Publications by authors named "Constanza Napolitano"

22 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Widespread Infection with Hemotropic Mycoplasmas in Free-Ranging Dogs and Wild Foxes Across Six Bioclimatic Regions of Chile.

Microorganisms 2021 Apr 24;9(5). Epub 2021 Apr 24.

Facultad de Ciencias de la Vida, Universidad Andres Bello, República 440, Santiago 8320000, Chile.

Blood samples of 626 rural dogs, 140 Andean foxes (), and 83 South American grey foxes () from six bioregions of Chile spanning 3000 km were screened for DNA by conventional PCR and sequencing. Risk factors of infection were inferred using Generalized Linear Mixed Models and genetic structure by network analyses. Overall, / (/) and Mycoplasma haematoparvum (Mhp) observed prevalence was 23.8% and 12.8% in dogs, 20.1% and 7.2% in Andean foxes, and 26.5% and 8.4% in grey foxes, respectively. Both hemoplasmas were confirmed in all the bioregions, with higher prevalence in those where ticks from the species group were absent. M. haematominutum and a sp. previously found in South American carnivores were detected in one fox each. Although the most prevalent and Mhp sequence types were shared between dogs and foxes, network analysis revealed genetic structure of between hosts in some regions. Male sex was associated with a higher risk of and Mhp infection in dogs, and adult age with Mhp infection, suggesting that direct transmission is relevant. No risk factor was identified in foxes. Our study provides novel information about canine hemoplasmas with relevance in distribution, transmission routes, and cross-species transmission.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms9050919DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8145368PMC
April 2021

Cross-species transmission of retroviruses among domestic and wild felids in human-occupied landscapes in Chile.

Evol Appl 2021 Apr 27;14(4):1070-1082. Epub 2021 Jan 27.

Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad (IEB) Santiago Chile.

Human transformation of natural habitats facilitates pathogen transmission between domestic and wild species. The guigna (), a small felid found in Chile, has experienced habitat loss and an increased probability of contact with domestic cats. Here, we describe the interspecific transmission of feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) between domestic cats and guignas and assess its correlation with human landscape perturbation. Blood and tissue samples from 102 free-ranging guignas and 262 domestic cats were collected and analyzed by PCR and sequencing. Guigna and domestic cat FeLV and FIV prevalence were very similar. Phylogenetic analysis showed guigna FeLV and FIV sequences are positioned within worldwide domestic cat virus clades with high nucleotide similarity. Guigna FeLV infection was significantly associated with fragmented landscapes with resident domestic cats. There was little evidence of clinical signs of disease in guignas. Our results contribute to the understanding of the implications of landscape perturbation and emerging diseases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/eva.13181DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8061269PMC
April 2021

Puma () in the Neighborhood? Records Near Human Settlements and Insights into Human-Carnivore Coexistence in Central Chile.

Animals (Basel) 2021 Mar 31;11(4). Epub 2021 Mar 31.

Unidad de Vida Silvestre, Servicio Agrícola y Ganadero (SAG), Región de O'Higgins, Rancagua 2820000, Chile.

The wildland-urban interface lies at the confluence of human-dominated and wild landscapes-creating a number of management and conservation challenges. Wildlife sightings near human settlements have appeared to increase in the last years. This article reports 51 records of presences, sightings, and livestock attacks of , a large-sized felid, collected from 2012 to 2020 across the O'Higgins region in central Chile. Puma records were concentrated in the east of the region in the Andes Range and foothills (90%). The number of puma records is higher in the last four to six years than in previously studied years. Of the 51 records, 23.5% are between 0 and 999 m from the nearest human settlement (classified as very close), 25.5% are between 1000 and 4999 m (moderately close), and 51% are over 5000 m (distant). Most of the sightings are recorded in the summer (35%) and spring (29%). We identify an area of approximately 9000 km of suitable habitat as the most probable corridor effectively connecting pumas moving between eastern and western areas, encompassing the Angostura de Paine mountain range. Our results contribute to the understanding of the presence and movements of near urban areas and human settlements, confirming their persistence in and adaptation to human-dominated landscapes. We also provide insights into human-carnivore coexistence in the current global context in the densely populated central Chile.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ani11040965DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8066551PMC
March 2021

Molecular Survey of Parvoviruses and Mycoplasma spp. in Invasive American Mink (Neovison vison) from Southern Chile.

