Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Small islands as potential model ecosystems for parasitology: climatic influence on parasites of feral cats.

Abstract

The influence of climate on parasite distribution has been demonstrated in different regions worldwide. Despite its small size, Gran Canaria (Canary Islands, Spain) constitutes a 'biodiversity laboratory' due to the huge climatic differences between municipalities. Feral cats may represent a threat to biodiversity due to their predatory behaviour. In addition, they may be a source of pathogens zoonotic to humans. To study the climatic/seasonal influence and prevalence of feral cat parasites throughout the island, a total of 290 stool samples from 29 feral cat colonies were analysed following standard concentration protocols (sodium chloride, formol-ether and zinc sulphate). In total, 13 feline parasitic taxa were found, with the most common species being Ancylostoma spp., which, together with Toxocara spp., Toxoplasma gondii and Giardia spp., are considered a concern for human health. Nematodes were the most common parasites in all areas. Nematodes and protozoans were significantly more prevalent in temperate mild (75.0% and 30.0%) than in dry desert areas (29.3% and 18.7%). In contrast, cestodes were significantly more prevalent in dry desert than in temperate mild areas (26.0% and 13.3%). Only protozoans exhibited statistically significant seasonal patterns, mostly in the wet season. Data reported in this study endorse the usage of small and diverse islands such as Gran Canaria to study the climatic influence on parasitic communities in wild/feral animals. Cat colonies require better management to reduce their threat to endemic wildlife, domestic animals and public health, being invasive species that harbour zoonotic parasites.