Field and laboratory studies on eyeworms (Oxyspirura petrowi) and their impact on the northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus)

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2016-12

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Abstract

Throughout the Rolling Plains ecoregion of Texas and Oklahoma the northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) has been declining for many decades. The Rolling Plains ecoregion was once considered the last remaining stronghold for providing excellent bobwhite quail hunting opportunities to sportsman. The populations of bobwhites in this ecoregion generally “boom and bust”; however, in 2010 the boom year never came. While many theories of the decline, such as declining habitat and weather have been thought to be the major factors of their demise, parasites have never been taken seriously despite research suggesting that they have the ability to regulate host populations. The goals of the study was to better understand infection dynamics, eyeworm lifecycle, and to determine if they negatively impact the vision of the northern bobwhite quail. This research has several goals which include (1) Sample quails throughout the Rolling Plains ecoregion for cecal worm infection to better understand infection dynamics, (2) Understand the prevalence of eyeworm infection in quail and other avian species inhabiting areas outside of the Rolling Plains ecoregion, (3) Describe the life cycle and infection dynamics of eyeworms removed from wild northern bobwhites, (4) Document whether O. petrowi infection causes physical and pathological damage to the eye of the northern bobwhite, and (5) Test the bobwhite’s visual acuity and flying ability, with varying degrees of infection in each treatment group, to determine if eyeworms visually impair bobwhites enough to impair navigation through an escape route.

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Keywords

Northern Bobwhite, Colinus virginianus, Eyeworm, Oxyspirura petrowi, Rolling Plains, Texas, Parasites

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