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First description of sarcoptic mange in wild European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)

Abstract

The European wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is a keystone species in the Iberian Mediterranean ecosystems being the staple prey of protected and endangered predators. Wild rabbits were once widespread, but the introduction of two viral diseases, myxomatosis in the 1950s and the rabbit hemorrhagic disease in 1989, resulted into a dramatic decline of its populations. Sarcoptic mange is a highly contagious parasitic infection caused by Sarcoptes scabiei. The first cases of sarcoptic mange in a wild rabbit population are recorded from a hunting area in Majorca (Balearic Islands, Spain). Five of 32 inspected rabbits (14.7%) were affected, with similar prevalences in summer and autumn. Sarcoptes scabiei were obtained from the edge of the lesions of two of the rabbits. The most frequently observed lesions were small areas of alopecia and crusts in the limbs. Affected limbs presented also a marked hypertrichosis and an apparent abnormal growth of the nails. One rabbit also presented lesions around mouth and nostrils. Parasitized rabbits were in significant lower body condition than healthy ones. According to previous reports of mange epizooties in other naïve wild species that caused marked short-term effects in their populations, this disease may pose a risk for the conservation of wild rabbit and their predators. Whether mange is endemic in rabbits from Majorca or it has been introduced is unknown. Game managers are encouraged to be aware of introducing sarcoptic mange during rabbit translocations.

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Acknowledgements

I wish to thank A. Barceló and the S’Horta Hunters Association, B. Seguí (Conselleria de Medi Ambient, Balearic Islands Government), and J. M. Prieto and R. Casais (SERIDA, Asturias) for their advice. This work was funded by Conselleria de Medi Ambient, Govern de les Illes Balears (contract No. 5893/2008).

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Correspondence to Javier Millán.

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Communicated by W. Lutz

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Millán, J. First description of sarcoptic mange in wild European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Eur J Wildl Res 56, 455–457 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10344-009-0347-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10344-009-0347-3

Keywords

  • Lagomorphs
  • Oryctolagus cuniculus
  • Sarcoptic mange
  • Sarcoptes scabiei