Understanding potential implications for non‑trophic parasite transmission based on vertebrate behavior at mesocarnivore carcass sites
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CarnivoreCarrionNon-thropically transmitted parasitesSarcoptes scabieiScavengerWildlife
Gonzálvez, M., Martínez-Carrasco, C. & Moleón, M. Understanding potential implications for non-trophic parasite transmission based on vertebrate behavior at mesocarnivore carcass sites. Vet Res Commun (2021). [https://doi.org/10.1007/s11259-021-09806-2]
SponsorshipMINECO RYC-2015-19231; Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness; European Commission CGL2017-89905-R
High infection risk is often associated with aggregations of animals around attractive resources. Here, we explore the behavior of potential hosts of non-trophically transmitted parasites at mesocarnivore carcass sites. We used videos recorded by camera traps at 56 red fox (Vulpes vulpes) carcasses and 10 carcasses of other wild carnivore species in three areas of southeastern Spain. Scavenging species, especially wild canids, mustelids and viverrids, showed more frequent rubbing behavior at carcass sites than non-scavenging and domestic species, suggesting that they could be exposed to a higher potential infection risk. The red fox was the species that most frequently contacted carcasses and marked and rubbed carcass sites. Foxes contacted heterospecific carcasses more frequently and earlier than conspecific ones and, when close contact occurred, it was more likely to be observed at heterospecific carcasses. This suggests that foxes avoid contact with the type of carcass and time period that have the greatest risk as a source of parasites. Overall, non-trophic behaviors of higher infection risk were mainly associated with visitor-carcass contact and visitor contact with feces and urine, rather than direct contact between visitors. Moreover, contact events between scavengers and carnivore carcasses were far more frequent than consumption events, which suggests that scavenger behavior is more constrained by the risk of acquiring meat-borne parasites than non-trophically transmitted parasites. This study contributes to filling key gaps in understanding the role of carrion in the landscape of disgust, which may be especially relevant in the current global context of emerging and re-emerging pathogens.