Term of Award

Fall 2019

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Biology

Committee Chair

William Irby

Committee Member 1

Lance Durden

Committee Member 2

Stephen Greiman


In order to analyze the role of coyotes, Canis latrans, as hosts of parasites and arthropod-borne diseases in the state of Georgia, USA, 38 coyotes representing 18 counties and multiple geographic regions of the state were dissected and analyzed for the presence of Dirofilaria immitis, intestinal parasites, ectoparasites, and tick-borne illnesses. Mosquitoes from the locations which the coyotes originated were trapped and analyzed for the presence of D. immitis larvae. In compliance with IACUC guidelines, coyotes were obtained from individuals who had previously hunted or trapped the coyotes for leisure. Parasites were identified based on morphological features with the use of dichotomous and pictorial keys. A total of 1086 parasites were collected: 215 intestinal nematodes, 116 cestodes, 1 acanthocephalan, 359 filarial nematodes, 128 ticks, 10 fleas, and 257 lice. Of the 38 coyotes examined, 21 had adult D. immitis present, 30 had adult parasites or ova present, and 19 had ticks present. Trends in prevalence and burden of parasites among different regions of the state, and different sexes, ages, and sizes of coyotes were analyzed. Three specimens had no parasite of any form present (7.89%), while 11 of the specimens were found to be affected by heartworms, intestinal parasites, and ectoparasites (28.94%). Of 30 specimens analyzed for exposure to tick-borne illness with the SNAP 4dx ELISA test, 10 were found to have been exposed to Ehrlichia canis or Ehrlichia ewingii (33%), and 1 was found to have been exposed to Borrelia burgdorferi (3.33%). Gravid trapping of mosquitoes yielded specimens belonging to 7 species which are vectors of D. immitis. Two mosquitoes were suspected to be infected with D. immitis larvae; however, molecular detection methods must be performed to confirm this. The results of this study provide a more diverse record of parasitism and arthropod-borne diseases in Georgia’s coyote population as samples were taken from as many different locations throughout the state as possible. This study found coyotes to be wildlife hosts and modes of transportation for parasites which can negatively affect the health of both humans and domestic animals.

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Research Data and Supplementary Material