J Wildl Dis 2021 01;57(1):234-237

Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas y Biodiversidad, Universidad de Los Lagos, Avenida Fuchslocher 1305, Osorno, Chile.

Using PCR, we evaluated the presence of parvoviruses and Mycoplasma spp. in 123 American mink (Neovison vison), an introduced invasive carnivore in Chile. Our results showed all analyzed animals were negative for both pathogen groups. We cannot completely dismiss their presence, but if present, their prevalence should be lower than 2%.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.7589/JWD-D-20-00047DOI Listing
January 2021

Identification of Novel Feline Paramyxoviruses in Guignas () from Chile.

Viruses 2020 12 6;12(12). Epub 2020 Dec 6.

Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas y Biodiversidad, Universidad de Los Lagos, Avenida Fuchslocher 1305, Osorno 5290000, Chile.

The family of paramyxoviruses has received growing attention as several new species have been identified recently, notably two different clusters in domestic cats, designated as feline morbillivirus (FeMV) and feline paramyxovirus (FPaV). Their phylogenetic origin and whether wild felids also harbor these viruses are currently unknown. Kidney samples from 35 guignas (), a wild felid from Chile, were investigated for paramyxoviruses using consensus-RT-PCR. In addition, thirteen serum samples of guignas were screened for the presence of FeMV-specific antibodies by an immunofluorescence assay (IFA). Viral RNA was detected in 31% of the kidney samples. Phylogenetic analyses revealed two well-supported clusters, related to isolates from domestic cats, rodents and bats. No significant histopathology changes were recorded in infected guignas. Serology identified two samples which were positive for FeMV-specific antibodies. Our study highlights the diversity of paramyxovirus infections in felids with special emphasis on guignas from Chile.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/v12121397DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7762136PMC
December 2020

Epidemiology and molecular characterization of Carnivore protoparvovirus-1 infection in the wild felid Leopardus guigna in Chile.

Transbound Emerg Dis 2020 Nov 25. Epub 2020 Nov 25.

Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas y Biodiversidad, Universidad de Los Lagos, Osorno, Chile.

Landscape anthropization has been identified as one of the main drivers of pathogen emergence worldwide, facilitating pathogen spillover between domestic species and wildlife. The present study investigated Carnivore protoparvovirus-1 infection using molecular methods in 98 free-ranging wild guignas (Leopardus guigna) and 262 co-occurring owned, free-roaming rural domestic cats. We also assessed landscape anthropization variables as potential drivers of infection. Protoparvovirus DNA was detected in guignas across their entire distribution range, with observed prevalence of 13.3% (real-time PCR) and 9% (conventional PCR) in guignas, and 6.1% (conventional PCR) in cats. Prevalence in guigna did not vary depending on age, sex, study area or landscape variables. Prevalence was higher in juvenile cats (16.7%) than in adults (4.4%). Molecular characterization of the virus by amplification and sequencing of almost the entire vp2 gene (1,746 bp) from one guigna and five domestic cats was achieved, showing genetic similarities to canine parvovirus 2c (CPV-2c) (one guigna and one cat), feline panleukopenia virus (FPV) (one cat), CPV-2 (no subtype identified) (two cats), CPV-2a (one cat). The CVP-2c-like sequence found in a guigna clustered together with domestic cat and dog CPV-2c sequences from South America, suggesting possible spillover from a domestic to a wild species as the origin of infection in guigna. No clinical signs of disease were found in PCR-positive animals except for a CPV-2c-infected guigna, which had haemorrhagic diarrhoea and died a few days after arrival at a wildlife rescue centre. Our findings reveal widespread presence of Carnivore protoparvovirus-1 across the guigna distribution in Chile and suggest that virus transmission potentially occurs from domestic to wild carnivores, causing severe disease and death in susceptible wild guignas.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/tbed.13937DOI Listing
November 2020

High seroprevalence of feline morbilliviruses in free-roaming domestic cats in Chile.

