Though the American marten (Martes americana) is considered an important indicator species of forest ecosystems, we know very little about its endoparasite ecology. In Michigan, marten populations have been nearly extirpated, in contrast to the relatively consistent populations throughout Interior Alaska. Contrasting these populations presents an opportunity to learn about the distribution of parasite diversity in recovering species of concern. This situation also offers an opportunity to make interesting observations of marten parasite-host interactions. Our goal was to understand the diversity, prevalence, and intensity of infections of gastrointestinal parasites in marten collected by trappers in Michigan and Alaska. We sampled 98 marten gastrointestinal tracts from Interior Alaska and 12 from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Preliminary data shows 45% prevalence of infection in Alaskan marten, while Michigan samples were at 8%. We plan to utilize DNA sequencing to confirm species identifications for collected parasites. We will use these data to evaluate the population structure of parasites in these marten populations. We also collected gut microbiome samples from each Alaskan marten, which will be used to study relationships between gut microbiome assemblages of marten and their helminth infections. This study will contribute to our understanding of the abundance and diversity of parasites in Michigan and Alaskan marten, a species of regulation concern and an economically valuable fur-bearer.
Dr. Kurt Galbreath
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Downing, Cassidy L.; Van Huysen, Zack T.; and Jorgensen, Claire E., "Identification and Ecological Significance of Endoparasite Load in Martes americana of Michigan and Alaska" (2021). Celebration of Student Scholarship. 14.