Population structure and dispersal routes of an invasive parasite, Fascioloides magna, in North America and Europe
Giant liver fluke (Fascioloides magna) populations readily expand under suitable conditions. Although extirpated from the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rocky Mountains in the early 1960s, the fluke reappeared following natural spread through mountain passes from British Columbia. Herein, we assessed epizootiology of the fluke population two decades later. Between 1984 and 1991, 534 ungulates, including 381 elk (Cervus canadensis), 68 mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus hemionus), 54 white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), and 31 moose (Alces alces) from adjacent areas of Alberta (AB) and British Columbia (BC), Canada, were examined for giant liver flukes. Prevalence in elk increased from 53% to 79% (1984-91) in Banff National Park (BNP) in AB and 77% to 100% (1985-89) in Kootenay National Park (KNP) in BC. Super-infections (>100 flukes) were more common in later years. Generally, prevalence increased over time and with increasing age of elk. Intensity was lowest in young-of-year (BNP 8±5, KNP 3), but similar in yearlings (BNP 36±11, KNP 23±8) and adults (BNP 33±5, KNP 32±6). Prevalence was similar in male and female elk. Intensity was higher in males (BNP 47±7, KNP 46±12) than in females (BNP 28±6, KNP 22±4), although the maximum number of flukes (545) occurred in a female elk. Prevalence and intensity differed among other species of ungulates but patterns were similar in each park. Prevalence was lower in mule deer (BNP 6%, KNP 4%) than in white-tailed deer (BNP 44%, KNP 28%) and moose (BNP 52%, KNP 63%). Intensity differed among these species but never exceeded 30 flukes. Gravid flukes occurred only in elk and white-tailed deer. Transmission occurred primarily in late summer-fall and in wet habitats. At least seven elk died as a direct result of fluke infection. In this region, elk and white-tailed deer maintain the F. magna population with spillover into moose and, rarely, mule deer.