Ectoparasite infestation patterns, haematology and serum biochemistry of urban-dwelling common brushtail possums

Koa N. Webster, Nichola J. Hill, Leslie Burnett, Elizabeth M. Deane

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    Urban environments support high concentrations of humans, domestic pets and introduced animals, creating conditions conducive to the transmission of parasites. This study compared patterns of ectoparasite infestation of the common brushtail possum Trichosurus vulpecula in urbanised Sydney (n = 161) to those from a remote woodland site (n = 18) from February 2005-November 2006. We found diff erences in ectoparasite species prevalence between the two groups: the flea Echidnophaga myrmecobii was only found on urban possums and the tick Ixodes trichosuri was much more prevalent in the urban habitat, while the mite Atellana papilio was more prevalent on woodland possums. E. myrmecobii and I. trichosuri diff ered from other ectoparasites by showing an association with host sex and host age. Potential physiological costs of ectoparasitism to urban-dwelling possums were determined using multivariate analysis of haematology, serum biochemistry and body condition. Changes in serum iron levels were seen in the presence of both the tick Ixodes trichosuri and the flea E. myrmecobii, and E. myrmecobii was associated with elevated serum levels of the liver enzyme ALT. However, ectoparasite-related changes in haematology and serum biochemistry were not indicative of long-term pathology. In this urban possum population, the costs of ectoparasitism appear to be limited and unlikely to pose a major threat to the health of the population.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)206-216
    Number of pages11
    JournalWildlife Biology
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2014


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