Factors affecting Sarcocystis infection of rats on small tropical islands
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The purpose of our research was to explore the limits of rat-python-Sarcocystis distribution among rats on the offshore tropical islands of Singapore, and to examine the effect of island size, insular isolation, landscape peculiarities and anthropogenic disturbance. Commensal rats (Rattus rattus) inhabited all of these islands, regardless of the island’s size, proximity to the mainland, biogeographic features, and/or degree of anthropogenic interference. Rats caught on Sakijang Pelepah Island had well deliminated white bellies that are similar to those of sylvatic or feral rats. The prevalence of Sarcocystis spp. on individual islands ranged from 57 to 100%. This is consistent with the range found in forested habitats on Singapore Island. It also exhibited a similar diversity to Sarcocystis spp. and the predominance of Sarcocystis singaporensis. On Sakijang Pelepah Island, one rat (white bellied) was exceptionally heavily infected with both Sarcocystis villivilosi and Sarcocystis sulawesiensis. The muscles of the rats from nearly all of the islands contained immature sarcocysts, which implies that active transmission is taking place on these islands. This suggests that reticulated pythons (Python reticulatus), which are the definitive hosts of rat Sarcocystis, might have been established or frequented in all the islands of Singapore. Our study shows that the Sarcocystis infection load of the rats was negatively correlated with human disturbance, hinting that human disturbance restricts the pythons’ mobility and thus, reduces infection of Sarcocytis in the islands rats.
Key wordsoffshore islands Rattus rattus, Sarcocystis spp. Singapore
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