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Effects of Weather and Plague-Induced Die-Offs of Prairie Dogs on the Fleas of Northern Grasshopper Mice

Salkeld, Daniel J., Stapp, Paul
Journal of medical entomology 2009 v.46 no.3 pp. 588-594
Siphonaptera, ectoparasites, mice, Muridae, host-parasite relationships, population density, environmental factors, weather, ambient temperature, rain, Yersinia pestis, Cynomys ludovicianus, plague, disease outbreaks, die-off, Colorado
Plague, the disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, can have devastating impacts on black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus Ord). Other mammal hosts living on prairie dog colonies may be important in the transmission and maintenance of plague. We examined the flea populations of northern grasshopper mice (Onychomys leucogaster Wied) before, during, and after plague epizootics in northern Colorado and studied the influence of host and environmental factors on flea abundance patterns. Grasshopper mice were frequently infested with high numbers of fleas, most commonly Pleochaetis exilis Jordan and Thrassis fotus Jordan. Flea loads changed in response to both environmental temperature and rainfall. After plague-induced prairie dog die-offs, flea loads and likelihood of infestation were unchanged for P. exilis, but T. fotus loads declined.