Bat meets tick - a disasterous relationship!

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Friday, 4 October, 2013

Australia's most threatened species of flying fox, the Spectacled Flying Fox (Pteropus conspicillatus) dies in large numbers each spring and summer from paralysis tick (Ixodes hyolocyclus). This terrestrial tick is not usually a predator of arboreal animals. The relationship is unique among bats and is confined to four camps on on the Atherton Tableland, North Queensland. A paper just published estimates the impact of the paralysis tick on the Spectacled Flying Fox population in these camps (Buettner et al 2013). THS Director, Petra Buttner, led the study and other Directors, Ray Muller and Rick Speare, were coauthors.

The paper uses data collected by the Tolga Bat Hospital. This volunteer organisation plays a major role in bat conservation and in protecting the public against bat related diseases such as Australian Bat Lyssavirus. Its Director, Jenny Maclean, was also a coauthor on the paper. This illustrates what a valuable role wildlife care groups can play in monitoring the health of Australia's wildlife.

References:
Buettner PG, Westcott DA, Maclean J, Brown L, McKeown A, Johnson A, Wilson K, Blair D, Luly J, Skerratt L, Muller R, Speare R. Tick paralysis in spectacled flying-foxes (Pteropus conspicillatus) on the Atherton Tableland: impact of a terrestrial ectoparasite finding a non-terrestrial host. PLoS One 2013;8(9):e73078. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0073078

Image is a section of a painting of Spectacled Flying Foxes by THS Director, Kerry Kelly.

Posted by Rick Speare