Arch Virol 2021 Jan 20;166(1):281-285. Epub 2020 Nov 20.

Institute of Virology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Leipzig University, An den Tierkliniken 29, 04103, Leipzig, Germany.

Feline morbillivirus infections have gained increased attention due to repeated reports of their association with urinary tract disease in cats. In the present study, 112 serum samples from free-roaming domestic cats in Chile were tested for antibodies against feline morbillivirus genotypes 1 and 2 (FeMV-1 and FeMV-2) using an indirect immunofluorescence assay. In total, 63% of the animals showed antibodies against one or both FeMV genotypes. Antibodies directed exclusively against FeMV-2 were significantly more prevalent in male cats. The correlation of sex and FeMV-2 infection might give insight into potential routes of transmission. We provide, for the first time, serological data on FeMV in Chile.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00705-020-04882-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7815546PMC
January 2021

Domestic dog origin of Carnivore Protoparvovirus 1 infection in a rescued free-ranging guiña (Leopardus guigna) in Chile.

Transbound Emerg Dis 2021 May 4;68(3):1062-1068. Epub 2020 Sep 4.

Departamentode PatologíayMedicina Preventiva, FacultaddeCiencias Veterinarias, Universidad de Concepción, Chillán, Chile.

Carnivore protoparvovirus 1 is one of the most important pathogens affecting both wild and domestic carnivores. Here, we reported the genetic characterization of canine parvovirus (CPV-2) strains from a rescued guiña (Leopardus guigna) and domestic dogs from Chile. Guiña strain was classified as CPV-2c, and phylogenetic analysis of the complete coding genome showed that the guiña CPV-2c strain shares a recent common ancestor with Chilean domestic dogs' strains. These viruses showed >99% identity and exhibited three changes in the NS1 protein (V596A, E661K and L582F). This is the first detection and genetic characterization of CPV-2c infection in guiña worldwide, and one of the few comparative studies that show the source of infection was domestic dogs. The current findings highlight the fact that guiña is a susceptible species to protoparvovirus infection and that domestic dogs represent an important threat to its conservation. The CPV-2 cross-species transmission between domestic dogs and guiña should be taken into account for protection programmes of this endangered species.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/tbed.13807DOI Listing
May 2021

Gastrointestinal and cardiorespiratory endoparasites in the wild felid guigna ( in Chile: Richness increases with latitude and first records for the host species.

Int J Parasitol Parasites Wildl 2020 Dec 31;13:13-21. Epub 2020 Jul 31.

Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas y Biodiversidad, Universidad de Los Lagos, Osorno, Chile.

Guignas () are small felids closely associated with native forest habitats. In fragmented landscapes, they use vegetation corridors and forest remnants to move across the landscape. In these contexts, guignas may increase contact probabilities with domestic animals, being therefore relevant to assess their pathogens and parasites. The aim of this study was to characterize the helminth fauna in the gastrointestinal tract and cardiorespiratory system of guignas from central and southern Chile. Between 2015 and 2018, 33 dead free-ranging guignas were found road-killed or were collected from wildlife rescue centers. Thirty-two gastrointestinal tracts and 32 cardiorespiratory organs were analyzed through direct analysis and artificial digestion. We found 81.8% (27/33) guignas were positive for helminth endoparasites (84.4% (27/32) positive for gastrointestinal parasites, 37.5% (12/32) positive for cardiorespiratory parasites). Fourteen parasites were identified (7 at genus level and 7 at species level), with sp sp sp and sp. as first records in guignas. The most prevalent parasites were the species and . showed the highest intensity of infection. Multiparasitism was observed in 76% of the animals. Significant differences in richness of endoparasites and prevalence of cardiorespiratory parasites were found between geographic zones; higher values in the southern zone are possibly due to favorable environmental characteristics for endoparasite development. There were no statistically significant differences between sexes. All the parasites found in this study have been previously reported in domestic cats. These results are valuable to understand parasite transmission at the domestic-wildlife interface; the possibility of endoparasite transmission between domestic cats and guignas should be clarified with molecular analysis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijppaw.2020.07.013DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7415641PMC
December 2020

A forest-specialist carnivore in the middle of the desert?Comments on https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ece3.5230.

