The following study investigates louse parasitism of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus (Ord, Rodentia: Sciuridae)) on 20 plots at 13 colonies in the short-grass prairie of New Mexico, USA, June-August, 2011-2012. Among 124 lice collected from 537 prairie dogs during 1,207 sampling events in which anesthetized animals were combed for ectoparasites, all of the lice were identified as Linognathoides cynomyis (Kim, Phthiraptera: Polyplacidae). Data were analyzed under an information-theoretic approach to identify factors predicting louse parasitism. Lice were most prevalent on plots with high densities of prairie dogs. At the scale of hosts, lice were most abundant on prairie dogs in poor body condition (with low mass:foot ratios) and prairie dogs harboring large numbers of fleas (Siphonaptera, mostly Oropsylla hirsuta (Baker, Siphonaptera: Ceratophyllidae) and Pulex simulans (Baker,Siphonaptera: Pulicidae)). Lice have been implicated as supplemental vectors of the primarily flea-borne bacterium Yersinia pestis (Yersin, Enterobacteriales: Yersiniaceae), a re-emerging pathogen that causes sylvatic plague in prairie dog populations. Coparasitism by lice and fleas, as found herein, might enhance plague transmission. L. cynomyis deserves attention in this context.
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