Gastrointestinal Parasites of Savanna Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) in Ugalla, Tanzania
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Understanding variability in patterns of parasite infections requires studies of multiple populations inhabiting a variety of habitats. Gastrointestinal parasites of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) have been studied extensively at several forested sites, but the parasite fauna of chimpanzees living in dry, open habitats is less well known. We studied the parasites of savanna chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) living in the Issa Valley, Ugalla (Tanzania). We examined 119 fresh fecal samples using standard coproscopical methods. We detected protozoans including Blastocystis sp., Entamoeba coli, E. histolytica/dispar, Iodamoeba buetschlii, Troglodytella abrassarti, and Troglocorys cava, but only two types of spirurid nematodes among the helminths. The parasites of the Ugalla chimpanzees differ from those of forest chimpanzees in the absence of Strongyloides sp. and strongylid nematodes and a high prevalence of spirurids. Strongylids and Strongyloides sp. have thin-shelled eggs and larvae, which develop in the external environment; thus they may not be able to survive for prolonged periods in the extreme environment of Ugalla. The Ugalla chimpanzees also live at a lower population density and exhibit a larger home range than forest chimpanzees, factors that may lead to lower exposure to infective nematode larvae. Spirurid eggs, however, have thick shells and a life cycle dependent on intermediary hosts, making their survival and transmission in such extreme conditions more feasible. These differences between parasite fauna of closed and open forest chimpanzees contribute to our understanding of the ecology of infectious disease, and have the potential to contribute to conservation policies and practices.