Parasite Sharing in Marine and Terrestrial Mammals

Keri-Niyia Cooper, a student from Savannah State University, worked with Drs. John Drake and Andrew Park over the summer to investigate parasite sharing in mammals.

Abstract: After a literature review was performed to compile a list of parasites that infect marine mammals, we created a database of parasite-host pairings found in the articles.  We then merged this database with information gathered from the GMPD and CLC Life Cycle, after subsetting certain traits.  We used the resulting database to examine three questions: (1) Is parasite generalism greater in marine environments or terrestrial environments? (2) Is parasite sharing greater when hosts are grouped by taxonomy (cetacean/ungulate v carnivore) or habitat (marine v terrestrial)? (3) Are parasites that infect hosts of both environments drawn disproportionately from some parasite taxonomic groups? It was noted that parasite generalism is greater in terrestrial environments. Hosts have a higher chance of being infected by the same parasite if they are found in the same environment. There is a higher chance of helminth species being more commonly found in a single environment.

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