The flea epifauna of a suburban fox (Vulpes vulpes) population

Authors

  • Alan Buckle,

    1. Department of Zoology, Royal Holloway College, Egham, Surrey
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    • *Crop Protection Services, Department of Agriculture, Bumbong Lima, Province Wellesley, West Malaysia.

  • Stephen Harris

    1. Department of Zoology, Royal Holloway College, Egham, Surrey
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    • **Department of Zoology, The University, Woodland Road, Bristol. Reprint requests to Dr Stephen Harris.


Abstract

Five hundred and thirteen fleas, of eight different species, were collected from a sample of 252 foxes killed in suburban London. 25–8% of foxes carried fleas, with a mean of 204 fleas per fox. Levels of infestation of male and female hosts did not differ significantly. Possible sources of the fleas infesting foxes are discussed with respect to their seasonal occurrence and fox prey composition. No evidence was found to support the suggestion that foxes obtain the majority of their fleas from prey items, although occasional heavy infestations of some flea species were probably derived from recent meals. Although Pulex irritans, Paraceras m. melis and Ctenocephalides canis, which contributed 35 % of the flea epifauna, could be considered parasitic on the fox, it seems probable that foxes pick up the majority of their fleas from the habitat through which they move. Thus, two particularly heavily infested categories of foxes were found: (1) juveniles during July-September, their fleas probably being accumulated during exploratory and play activities, and (2) all animals during the period October-December.

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