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Distributional records of helminths of the swift fox (Vulpes velox) from New Mexico.

The swift fox, Vulpes velox, inhabits grasslands in the plains region of North America east of the Rocky Mountains, and, in New Mexico, they occur east of the Pecos River in short grass prairie habitats (Findley et al., 1975). Harrison (2003) and Kintigh and Anderson (2005) reported on the habits, habitat, and demography of swift foxes across New Mexico. We report on helminth parasites from 23 of 31 (74%) foxes that harbor worms.

Most foxes were obtained as carcasses found on roads, but a few were shot or poisoned by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Foxes were placed in plastic bags and frozen until they could be examined in the laboratory. The gastrointestinal tract, heart, and trachea were examined. Helminths were preserved in 70% ethanol. Nematodes were later cleared and prepared as temporary mounts in glycerin for examination. Selected specimens were heated briefly in lactophenol to clear them and examine their internal anatomy. After study, they were returned to the glycerin. Cestodes were stained in carmine and mounted in Canada balsam for identification. All foxes and parasites examined were deposited in the University of New Mexico Museum of Southwestern Biology, Mammals and Parasitology Divisions, Albuquerque (Table 1).

Roundworms, Physaloptera rara, were found in the stomachs of 11 of 31 (35.5%) swift foxes. Species of Physaloptera have been reported in swift foxes from Oklahoma by Kilgore (1969) and Criffield et al. (2009), from northern Texas by Cutter (1958), from SE Colorado by Miller et al. (1998), and from the New York Zoological Park by McClure (1933). Pybus and Williams (2003) reported species of Physaloptera as common parasites of swift foxes. We also found an unidentified species of Physaloptera in five foxes. Unfortunately, these worms were so damaged they could not be confidently identified to species. However, three of the hosts also had worms that could be identified as P. rara; the damaged specimens are likely P. rara. Species of Physaloptera utilize various insects as intermediate hosts. We present the first report of P. rara in swift foxes from New Mexico.

Roundworms Toxascaris leonina were recovered from the intestine of one (3.2%) male swift fox from Quay County. Miller et al. (1998) reported Toxascaris in six of 15 (40%) swift foxes from southeastern Colorado, and Pybus and Williams (2003) considered T. leonina to be locally common in swift foxes. Criffield et al. (2009) reported Toxascaris in 34.6% of swift foxes in western Oklahoma, but Kilgore (1969) did not find it in swift foxes from the panhandle of Oklahoma, nor did Cutter (1958) find this nematode in swift foxes from northern Texas. We present the first report of T. leonina in swift foxes from New Mexico.

Roundworms Toxocara canis were recovered from the intestines of 17 (54.8%) swift foxes. Stiles and Baker (1935) and Erickson (1944) reported it from swift foxes. Kilgore (1969) reported this nematode from swift foxes in Oklahoma, and eggs of Toxocara were reported by Miller et al. (1998) in swift foxes from Colorado. Toxocara was reported from swift foxes from Oklahoma by Criffield et al. (2009) and from an animal in the New York Zoological Garden by McClure (1934). Pybus and Williams (2003) considered T. canis a common parasite of swift foxes. Because of its zoonotic potential as a parasite of humans, individuals handling swift foxes or their feces should take precautions. We present the first report of T. canis in swift foxes from New Mexico.

Other nematodes reported from the swift fox but not found in our study include Ancylostoma caninum, a species of Capillaria, Trichuris vulpis, Uncinaria stenocephala, and a species of Uncinaria (see McClure, 1933; Stiles and Baker, 1935; Erickson, 1944; Cutter, 1958; Kilgore, 1969; Miller et al., 1998; Pybus and Williams, 2003; Criffield et al., 2009). Riley (1921) provided a list of parasites of foxes but did not mention V. velox.

A tapeworm Dipylidium caninum was recovered from the intestines of 11 (35.5%) animals but never in large numbers. It was previously reported from swift foxes in northern Texas by Cutter (1958) and from the panhandle of Oklahoma by Kilgore (1969), but Criffield et al. (2009) did not find it in swift foxes in the panhandle of Oklahoma. Pybus and Williams (2003) suggested that D. caninum occurs throughout the entire range of swift foxes. A flea Pulex irritans commonly serves as an intermediate host for D. caninum. Harrison et al. (2003) reported this flea on 73.3% of swift foxes in New Mexico. This high percentage of fleas may account for the common occurrence of D. caninum in the swift foxes observed in our study. We present the first report of D. caninum in swift foxes from New Mexico.

