x counting the sporulated and unsporulated oocysts/g fecal material. We identified observed coccidia to genus.
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