Biogeography of parasitic nematode communities in the Galápagos giant tortoise: implications for conservation management

Fournié, G., Goodman, S. J., Cruz, M., Cedeño, V., Vélez, A., Patiño, L., Millins, C. , Gibbons, L. M., Fox, M. T. and Cunningham, A. A. (2015) Biogeography of parasitic nematode communities in the Galápagos giant tortoise: implications for conservation management. PLoS ONE, 10(9), e0135684. (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0135684) (PMID:26332126) (PMCID:PMC4567182)

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Abstract

The Galápagos giant tortoise is an icon of the unique, endemic biodiversity of Galápagos, but little is known of its parasitic fauna. We assessed the diversity of parasitic nematode communities and their spatial distributions within four wild tortoise populations comprising three species across three Galápagos islands, and consider their implication for Galápagos tortoise conservation programmes. Coprological examinations revealed nematode eggs to be common, with more than 80% of tortoises infected within each wild population. Faecal samples from tortoises within captive breeding centres on Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobal islands also were examined. Five different nematode egg types were identified: oxyuroid, ascarid, trichurid and two types of strongyle. Sequencing of the 18S small-subunit ribosomal RNA gene from adult nematodes passed with faeces identified novel sequences indicative of rhabditid and ascaridid species. In the wild, the composition of nematode communities varied according to tortoise species, which co-varied with island, but nematode diversity and abundance were reduced or altered in captive-reared animals. Evolutionary and ecological factors are likely responsible for the variation in nematode distributions in the wild. This possible species/island-parasite co-evolution has not been considered previously for Galápagos tortoises. We recommend that conservation efforts, such as the current Galápagos tortoise captive breeding/rearing and release programme, be managed with respect to parasite biogeography and host-parasite co-evolutionary processes in addition to the biogeography of the host.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This study was funded by the Darwin Initiative for the Survival of Species, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, UK Government (162-12-17, EIDPO15); https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/the-darwin-initiative. A.A.C. is supported by a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Millins, Dr Caroline
Authors: Fournié, G., Goodman, S. J., Cruz, M., Cedeño, V., Vélez, A., Patiño, L., Millins, C., Gibbons, L. M., Fox, M. T., and Cunningham, A. A.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:PLoS ONE
Publisher:Public Library of Science
ISSN:1932-6203
ISSN (Online):1932-6203
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2015 Fournié et al.
First Published:First published in PLoS ONE 10(9):e0135684
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence

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