Parasitol Res 2019 May 14;118(5):1353-1361. Epub 2019 Mar 14.
Institute of Parasitology, Biomedical Research Center Seltersberg (BFS), Justus Liebig University Giessen, Schubertstr. 81, 35392, Giessen, Germany.
Antarctophthirus microchir is a sucking louse species belonging to the family Echinophthiriidae and has been reported to parasitize all species of the subfamily Otariinae, the sea lions. Former studies on this ectoparasite mainly required fixation, immobilization, or death of host species and especially examinations of adult male sea lions are still very rare. Between March and May 2018, adult individuals of a unique "urban" bachelor group of South American sea lions (Otaria flavescens) living directly in the city of Valdivia, Chile, were studied regarding their ectoparasite infestation status. For first time, a non-invasive method in the form of a lice comb screwed on a telescopic rod and grounded with adhesive tape was used for sample taking process. Overall, during combing different stages of A. microchir were detected in 4/5 O. flavescens individuals, especially at the junction between the back and hind flippers. Our findings represent the first report of A. microchir infesting individuals of this synanthropic colony and fulfilling complete life cycle in a sea lion group despite inhabiting freshwater and in absence of females/pups. Our "telescopic lice comb apparatus" offers a new strategy to collect different stages of ectoparasites and a range of epidermal material, such as fur coat hair and superficial skin tissue for a broad spectrum of research fields in wildlife sciences in an unmolested and stress reduced manner.