Mosquitoes as a Potential Vector of Ranavirus Transmission in Terrestrial Turtles
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Ranaviruses are significant pathogens of amphibians, reptiles, and fishes, contributing to mass mortality events worldwide. Despite an increasing focus on ranavirus ecology, our understanding of ranavirus transmission, especially among reptilian hosts, remains limited. For example, experimental evidence for oral transmission of the virus in chelonians is mixed. Consequently, vector-borne transmission has been hypothesized in terrestrial turtle species. To test this hypothesis, mosquitoes captured during a 2012/2013 ranavirus outbreak in box turtles from southwestern Indiana were pooled by genus and tested for ranavirus DNA using qPCR. Two of 30 pools tested positive for ranavirus. Additionally, an individual Aedes sp. mosquito observed engorging on a box turtle also tested positive for ranavirus. Although our approach does not rule out the possibility that the sequenced ranavirus was simply from virus in bloodmeal, it does suggests that mosquitoes may be involved in virus transmission as a mechanical or biological vector among ectothermic vertebrates. While additional studies are needed to elucidate the exact role of mosquitoes in ranavirus ecology, our study suggests that a greater focus on vector-borne transmission may be necessary to fully understand ranaviral disease dynamics in herpetofauna.
KeywordsAedes box turtle Iridoviridae Ochlerotatus Terrapene
We are grateful for the assistance of C. Bienz, K. DeRolf, O. Hernandez-Gomez, M. Hiatt, S. Klueh-Mundy, J. Keith, B. and V. McCoy, J. Mirtl, F. Owens, S. Raiman, A. Rohde, J. Rucker and his amazing turtle dogs, K. Smith, A. Wang, M. Wedge, V. Wuerthner, B. Zinman, and C. Rich. Support was provided by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fish and Wildlife, Wildlife Diversity Section, State Wildlife Improvement Grant E2-14-WDP001 and the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University. Turtles were collected and housed under the auspices of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the United States Fish and Wildlife Services and sampled under IACUC protocol 1303000835 from Purdue University.
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