The sticktight flea, (Echidnophaga gallinacea), a major pest of the domestic chicken (Gallus gallus) that can cause severe pathology or death if untreated, is rarely recorded in free-living avian species. Sticktight fleas, however, were observed on the federally threatened Florida scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) in February 2004, in south central Florida. Of the 81 Florida scrub-jays (FSJs) sampled before the 2004 breeding season, 12 were infested, with from 1 to as many as 57 fleas. Subsequent survivorship and variation in health indices led us to conclude that the sticktight flea caused the death of several jays. Within 4 mo, 46% of sticktight flea-infested (INF) jays died, whereas in the nonflea-infested (NINF) jays, only 5.9% died. Adult INF birds lost body mass in the time since a previous capture compared with NINF jays, and mass gain was slowed in 1-yr-old INF jays. Hematocrit of INF jays was dramatically impacted, as low as 17%, and was negatively correlated with the extent of infestation. Leukocyte counts were highest in INF jays; however, plasma immunoglobulin levels were lowest. Physiological stress levels, measured using plasma corticosterone, increased more rapidly in INF jays than NINF jays and were positively correlated with heterophil/lymphocyte ratios. The impact of the sticktight flea on the federally threatened FSJ negates previous findings that sticktight fleas are benign in wild avian hosts.
AN INTRODUCED GENERALIST PARASITE, THE STICKTIGHT FLEA (ECHIDNOPHAGA GALLINACEA), AND ITS PATHOLOGY IN THE THREATENED FLORIDA SCRUB-JAY (APHELOCOMA COERULESCENS)
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R. K. Boughton, J. W. Atwell, S. J. Schoech; AN INTRODUCED GENERALIST PARASITE, THE STICKTIGHT FLEA (ECHIDNOPHAGA GALLINACEA), AND ITS PATHOLOGY IN THE THREATENED FLORIDA SCRUB-JAY (APHELOCOMA COERULESCENS). J Parasitol 1 October 2006; 92 (5): 941–948. doi: https://doi.org/10.1645/GE-769R.1
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