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The avian acanthocephalan Plagiorhynchus cylindraceus (Palaeacanthocephala) parasitizing the European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) in Europe and New Zealand
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by J Skuballa, H Taraschewski, T Petney, M Pfäffle, L Smales
The palaeacanthocephalan Plagiorhynchus cylindraceus is a common intestinal parasite of passerine birds, which can also occur parenterally or in the intestinal tract of mammals, often as an invading species in many countries worldwide. In this survey, introduced hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus, n=183) killed in New Zealand during a biocontrol campaign and conspecifics (n=174) that had died in hedgehog rehabilitation centers in Germany and Britain were examined for this parasite. In New Zealand, P. cylindraceus is recorded for the first time here, in the vicinity of Auckland. In Europe, prevalences ranged from 4.2% up to 47.6%, while in New Zealand, only 1.6% (Auckland 7.9%). Most of the worms occurred inside the peritoneal cavity where they had partly degenerated. Since hedgehogs are seldom preyed upon in continental Europe but often become traffic victims, we hypothesize that the worms inside them, whether extra- or intraperitoneally, contribute to the abundance and persistence of the parasite by being ingested by scavenging birds. Accordingly, we consider P. cylindraceus as a "modern parasite" taking advantage of two aspects of global change: anthropogenic promoted transmission (road kills) and the transcontinental spread of infected intermediate and/or final hosts caused by humans.