Population dynamics of nematode parasites of reindeer in the sub-arctic.

Research paper by J T JT Hrabok, A A Oksanen, M M Nieminen, P J PJ Waller

Indexed on: 29 Aug '06Published on: 29 Aug '06Published in: Veterinary Parasitology


Nematode parasite infections of semi-domestic reindeer grazing in their natural habitat in northern Finland were monitored for approximately 2 years. This was achieved by monthly faecal egg counts of male and female calves and adult females from an experimental reindeer herd, in addition to estimating the acquisition of nematode infection from pasture using tracer reindeer calves. The most abundant parasite was Ostertagia gruehneri in the worm counts of tracer animals and in faecal egg counts of adult female reindeer. Capillaria sp. eggs were detected in calves and adults, but Nematodirinae eggs were only recovered from calves. Faecal egg counts showed variations between months for each nematode species, with male and female calves shedding similar numbers of eggs. During each year, calves shed more Capillaria sp. eggs than adult female reindeer, but similar numbers of O. gruehneri eggs. Egg counts of O. gruehneri were more abundant in late summer-autumn (July-September), whereas Capillaria sp. and the Nematodirinae dominated the winter months (November-February). The seasonal trends of adult worm burdens of O. gruehneri in the tracers paralleled the egg count patterns. Capillaria sp. was not detected in tracer worm counts. Tracer worm burdens showed that the proportion of inhibited larvae of O. gruehneri and Nematodirinae steadily increased from spring to early winter, followed by a decline and a commensurate increase in the number of adult parasites in the second summer. This investigation showed that parasite transmission occurs continuously throughout the year for nematode parasites of reindeer in northern Finland.