Date

2019

Major

Biology (B.S.B.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Stephen Greiman

Abstract

Alaskan grouse and ptarmigan (Galliformes) are important avian game species in Alaska. Interestingly, gallids harbor a fairly diverse helminth fauna, particularly cestodes, which may make birds with high parasite loads more susceptible to predation. Unfortunately, there is limited information available on the helminth fauna of Alaskan gallids, and no molecular surveys. The present study aims to develop baseline data on diversity of intestinal and subcutaneous (filariid) helminth infections in galliforms using morphological and molecular (DNA) approaches. These data can then be used to better understand changes in helminth community structure given current environmental volatility. The intestines, cloaca, liver and kidneys of 83 Alaskan gallids (ptarmigan: Lagopus lagopus, L. muta, L. leucura and grouse: Falcipennis canadensis, Bonasa umbellus, Tympanuchus phasianellus, and Dendragapus fuliginosus) and blood/tissues of 564 birds were examined for the presence of helminths (nematodes, cestodes, digeneans). Ten helminth species, including 3 digeneans, 4 cestodes, and 3 nematodes, were found infecting 83 dissected birds. Prevalence of infection was 80.7% across all species. F. canadensis, L. lagopus, and L. muta harbored the highest species richness. PCR and sequencing of 28S rDNA and COI mtDNA verified morphological species designations from DNA extracted from the adult helminths. Real Time PCR using TaqMan probes targeting the 18S rDNA gene was used to test for the presence of filarial nematodes in 564 blood/tissue DNA samples. Prevalence of infection overall was 8.9%. F. canadensis, L. lagopus, L. muta, and T. phasianellus harbored the highest infection rates (F. canadensis @ 25.9%, T. phasianellus @ 16.7%, L. muta @ 3.7%, L. lagopus @ 3.1%). This is the first molecular survey of Alaskan grouse and ptarmigan parasites.

Thesis Summary

Alaskan grouse and ptarmigan are a significant game bird in Alaska and are found to harbor a fairly diverse helminth parasite fauna (flatworms (tapeworms, flukes) and roundworms (nematodes)). Interestingly, these intestinal parasites, particularly cestodes, may make these birds more susceptible to predation. Unfortunately, there is limited information available on the helminth fauna of Alaskan grouse including no molecular DNA surveys.

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