Abstract

Serum samples from 419 polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from Svalbard and the Barents Sea (collected 1990–2000) and 108 polar bears from East Greenland (collected 1999–2004) were assayed for antibodies against Toxoplasma gondii using the modified agglutination test. Antibody prevalences were 3.6% among cubs dependent on their mothers and 21.4% among subadults and adults. Among subadults and adults there was an interaction between population and sex, with similar prevalences among females (Svalbard = 19.5%, Greenland = 18.0%), but a high frequency among Svalbard males (28.7%) as compared to Greenland males (5.8%). The pattern was also significant after correcting for differences in age distribution. The sex-population interaction term is believed to be connected to area- and sex-specific feeding ecology. The prevalences of antibodies against T. gondii in Svalbard and Greenland were high compared to previously reported findings in polar bears from Russian and Alaskan areas.

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