A tapeworm Mesocestoides variabilis was recovered from nine (29.0%) foxes. It often occurred in large numbers, i.e., in excess of 200 worms/animal. Kilgore (1969) and Criffield et al. (2009) did not find this tapeworm in swift foxes from Oklahoma. Miller et al. (1998) found it in a single swift fox (7.1%) from Colorado and stated that the individual fox had severe gastrointestinal hemorrhaging. They considered their specimens of the cestode intermediate in morphology to Mesogyna hepatica Voge, 1952, and Mesocestoides of coyotes as described by Chandler (1944). Miller et al. (1998) believed their specimens might represent a new species. We agree with Dyer and Klimstra (1982) that the name Mesocestoides variabilis should be used for these tapeworms from foxes especially those with rectangular terminal proglottids. Ubelaker et al. (2013) reported M. variabilis in V. vulpes from New Mexico. We present the first report of M. variabilis in swift foxes from New Mexico.

Other reports of cestodes in swift foxes include Taenia (Kilgore, 1969; Aguirre, 2001; Criffield et al., 2009) and eggs of Monezia (Criffield et al., 2009). Kilgore (1969) found Taenia multiceps in three subadult swift foxes from the panhandle of Oklahoma, and Criffield et al. (2009) reported Taenia in 7.4% of swift foxes from Oklahoma. Pybus and Williams (2003) reported Taenia as a common parasite of swift foxes.

The most frequent helminths found in our study were the tapeworms Mesocestoides variabilis and Dipylidium caninum and the nematode Toxocara canis. Toxocara canis was the most prevalent parasite followed by M. variabilis and D. caninum. The least common parasite was the nematode Toxascaris leonina found only in one fox. Toxocara canis is common in domestic dogs and has a direct life cycle allowing easy transfer from fox to fox.

We thank J. Dunnum and S. Brant for assistance in the deposition and curation of hosts and their worms. G. Konicke added corrections to Table 1.


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Submitted 17 January 2013. Acceptance recommended by Associate Editor Jerry L. Cook 2 July 2013.


Department of Biological Science, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX 75275 (JEU, BSG, KMM) Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131 (DWD, RLH)

* Correspondent:
TABLE 1--Parasites recovered from swift foxes (Vulpes velox)
collected in New Mexico. Collection number is given for each
host and parasite deposited at the Museum of Southwestern
Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

Fox no.    Sex      County     Dipylidium   Mesocestoides
                                caninum      variabilis

6162      Female    Unknown       1005          1006
6164      Male     Roosevelt
6168      Male           Lea      1014          1015
6169      Female         Lea      1018
6170      Male           Lea      1020
6171      Female         Lea      1022
6172      Male           Lea      1027
6173      Male           Lea      1029
6178      Female         Lea
6181      Female       Union
6189      Female         Lea      1059
6195      Male         Union
6198      Female     Harding                    1070
6199      Female       Union                    1072
6200      Female       Union                    1075
6201      Male         Union      1078
6202      Male         Union                    1082
6211      Male     Roosevelt
6233      Male        Colfax                    1117
6234      Male       Harding                    1119
6237      Female     Harding      1124
6257      Male     Roosevelt                    1154
6263      Male          Quay      1165

Fox no.   Toxocara   Toxascaris   Physaloptera   Physaloptera
           canis      leonina         rara

6162        1007
6164        1010                                     1009
6168        1017                      1016
6169        1019
6170        1021
6171        1026                      1024
6172        1028
6173        1030
6178                                  1036
6181        1042
6189        1061                      1060
6195        1067
6198                                                 1071
6199                                  1073           1074
6200                                  1076           1077
6201        1079                      1080           1081
6202        1083
6211                                  1093
6233        1118
6234        1121                      1120
6237                                  1125
6257        1155
6263        1166        1168          1167
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:NOTES
Author:Ubelaker, John E.; Griffin, Bretton S.; Mendoza, Kimberly M.; Duszynski, Donald W.; Harrison, Robert
Publication:Southwestern Naturalist
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1U8NM
Date:Mar 1, 2014
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