Ecol Evol 2020 Apr 25;10(8):3825-3830. Epub 2020 Mar 25.

Departamento de Ecología y Gestión Ambiental Centro Universitario Regional Este (CURE-Maldonado) Universidad de la República Maldonado Uruguay.

We present comments on an article recently published in Ecology and Evolution ("High-resolution melting of the cytochrome B gene in fecal DNA: A powerful approach for fox species identification of the genus in Chile") by Anabalon that reported the presence of Darwin's fox (), a temperate forest specialist, in the hyperarid Atacama Desert of northern Chile. We argue that this putative record lacks ecological support in light of ongoing research on this endangered species, and contains numerous methodological flaws and omissions related to the molecular identification of the species. Based on these issues, we suggest the scientific community and conservation decision-makers disregard the alleged presence of the Darwin's fox in the Atacama Desert.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.6132DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7160171PMC
April 2020

Hemoplasmas Are Endemic and Cause Asymptomatic Infection in the Endangered Darwin's Fox (Lycalopex fulvipes).

Appl Environ Microbiol 2020 06 2;86(12). Epub 2020 Jun 2.

Facultad de Ciencias de la Vida, Universidad Andrés Bello, Santiago, Chile.

is prevalent in the endangered Darwin's fox () in its main stronghold, Chiloé Island (Chile). The origin of the infection, its dynamics, its presence in other fox populations and the potential consequences for fox health remain unexplored. For 8 years, hemoplasmal DNA was screened and characterized in blood from 82 foxes in Chiloé and two other fox populations and in 250 free-ranging dogs from Chiloé. The prevalence of in foxes was constant during the study years, and coinfection with " Mycoplasma haematoparvum" was confirmed in 30% of the foxes. Both hemoplasma species were detected in the two mainland fox populations and in Chiloé dogs. was significantly more prevalent and more genetically diverse in foxes than in dogs. Two of the seven haplotypes identified were shared between these species. Network analyses did not show genetic structure by species (foxes versus dogs), geographic (island versus mainland populations), or temporal (years of study) factors. The probability of infection with increased with fox age but was not associated with sex, season, or degree of anthropization of individual fox habitats. Some foxes recaptured years apart were infected with the same haplotype in both events, and no hematological alterations were associated with hemoplasma infection, suggesting tolerance to the infection. Altogether, our results indicate that is enzootic in the Darwin's fox and that intraspecific transmission is predominant. Nevertheless, such a prevalent pathogen in a threatened species represents a concern that must be considered in conservation actions. is enzootic in Darwin's foxes. There is a higher genetic diversity and prevalence in foxes than in sympatric dogs, although haplotypes are shared between the two carnivore species. There is an apparent tolerance of Darwin's foxes to .
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AEM.00779-20DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7267207PMC
June 2020

An Eight-Year Survey for Canine Distemper Virus Indicates Lack of Exposure in the Endangered Darwin's Fox ().

J Wildl Dis 2020 04 13;56(2):482-485. Epub 2019 Dec 13.

Facultad de Ciencias de la Vida, Universidad Andres Bello, República 252, Santiago, Chile.

No evidence of exposure to canine distemper virus (CDV) was detected in 70 samples corresponding to 58 wild-trapped Darwin's foxes () in Chile. Given its current endangered status and it being immunologically naïve, in the event of a CDV spillover from dogs to foxes, high population mortality is expected.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.7589/2019-08-195DOI Listing
April 2020

Antibiotic resistance genes as landscape anthropization indicators: Using a wild felid as sentinel in Chile.

