Abstract

The members of the African mole-rat family Bathyergidae are widely distributed across sub-Saharan Africa. Despite their well-studied biology and reproductive physiology, the current knowledge of their ectoparasite fauna is limited and ambiguous due to recent revisions of the bathyergid taxonomy. The common mole-rat (Cryptomys hottentotus hottentotus) is 1 of the most widely distributed species of these subterranean rodents. Ectoparasites were collected from 268 common mole-rats at 2 localities (Western and Northern Cape provinces) in South Africa over the course of 18 mo with the aim to document species richness, prevalence, and abundance of these ectoparasites. The aggregation of parasite species, sex bias within a species, and seasonal variation in ectoparasite burdens were investigated. A total of 4,830 individual parasites from 4 mite species (Androlaelaps scapularis, Androlaelaps capensis, Radfordia ensifera, and 1 undetermined chigger [family Trombiculidae]), 1 flea species (Cryptopsylla ingrami), and 1 louse species (Eulinognathus hilli) were collected. With the exception of R. ensifera and the chigger, all of these ectoparasites appear to be host specific either for the host species or the Bathyergidae. Aggregation indices indicated that with the exception of E. hilli, the distribution of all parasite species was highly aggregated among hosts and sex biased. Seasonal variation in prevalence, abundance, and species richness was apparent, with greater burdens in the rainy winter season. This is likely related to seasonal variation in abiotic factors but may also be affected by the timing of host reproduction and dispersal behavior.

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