ENTOMOPATHOGENIC FUNGI OF THE WINTER TICK IN MOOSE WALLOWS: A POSSIBLE BIO-CONTROL FOR ADULT MOOSE?
Keywords:Behavior, tick control, survival, Alces alces, Maine, New Hampshire, United States
Soil fungi were cultured from 24 wallows and proximal control sites in Maine and New Hampshire, USA during the autumn moose (Alces alces) breeding season of 2016 to investigate the presence of soil fungi pathogenic to winter tick larvae (Dermacentor albipictus). Twenty genera of fungi were isolated, and all are considered common in a forested ecosystem. The predominant genera isolated in wallows were pathogenic to winter tick larvae and included Aspergillus spp. (in particular A. flavus), Beauveria bassiana, Mortierella spp., Mucor spp., Paecilomyces spp., Penicillium spp., and Trichoderma spp. Wallow soils had specific characteristics and differed from proximal control sites by having: 1) lower fungal diversity, 2) a higher frequency of primary colonizers including Mortierella spp., Mucor spp., Penicillium spp., and Trichoderma spp., and 3) a more variable total amount of fungi indicative of changing (disturbed) soil conditions. We conclude that wallows are sites of soil disturbance that concentrate fungi known to be pathogenic to larval winter ticks. Fungi acquired by breeding moose using wallows might subsequently act as an on-host mechanism of tick control.
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