Poster Presentation 64th International Conference of the Wildlife Disease Association 2015

Host-parasite interactions and dermal mycoflora of New Zealand reptiles (#125)

Rebecca Webster 1 , Brett Gartrell 1
  1. Wildbase Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

New Zealand is home to a large number of endemic reptiles, including the Tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus). 46% of these species are listed as endangered or threatened. There have only been limited studies on the presence and significance of parasites and microflora. Opportunistic sampling from endemic reptiles has detected a large number of as yet unidentified parasites. Many of these parasites appear to belong to orders reported to cause significant pathology in other reptile species.

The dermal mycoflora of New Zealand reptiles is similarly poorly studied beyond several case studies describing mycotic dermatitis. Of concern to wild population health, a newly emerging fungal pathogen, Paranannizziopsis australasiensis has recently been diagnosed at two captive facilities in New Zealand. The origin of these infections and the prevalence of this organism in wild and captive reptile populations in New Zealand is currently unknown.

New Zealand reptiles are often exposed to varying environmental conditions, as a result of intensive conservation activities, such as captive breeding and translocations, and also due to the changing climate. This study aims to investigate the mechanisms by which changing climatic conditions can affect host-parasite relationships in captive and wild reptiles endemic to New Zealand. Three reptile groups, (tuatara, geckoes and skinks) will be sampled from 3 populations (captive, wild and translocated) to investigate the prevalence and significance of endoparasites and fungal flora. A captive population will also be kept for the purpose of examining the effects of environmental manipulation on the host-parasite relationship. As reptiles are poikilothermic animals it is hypothesised that a change in climate will have a significant effect on the host-parasite relationship and dermal mycoflora. This study will help to improve the baseline knowledge of parasites and microflora of endemic reptiles and will have implications for the future conservation management of New Zealand reptiles.