The changing ecology of primate parasites: Insights from wild-captive comparisons.

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Host movements, including migrations or range expansions, are known to influence parasite communities. Transitions to captivity-a rarely studied yet widespread human-driven host movement-can also change parasite communities, in some cases leading to pathogen spillover among wildlife species, or between wildlife and human hosts. We compared parasite species richness between wild and captive populations of 22 primate species, including macro- (helminths and arthropods) and micro-parasites (viruses, protozoa, bacteria, and fungi). We predicted that captive primates would have only a subset of their native parasite community, and would possess fewer parasites with complex life cycles requiring intermediate hosts or vectors. We further predicted that captive primates would have parasites transmitted by close contact and environmentally-including those shared with humans and other animals, such as commensals and pests. We found that the composition of primate parasite communities shifted in captive populations, especially because of turnover (parasites detected in captivity but not reported in the wild), but with some evidence of nestedness (holdovers from the wild). Because of the high degree of turnover, we found no significant difference in overall parasite richness between captive and wild primates. Vector-borne parasites were less likely to be found in captivity, whereas parasites transmitted through either close or non-close contact, including through fecal-oral transmission, were more likely to be newly detected in captivity. These findings identify parasites that require monitoring in captivity and raise concerns about the introduction of novel parasites to potentially susceptible wildlife populations during reintroduction programs.





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Herrera, James P, Debapriyo Chakraborty, Julie Rushmore, Sonia Altizer and Charles Nunn (2019). The changing ecology of primate parasites: Insights from wild-captive comparisons. American journal of primatology, 81(7). p. e22991. 10.1002/ajp.22991 Retrieved from

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Charles L Nunn

Gosnell Family Professor in Global Health

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