Trichostome ciliates from Australian marsupials. IV.Distribution of the ciliate fauna
Stephen L. Cameron1,2,* and Peter J.O’Donoghue1
1Department of Microbiology & Parasitology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane 4072, Australia
2Department of Integrative Biology, 401 WIDB, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 84602 ,USA
Trichostome ciliates are associated with many different lineages of herbivorous mammals but there are few comparative studies of these associations in each lineage of herbivores.Here the occurrence of the ciliate fauna in a range of herbivorous marsupials (diprotodonts) is investigated and compared with that of ruminants. A total of 371 potential host animals, representing 33 species and 7 families, were examined for the presence of ciliates.The prevalence of endocommensal ciliates within individual host species varied between 0 and 100%. Of the different dietary groups of marsupials examined, only foregut (macropodids) and hindgut (vombatids) fermentative herbivores were found to harbour ciliates;carnivorous (dasyurids), omnivorous (peramelids) and midgut fermenting herbivores (phalangeroids) all lacked ciliates.The majority of ciliate species were oioxenic,several occurred in closely related hosts and some were able to colonise unnatural hosts in captive populations. Ciliate prevalences were found to vary at all levels:between hosts of different species,between conspecific hosts collected at different localities or seasons and between conspecific hosts at one collecting locality.The faunal composition of the 2 marsupial families which harboured ciliates differed greatly:the vombatid fauna was composed exclusively of amylovoracids whereas the macropodids harboured amylovoracids, polycostids and macropodiniids. In comparison to the ciliate fauna of ruminants,the fauna of macropodids is both depauperate and much more host specific.Low species richness in each host may be due to the large numbers of stomach nematodes in macropodids which compete with and may prey upon the ciliates within the stomach.The high levels of host specificity are probably due to different patterns of ciliate transmission in macropodids as they do not ruminate, eructate or feed indiscriminantly on pasture contaminated with saliva containing ciliates.