Nematode community structure in the brush-tailed rock-wallaby, Petrogale penicillata: Implications of captive breeding and the translocation of wildlife
Despite an increasing appreciation of the disease risks associated with wild-life translocations, the effects which captive breeding programs exert on parasite communities remain understudied. This may be attributed, in part, to the current lack of rapid and cost-effective techniques for comparing parasite assemblages between host populations. Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis of the rDNA region encompassing the internal transcribed spacers (ITS-1 and ITS-2) and 5.8S rRNA gene was used to characterise bursate nematode communities (suborder Strongylida) across two captive and two non-captive colonies of the threatened brush-tailed rock-wallaby, Petrogale penicillata. A clone library was constructed and a restriction enzyme selected to differentiate the predominant operational taxonomic units (OTUs) by the unique peak profiles they generated. The prevalence, intensity of infection and comparative structure of strongylid assemblages was evaluated for each of the host colonies. Compared to wild conspecifics, captive wallabies exhibited a reduced prevalence of infection and significantly lower faecal egg counts. T-RFLP revealed that a high proportion of the OTUs co-occurred across three of the four study locations. Despite this, the composition of strongylid assemblages was significantly different between the colonies, even when host translocation events had occurred. These results suggest that captive breeding programs may exert a profound impact on parasitic helminth assemblages. Developing efficient techniques for characterising community dynamics in potentially pathogenic organisms is critical to the long term success of species recovery efforts worldwide.