Investigating the role of urbanisation, wetlands and climatic conditions in nematode parasitism in a large Australian elapid snake
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Tiger snakes (Notechis scutatus) in wetlands of South-West Western Australia (SW WA) are commonly parasitised by the nematode Ophidascaris pyrrhus. Host-parasite interactions are complex and can potentially be impacted by factors such as urbanisation or climate. We assessed whether urbanisation, distance to wetland sites, and climatic factors have influenced parasitism in tiger snakes from specimens collected over the last century. We dissected 91 museum specimens of tiger snakes across SW WA and counted gastrointestinal nematodes. Binomial generalised linear modelling, with presence/absence of nematodes as a response variable, was used to determine which factors were driving infection. Model selection using AIC values showed that proximity to wetlands, rainfall and topographic wetness were most strongly associated with the probability of infection of snakes by nematodes. We also found a slight positive correlation between nematode abundance and annual mean maximum temperature. We found no significant influence of distance to urban centre on nematode burdens; however, our results suggest that water-related variables are a key driver of nematode parasitism in tiger snakes in SW WA. We also suggest that urbanisation is still of interest as its role in wetland and climate modification may increase parasitism in wetland snakes. c
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