Sci Total Environ 2020 Feb 1;703:134900. Epub 2019 Nov 1.

Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad (IEB), Santiago, Chile; Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas y Biodiversidad, Universidad de Los Lagos, Osorno, Chile. Electronic address:

Antimicrobial resistance is a global emerging public health issue whose presence and impact in wildlife are widely unknown. Antimicrobial resistance genes (ARGs) are considered environmental contaminants, suitable to evaluate the degree of anthropic impact on wildlife and the environment. We used a wild felid, the guigna (Leopardus guigna), as a sentinel for the presence of ARGs in anthropized and pristine areas across their entire distribution range in Chile. We evaluated fecal samples from 51 wild guignas, collected between 2009 and 2018. Real-time PCR essays were employed to detect and quantify 22 selected ARGs in their fecal microbiome. All animals (100%) were positive for at least one ARG. The most prevalent ARG families were those that confer resistance to tetracycline (88.2%) and beta-lactamase (68.9%), with tet(Q) (60.8%), tet(W) (60.8%), and bla (66.7%) as the most prevalent ARGs. Multi-resistance profiles were observed in 43% of the guignas. Statistically significant differences were found between anthropized and pristine areas for tet(Q) (p = 0.014), tet(W) (p = 0.0037), tetracycline family (p = 0.027), multi-resistance profile prevalence (p = 0.043) and tet(W) quantification (p = 0.004). Two animals from anthropized landscapes were positive for mecA, a gene associated with Staphylococcus aureus and other staphylococci resistant to methicillin, while three animals from anthropized areas were positive for bla, that encodes class A extended-spectrum beta-lactamase. Both genes have been identified in bacteria causing relevant nosocomial infections worldwide. This is the first study on ARGs in wild felids from Chile and the first detection of mecA in South American wild felids. We observed an association between the degree of landscape anthropization and ARG prevalence, confirming that ARGs are important indicators of wildlife exposure to human activity/presence, with a widespread distribution.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.134900DOI Listing
February 2020

Molecular and serological survey of carnivore pathogens in free-roaming domestic cats of rural communities in southern Chile.

J Vet Med Sci 2019 Dec 15;81(12):1740-1748. Epub 2019 Oct 15.

Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity (IEB), Las Palmeras 3425, Ñuñoa, Santiago, Chile.

Owned, free-roaming domestic cats are abundant in the Chilean countryside, having high probability of contact with wildlife and potentially participating as reservoirs of zoonotic pathogens. In the present study, 131 cats from two remote study areas (Valdivia and Chiloe Island) in southern Chile were analyzed for infection/exposure to eight pathogens. Serum samples from 112 cats were tested for antigens against feline leukemia virus (FeLV antigen-ELISA) and antibodies against feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV-ELISA) and canine distemper virus (CDV-serum neutralization), yielded occurrence of 8.9, 1.7 and 0.8% respectively. The presence of DNA of five vector-borne pathogens, piroplasmids, Ehrlichia spp., Anaplasma spp., Rickettsia spp. and Bartonella spp. was investigated in thirty cats. Overall observed occurrence was 6.6% (2/30) for both Anaplasma platys, and B. henselae, and 3.3% (1/30) for both Bartonella sp. and Theileria equi. Observed occurrence for all vector-borne pathogens in Valdivia area was significantly higher than in Chiloe Island (5/15 vs 0/15; P=0.04). Our results represent the first description of exposure to CDV and DNA detection of T. equi and A. platys in domestic cats in Chile. The results highlight the importance of performing pathogen screening in owned, free-roaming rural cats to evaluate their potential role as reservoirs of infection and vectors for disease transmission to wildlife.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1292/jvms.19-0208DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6943315PMC
December 2019

Extreme Competence: Keystone Hosts of Infections.

Trends Ecol Evol 2019 04 29;34(4):303-314. Epub 2019 Jan 29.

