Study reveals disease-causing parasites in dead otters

Jun 18, 2013
Study reveals disease-causing parasites in dead otters

Research undertaken by the Cardiff University Otter Project has revealed a number of disease-causing parasites in the bodies of dead otters. The findings were revealed at the BBC Summer of Wildlife event held at the National Museum of Wales.

Spread by cat and present in 39.5% of otters examined was Toxoplasma gondii - the most insidious of the parasites. Findings showed that the infection was prevalent across many areas of the UK, with significantly more cases arising in the East. How this affects otters is yet to be determined – further investigation in this area is planned - but in humans the parasite can lead to miscarriage and retinal abnormalities.

were found in 18.3% of otters – these could be divided into two species: Pseudamphistomum truncatum and Metorchis albidus. The former is native to Eastern Europe and infects a range of wild ; both are associated with pathological damage to the . Dissections of affected otters revealed gall bladders to be inflamed or thickened. Both parasites can infect any fish eating mammal – including humans.

A species of tick called Ixodes hexagonus was found in nearly a quarter of otters (24.3%). Up to 122 ticks per otter were identified. More ticks were found on younger otters than adults. Scientists reason that this is likely due to younger otters tending to spend more time in the holt (an otter den). As otters are common carriers of this tick, this may have implications for , which can infect humans and their .

Speaking of these findings, Dr Elizabeth Chadwick said:

"The project's research on the parasites that infect otters has revealed previously unknown aspects of their distribution and ecology. Continued work is necessary to help us to better understand their transmission pathways and the impacts that they have on otters, other wildlife and human health. "

Members of the public were also be encouraged to learn about how otters communicate by the smell of their spraint. By analysing otter scent, researchers have uncovered the complex nature of scent communication in otters, and demonstrated that scent differs between individuals, with reproductive cycle, with country of origin, and with genotype.

Cardiff University's Project Splatter was also be unveiled at the event, where people were encouraged to become a 'Splatter Spotter'. The project aims to reduce wildlife road casualties in the UK using data supplied by the public. Project Splatter collects UK wildlife road casualty data via Twitter and Facebook with a view to identify roadkill hotspots. By collating data across the country, researchers can identify roadkill 'hotspots' for future mitigation projects and help preserve our wildlife.

Explore further: The right amount of grazing builds diverse forest ecosystems

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Are chemicals damaging the health of male otters?

Feb 26, 2013

A new report has highlighted serious concerns for the health of otters in the UK. The otter is one of the country's best loved predator species, but research indicates that they may not be in the best of ...

New light on otter mystery

Jul 19, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The solitary and mysterious lives of British otters are being uncovered by Cardiff scientists – thanks to help from the public.

Otters show disease could be in our rivers

Jun 06, 2013

For the first time scientists have shown that the disease Toxoplasmosis is widespread in animals found in the UK's water systems. If the disease is common in our rivers it could mean that humans are at a ...

Sea Otters' Diet is Clue to Slow Recovery

Feb 12, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- UC Davis researchers trying to understand the sea otter's slow recovery in California have found an important clue: Some sea otters feed almost exclusively on animals that raise their risk of being infected ...

Recommended for you

Seeds keep vital much longer when stored without oxygen

2 hours ago

If seed breeding companies, gene banks and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on Spitsbergen should store plant seeds under oxygen-poor conditions, it would be possible to store them for much longer while still ...

Native species may be hindering fox control efforts

2 hours ago

Native species interfering with ground distributed baits used to control red foxes in south west Western Australia may mean the baits are not available to the target species, a Murdoch University study has ...

Giant anteaters kill two hunters in Brazil

Jul 26, 2014

Giant anteaters in Brazil have killed two hunters in separate incidents, raising concerns about the animals' loss of habitat and the growing risk of dangerous encounters with people, researchers said.

Study indicates large raptors in Africa used for bushmeat

Jul 24, 2014

Bushmeat, the use of native animal species for food or commercial food sale, has been heavily documented to be a significant factor in the decline of many species of primates and other mammals. However, a new study indicates ...

User comments : 0