Date of Award
Union College Only
Bachelor of Science
parasites, ecology, host, squirrels, chipmunks, eggs, data, species
Parasites play an extensive role in ecological systems. Any important response in a host can be altered by the presence of a parasite, including reproduction, behavior, overall health, and immune response. Here, I examine the roles of parasites of Sciuridae (Gray squirrels—Sciurus carolinensis and Eastern chipmunks—Tamias striatus). Animals were trapped at Union College in Schenectady, NY and at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY during August and September, 2009. Eggs of parasites were isolated from fecal samples using both qualitative (floatation) and quantitative (McMaster) techniques. I identified six helminth species and one protozoan species, and then looked at the differences in species richness and egg intensity between the Cary population (rural) and Union College population (urban). There was a decrease in parasite species richness in the urban area, as well as an increase in egg intensity in the squirrel population. These changes in parasite fauna across the urban-rural gradient are important because of the increasing impact of urbanization and the abundance of squirrels in cities. In addition to the urbanization question, I looked at the interactions between external parasites (Ixodes ticks) and internal helminth and protozoa species in the animals trapped at the Cary Institute. While no relationship was found in squirrels, chipmunks had a positive relationship between tick body burden and helminth egg burden. Although both of these data sets are preliminary data, they demonstrate the importance of interactions between parasite species and the possible influence of external environment on hosts and their parasites.
O'Connor, Kathleen E., "An analysis of the parasite communities of New York gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) and Eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus)" (2010). Honors Theses. 1201.