Journal of Parasitology Research (Jan 2018)

A Survey of Gopherus polyphemus Intestinal Parasites in South Florida

  • Jessica N. Huffman,
  • Kent S. Haizlett,
  • Dana K. Elhassani,
  • Brian T. Cooney,
  • Evelyn M. Frazier

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 2018


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Gopherus polyphemus populations are diminishing throughout their range due to urbanization, fragmentation, and poor habitat management. Increased population densities, poor habitat quality, and lack of fire may influence disease transmission. Parasite roles within wild tortoise populations are largely unknown; despite evidence these pathogens may pose significant health risks. This study provides a baseline of gopher tortoise intestinal parasites across South Florida and reports on how varying environmental and tortoise characteristics may affect intestinal parasite species prevalence and approximate loads. Tortoise fecal samples were taken from six tortoise populations across five South Florida sites. Seven species of intestinal parasites were discovered from 123 tortoises. Identified parasites include endohelminths such as cyathostomes, pinworms, ascarids, flukes, and protozoans including Eimeria, Cryptosporidium, and Amoeba species. Significant differences in parasite prevalence and loads were seen between sites, while parasitism among sex, size class, and habitat type remained relatively ubiquitous.