Environmental Futures Research Institute, Griffith University, Nathan, QLD 4111, Australia.

Individual hosts differ extensively in their competence for parasites, but traditional research has discounted this variation, partly because modeling such heterogeneity is difficult. This discounting has diminished as tools have improved and recognition has grown that some hosts, the extremely competent, can have exceptional impacts on disease dynamics. Most prominent among these hosts are the superspreaders, but other forms of extreme competence (EC) exist and others await discovery; each with potentially strong but distinct implications for disease emergence and spread. Here, we propose a framework for the study and discovery of EC, suitable for different host-parasite systems, which we hope enhances our understanding of how parasites circulate and evolve in host communities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2018.12.009DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7114649PMC
April 2019

Molecular and Serologic Survey of Pathogens in an Endangered Andean Cat ( Leopardus jacobita) of the High Andes of Bolivia.

J Wildl Dis 2019 01 20;55(1):242-245. Epub 2018 Aug 20.

1 Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad (IEB), Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Chile, Las Palmeras 3425, Ñuñoa, Santiago, Chile.

The Andean cat ( Leopardus jacobita) is one of the most threatened and least known wild felids in the world. Using molecular and serologic tests, we screened a free-ranging Andean cat for 17 pathogens of conservation concern. Results suggested no evidence of infection or exposure. Whether pathogens are a threat for Andean cat populations remains currently unknown.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.7589/2018-05-136DOI Listing
January 2019

Reduced Genetic Diversity and Increased Dispersal in Guigna (Leopardus guigna) in Chilean Fragmented Landscapes.

J Hered 2015 ;106 Suppl 1:522-36

From the Laboratorio de Ecología Molecular, Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad, Departamento de Ciencias Ecológicas, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile (Napolitano and Poulin); Departamento de Ciencias Ambientales y Recursos Naturales, Facultad de Ciencias Agronómicas, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile (Díaz); Small Wild Cat Conservation Foundation, Campbell, CA (Sanderson); Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Front Royal, VA (Johnson); and Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada (K. Ritland and CE. Ritland).

Landscape fragmentation is often a major cause of species extinction as it can affect a wide variety of ecological processes. The impact of fragmentation varies among species depending on many factors, including their life-history traits and dispersal abilities. Felids are one of the groups most threatened by fragmented landscapes because of their large home ranges, territorial behavior, and low population densities. Here, we model the impacts of habitat fragmentation on patterns of genetic diversity in the guigna (Leopardus guigna), a small felid that is closely associated with the heavily human-impacted temperate rainforests of southern South America. We assessed genetic variation in 1798 base pairs of mitochondrial DNA sequences, 15 microsatellite loci, and 2 sex chromosome genes and estimated genetic diversity, kinship, inbreeding, and dispersal in 38 individuals from landscapes with differing degrees of fragmentation on Chiloé Island in southern Chile. Increased fragmentation was associated with reduced genetic diversity, but not with increased kinship or inbreeding. However, in fragmented landscapes, there was a weaker negative correlation between pairwise kinship and geographic distance, suggesting increased dispersal distances. These results highlight the importance of biological corridors to maximize connectivity in fragmented landscapes and contribute to our understanding of the broader genetic consequences of habitat fragmentation, especially for forest-specialist carnivores.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jhered/esv025DOI Listing
October 2015

Recurrent evolution of melanism in South American felids.

PLoS Genet 2015 Feb 19;11(2):e1004892. Epub 2015 Feb 19.

Laboratório de Biologia Genômica e Molecular, Faculdade de Biociências, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS), Porto Alegre, Brazil; Instituto Pró-Carnívoros, Atibaia, São Paulo, Brazil.

