Investigation into individual health and exposure to infectious agents of platypuses (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) in two river catchments in northwest Tasmania
Macgregor, JW and Holyoake, CS and Munks, SA and Connolly, JH and Robertson, ID and Fleming, PA and Warren, KS, Investigation into individual health and exposure to infectious agents of platypuses (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) in two river catchments in northwest Tasmania, Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 53, (2) pp. 258-271. ISSN 0090-3558 (2017) [Refereed Article]
Changes in the health of individuals within wildlife populations can be a cause or effect of population declines in wildlife species. Aspects of individual platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) health have been reported. However, holistic studies investigating potential synergistic effects of both pathogens and environmental factors are needed to expand understanding of platypus individual health. We collected baseline data on the health of platypuses in two Tasmanian river catchments (including evidence of the potentially fatal fungal disease mucormycosis) and on individual, demographic, and geographic patterns associated with health data results. We examined 130 wild platypuses from the Inglis River Catchment and 24 platypuses from the Seabrook Creek Catchment in northwest Tasmania between 29 August 2011 and 31 August 2013. More than 90% of captured platypuses were infected with ticks, Theileria spp., and trypanosomes. Evidence of exposure to other infections, including Salmonella spp., Leptospira spp., and intestinal parasites, was low (<10%). Three platypuses had single fungal granulomas in the webbing of a forefoot, but no evidence of mucormycosis was found in any of the study animals. Possible subclinical hepatopathies or cholangiohepatopathies were found in six platypuses. Exposure to infectious agents did not cluster geographically, demographically, or in individuals, and there was minimal evidence of morbidity resulting from infection. This study has provided important baseline data for monitoring the effects of threatening processes, including mucormycosis, on the health of infected populations.