Tools to understand seasonality in health: quantification of microbe loads and analyses of compositional ecoimmunological data reveal complex patterns in Mojave Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) populations

Canadian Journal of Zoology,Volume 97, Issue 9, Page 841-848, September 2019. Using data from six wild Mojave Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii (Cooper, 1861)) populations, we quantified seasonal differences in immune system measurements and microbial load in the respiratory tract, pertinent to this species ’ susceptibility to upper respiratory tract disease. We quantified bacteria-killing activity of blood plasma and differential leukocyte counts to detect trends in temporal variation in immune function. We used centered log-ratio (clr) transformations of leukocyte counts and stress that such transf ormations are necessary for compositional data. We tested animals for the potential pathogen Pasteurella testudinis Snipes and Biberstein, 1982 with a newly created quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assay, as well as for the known respiratory pathogens Mycoplasma agassizii Brown et al., 2001 and Mycoplasma testudineum Brown et al., 2004. We found very little disease and suggest that P. testudinis is a prevalent, commensal microbe in these Mojave Desert Tortoise populations, and its quantification may be a tool to study natural fluctuations in microbe levels in Mojave Desert Tortois e respiratory tracts. Our analyses showed that both the potential for inflammatory responses and microbe levels are highest in the spring for healthy Mojave Desert Tortoises, when lymphocyte levels are lowest. The genetic and statistical tools that we used are easily applicable to o...
Source: Canadian Journal of Zoology - Category: Zoology Authors: Source Type: research

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