Morphological variation in natural populations is a genomic test bed for studying the interface between molecular evolution and population genetics, but some of the most interesting questions involve non-model organisms that lack well annotated reference genomes. Many felid species exhibit polymorphism for melanism but the relative roles played by genetic drift, natural selection, and interspecies hybridization remain uncertain. We identify mutations of Agouti signaling protein (ASIP) or the Melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) as independent causes of melanism in three closely related South American species: the pampas cat (Leopardus colocolo), the kodkod (Leopardus guigna), and Geoffroy's cat (Leopardus geoffroyi). To assess population level variation in the regions surrounding the causative mutations we apply genomic resources from the domestic cat to carry out clone-based capture and targeted resequencing of 299 kb and 251 kb segments that contain ASIP and MC1R, respectively, from 54 individuals (13-21 per species), achieving enrichment of ~500-2500-fold and ~150x coverage. Our analysis points to unique evolutionary histories for each of the three species, with a strong selective sweep in the pampas cat, a distinctive but short melanism-specific haplotype in the Geoffroy's cat, and reduced nucleotide diversity for both ancestral and melanism-bearing chromosomes in the kodkod. These results reveal an important role for natural selection in a trait of longstanding interest to ecologists, geneticists, and the lay community, and provide a platform for comparative studies of morphological variation in other natural populations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1004892DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4335015PMC
February 2015

Feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia virus infection in free-ranging guignas (Leopardus guigna) and sympatric domestic cats in human perturbed landscapes on Chiloé Island, Chile.

J Wildl Dis 2015 Jan;51(1):199-208

1 Laboratorio de Virología Animal, Facultad de Ciencias Veterinarias y Pecuarias, Universidad de Chile, Avda. Santa Rosa 11735, La Pintana, Santiago, Chile.

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) are two of the most common viruses affecting domestic cats (Felis catus). During the last two decades, reports show that both viruses also infect or affect other species of the family Felidae. Human landscape perturbation is one of the main causes of emerging diseases in wild animals, facilitating contact and transmission of pathogens between domestic and wild animals. We investigated FIV and FeLV infection in free-ranging guignas (Leopardus guigna) and sympatric domestic cats in human perturbed landscapes on Chiloé Island, Chile. Samples from 78 domestic cats and 15 guignas were collected from 2008 to 2010 and analyzed by PCR amplification and sequencing. Two guignas and two domestic cats were positive for FIV; three guignas and 26 domestic cats were positive for FeLV. The high percentage of nucleotide identity of FIV and FeLV sequences from both species suggests possible interspecies transmission of viruses, facilitated by increased contact probability through human invasion into natural habitats, fragmentation of guigna habitat, and poultry attacks by guignas. This study enhances our knowledge on the transmission of pathogens from domestic to wild animals in the global scenario of human landscape perturbation and emerging diseases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.7589/2014-04-114DOI Listing
January 2015

Survey of infectious agents in the endangered Darwin's fox (Lycalopex fulvipes): high prevalence and diversity of hemotrophic mycoplasmas.

Vet Microbiol 2013 Dec 9;167(3-4):448-54. Epub 2013 Oct 9.

Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos, IREC (UCLM, CSIC, JCCM), Ronda de Toledo s/n, 13005 Ciudad Real, Spain; Centro de Conservación de la Biodiversidad, Chiloe-Silvestre, Las Américas 1060, Ancud, Chiloé, Chile.

Very little is known about the diseases affecting the Darwin's fox (Lycalopex fulvipes), which is considered to be one of the most endangered carnivores worldwide. Blood samples of 30 foxes captured on Chiloé Island (Chile) were tested with a battery of PCR assays targeting the following pathogens: Ehrlichia/Anaplasma sp., Rickettsia sp., Bartonella sp., Coxiella burnetti, Borrelia sp., Mycoplasma sp., Babesia sp., Hepatozoon canis, Hepatozoon felis, Leishmania donovani complex, and Filariae. Analysis of the 16S rRNA gene revealed the presence of Mycoplasma spp. in 17 samples (56.7%, 95% Confidence Intervals= 38.2-73.7). Of these, 15 infections were caused by a Mycoplasma belonging to the M. haemofelis/haemocanis (Mhf/Mhc) group, whereas two were caused by a Mycoplasma showing between 89% and 94% identity with different Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis from felids and rodents hemoplasmas. The analysis of the sequence of the RNA subunit of the RNase P gene of 10 of the foxes positive for Mhf/Mhc showed that eight were infected with M. haemocanis (Mhc), one with a Mycoplasma showing 94% identity with Mhc, and one by M. haemofelis (Mhf). One of the foxes positive for Mhc was infected with a Ricketssia closely related to R. felis. All foxes were negative for the other studied pathogens. Our results are of interest because of the unexpectedly high prevalence of Mycoplasma spp. detected, the variability of species identified, the presence of a potentially new species of hemoplasma, and the first time a hemoplasma considered to be a feline pathogen (Mhf) has been identified in a canid. Though external symptoms were not observed in any of the infected foxes, further clinical and epidemiological studies are necessary to determine the importance of hemoplasma infection in this unique species.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetmic.2013.09.034DOI Listing
December 2013

