2006. 14 (2)


About author:

J. O. Whitaker, Jr., Dept. of Ecology and Organismal Biology, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, IN 47809, USA


I thank James L. Wolfe for the two nutria he collected in Mississippi; Carl Dick (Field Museum of Natural History), Barry OConnor (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor), Andre Bochkov (Zoologi-cal Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, Russia), and Stewart Peck (Carleton University, Ottawa) for reading the manuscript; and Laura Bakken for typing the manuscript.


The four species of large aquatic rodents of North America (Castor canadensis, Ondatra zibethicus, Neofiber alleni, and Myocastor coypus) have similar ectoparasite assemblages in that all are host to abundant, tiny hair-clasping listrophoroid mites that move up and down individual hairs, and 1 to 3 species of larger parasites. The American and Eurasian beavers each harbor large numbers of mites in the genus Schizocarpus. Schizocarpus mingaudi occurs on both species, whereas 16 and 32 additional species occur on the American and Eurasian beavers, respectively. The common (O. zibethicus) and the round-tailed (N. alleni) muskrats each harbor mites of the family Listrophoridae, 6 species of Listrophorus on Ondatra, and two species of Listrophorus and one of Prolistrophorus on Neofiber. Two species of Listrophorus, L. kingstownensis on Ondatra and L. laynei on Neofiber, are quite similar, consistent with the close phylogenetic relationship of the two muskrats. In addition, a tiny hypopial glycyphagid mite, Zibethacarus ondatrae, occurs on the American muskrat. The tiny mites of the other two rodent genera belong to different families; Schizocarpus (Chirodiscidae) on Castor, and Myocastorobia myocastor (Atopomelidae) on Myocastor. The 5 larger parasites consisted of a beetle (Platypsyllus castoris) on the beaver, Laelaps multispinosa on the common muskrat, Laelaps evansi and Androlaelaps fahrenholzi on the round-tailed muskrat, and a chewing louse, Pitrufquenia coypus, on the nutria. All of these are host specific except for A. fahrenholzi which occurs on numerous hosts. Across host taxa, parasite assemblages are similar in structure, probably because of ecologically similar aquatic habitats. However, the taxonomic affinities of the four mammal species are quite different, and therefore it is not surprising that likewise the parasite groups are diverse.


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