Parasitology Research

, Volume 112, Issue 10, pp 3527–3536 | Cite as

Macroparasite community of the Eurasian red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris): poor species richness and diversity

  • Claudia Romeo
  • Benoît Pisanu
  • Nicola Ferrari
  • Franck Basset
  • Laurent Tillon
  • Lucas A. Wauters
  • Adriano Martinoli
  • Nicola Saino
  • Jean-Louis Chapuis
Original Paper


The Eurasian red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) is the only naturally occurring tree squirrel throughout its range. We aim at improving current knowledge on its macroparasite fauna, expecting that it will have a poor parasite diversity because in species that have no sympatric congeners parasite richness should be lower than in hosts sharing their range with several closely related species, where host-switching events and lateral transmission are promoted. We examined gastro-intestinal helminth and ectoparasite communities (excluding mites) of, respectively, 147 and 311 red squirrel roadkills collected in four biogeographic regions in Italy and France. As expected, the macroparasite fauna was poor: we found five species of nematodes and some unidentified cestodes, three fleas, two sucking lice and two hard ticks. The helminth community was dominated by a single species, the oxyurid Trypanoxyuris (Rodentoxyuris) sciuri (prevalence, 87 %; mean abundance, 373 ± 65 worms/host). Its abundance varied among seasons and biogeographic regions and increased with body mass in male hosts while decreased in females. The most prevalent ectoparasites were the flea Ceratophyllus (Monopsyllus) sciurorum (28 %), whose presence was affected by season, and the generalist tick Ixodes (Ixodes) ricinus that was found only in France (34 %). All the other helminths and arthropod species were rare, with prevalence below 10 %. However, the first record of Strongyloides robustus, a common nematode of North American Eastern grey squirrels (S. carolinensis), in two red squirrels living in areas where this alien species co-inhabits, deserves further attention, since low parasite richness could result in native red squirrels being particularly vulnerable to parasite spillover.


Biogeographic Region Grey Squirrel Hard Tick Helminth Community Edible Dormouse 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank The French Ministry of Ecology (MEDDE), and the French National Forestry Office (ONF) for funding. Field collection could not have been possible without the help of the LIFE09 NAT/IT/00095 EC-SQUARE, ONF French Mammal Network, Trento and Sondrio Provinces, Stelvio National Park, Piedmont Regional Parks, Carmagnola Museum and the various people who have collected squirrels, with special thanks to Sandro Bertolino and Gwenaël Landais. Many thanks to Anne Dozières, Christie Le Coeur, Carole Lapèyre, Leila Luise, Charlotte Récapet, Francesca Santicchia and Sara Vedovato for their kind assistance in laboratory analyses. Many thanks to Jean-Claude Beaucournu who initiated the identification of fleas at an early stage of this study and to Damiano Preatoni who produced Fig. 1.

Supplementary material

436_2013_3535_MOESM1_ESM.doc (1.3 mb)
ESM 1 (DOC 1361 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claudia Romeo
    • 1
  • Benoît Pisanu
    • 2
  • Nicola Ferrari
    • 3
  • Franck Basset
    • 4
  • Laurent Tillon
    • 5
  • Lucas A. Wauters
    • 6
  • Adriano Martinoli
    • 6
  • Nicola Saino
    • 1
  • Jean-Louis Chapuis
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiosciencesUniversità degli Studi di MilanoMilanItaly
  2. 2.Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Department of Ecology and Biodiversity ManagementParis Cedex 05France
  3. 3.Department of Veterinary Sciences and Public Health,Università degli Studi di MilanoMilanItaly
  4. 4.Office National des ForêtsLons-le-SaunierFrance
  5. 5.Office National des Forêts, Department of Environment and Sustainable DevelopmentParis Cedex 12France
  6. 6.Department of Theoretical and Applied SciencesUniversità dell’InsubriaVareseItaly

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