Molecular identification of a novel gammaherpesvirus in the endangered Darwin's fox (Lycalopex fulvipes).

J Gen Virol 2013 Dec 17;94(Pt 12):2745-2749. Epub 2013 Sep 17.

Servei d'Ecopatologia de Fauna Salvatge (SEFaS) (Wildlife Diseases Research Group), Departament de Medicina i Cirurgia Animals, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain.

We report the detection and characterization of a novel gammaherpesvirus in the critically endangered Darwin's fox (Lycalopex fulvipes; syn. Pseudalopex fulvipes) on Chiloé Island, Chile. Out of 28 analysed blood samples stored in alcohol, four were positive for this herpesvirus using a previously described pan-herpesvirus PCR assay targeting the herpesvirus DNA polymerase. Positive samples were subsequently characterized by means of a PCR targeting a 500 bp fragment of the glycoprotein B of the gammaherpesviruses. This novel herpesvirus was most closely related to other gammaherpesviruses from terrestrial carnivores, and is tentatively named Darwin's fox gammaherpesvirus. No apparent lesions were observed in the surveyed foxes. This is the first report of a gammaherpesvirus infecting a canid worldwide, and also of one infecting a carnivore from South America.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1099/vir.0.057851-0DOI Listing
December 2013

Ecological and biogeographical inferences on two sympatric and enigmatic Andean cat species using genetic identification of faecal samples.

Mol Ecol 2008 Jan;17(2):678-90

Laboratorio de Ecología Molecular, and Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad, Deparamento de Ciencias Ecológicas, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Chile, Casilla 653, Santiago, Chile.

The carnivore community of the altiplano ecosystem of the high Andes, including the Andean mountain cat (Leopardus jacobita) and pampas cat (Leopardus colocolo), is one of the least studied in the world. We determined the origin of 186 carnivore samples (184 faeces and two skulls) collected above 3000 m above sea level in northern Chile, including 33 from the Andean mountain cat and 75 from the pampas cat using diagnostic molecular genetic sequence variation. We determined for the first time food habits, habitat and physiographic associations, and general patterns of molecular genetic variation of the Andean mountain cat and the pampas cat in Chile. Both species had narrow dietary niches dominated by small rodents and there was a wide overlap in diet composition (0.82), suggesting low levels of prey partitioning between species. The mountain viscacha (Lagidium viscacia) made up a large proportion of the biomass of the diet of both species, especially for the Andean mountain cat (93.9% vs. 74.8% for the pampas cat), underscoring the importance of further research and conservation focus on this vanishing prey species. Although the probability of finding Andean mountain cat scats increased with altitude and slope, there was substantial geographical overlap in distribution between species, revealing that the pampas cat distribution includes high-altitude grassland habitats. The Andean mountain cat had relatively low levels of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) genetic variation (two mtDNA haplotypes) compared with the pampas cat (17 mtDNA haplotypes), suggestive of a distinct evolutionary history and relatively smaller historic populations. These insights will facilitate and provide tools and hypotheses for much-needed research and conservation efforts on these species and this ecosystem.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2007.03606.xDOI Listing
January 2008
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