October 2, 2023

Intestinal parasites of wolves in northern and western Canada

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Gray wolves (Canis lupus L., 1758) are mobile opportunistic predators that can be infected by a wide range of parasites, with many acquired via predator-prey relationships. Historically, many of these parasites were identified only to genus or family, but genetic tools now enable identification of parasite fauna to species and beyond. We examined 191 intestines from wolves harvested for other purposes from regions in the Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Adult helminths were collected from intestinal contents for morphological and molecular identification, and for a subset of wolves, fecal samples were also analyzed to detect helminth eggs and protozoan (oo)cysts. Using both detection methods, we found that 83% of 191 intestines contained one or more parasite species, including cestodes (Taenia spp., Echinococcus spp., and Diphyllobothrium sp.), nematodes (Uncinaria stenocephala, Trichuris spp., Physaloptera spp., and Toxascaris leonina), a trematode (Alaria sp.), and protozoa (Sarcocystis spp., Giardia spp., and Cryptosporidium spp.). Molecular characterization identified one species of Diphyllobothrium (D. latum), three species of Taenia (T. krabbei, T. hydatigena, and T. multiceps), and two Giardia assemblages (B and C). These results demonstrate the diverse diet of wolves, and illustrate the possibility of parasite spillover among wildlife, domestic animals, and people.<<<Read More>>>