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Differential plague susceptibility in species and populations of prairie dogs

October 2, 2019

Laboratory trials conducted over the past decade at U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center indicate that wild populations of prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) display different degrees of susceptibility to experimental challenge with fully virulent Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of plague. We evaluated patterns in prairie dog susceptibility to plague to determine whether the historical occurrence of plague at location of capture was related to survival times of prairie dogs challenged with Y. pestis. We found that black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) from South Dakota (captured prior to the detection of plague in the state), Gunnison's prairie dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni) from Colorado, and Utah prairie dogs (Cynomys parvidens) from Utah were most susceptible to plague. Though the susceptibility of black-tailed prairie dogs in South Dakota compared with western locations supports our hypothesis regarding historical exposure, both Colorado and Utah prairie dogs have a long history of exposure to plague. It is possible that for these populations, genetic isolation/bottle necks have made them more susceptible to plague outbreaks.

Publication Year 2019
Title Differential plague susceptibility in species and populations of prairie dogs
DOI 10.1002/ece3.5684
Authors Robin E. Russell, Daniel W. Tripp, Tonie E. Rocke
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecology and Evolution
Index ID 70206130
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wildlife Health Center