D’Orsay Mancuso discusses prevalence of parasites in Eastern Cottontails

By Zachary Gotthardt
SC Staff Writer

On Friday, April 25, D’Orsay Mancuso defended her thesis on the prevalence of ectoparasites and endoparasites in the Eastern Cottontail.

She presented her findings to a group of faculty, who would later decide whether or not to approve her work for graduation.

Mancuso studied under Dr. Thomas LaDuke of the Department of Biological Sciences for the past several years.

As a herpetologist and anatomist, Dr. LaDuke admitted that Mancuso’s work was slightly out of his element.

Nonetheless, he worked closely with her as she conducted her study and is very satisfied with the end result.

Mancuso, who is interested in disease and parasitology, wanted to document the prevalence of parasites inside of and on Eastern Cottontails in Pennsylvania.

Parasites are an important influence on terrestrial mammals. Most are detrimental, and some can spread diseases to their hosts.

A biologist cannot understand a species without knowing its predators, parasites included.

To find these parasites, Mancuso examined 72 rabbits from 6 counties across eastern and central Pennsylvania.

The specimens were collected via traps and roadkill, but most were hunted.

Once collected, specimens were combed, and hunted specimens were also dissected, for parasites. All parasites found were preserved and stained for later identification.

Expert parasitologists and entomologists supplemented identification of the parasites.

From her findings, Mancuso was able to reach several conclusions.

Her study was divided into two seasons, a fall and a winter season.

Ectoparasites, parasites that latch onto the outside of their hosts, were more prevalent in the fall.

Conversely, endoparasites, parasites that affect the internal organs of their hosts, were more prevalent in the winter.

To a certain extent, Mancuso was also able to correlate host size to the number of species found throughout the host.

Several parasites, such as the rabbit tick, the pin worm and the stomach worm, exhibited significant seasonality between the two field seasons.

When compared to 73 years of previous data, Mancuso’s study was found to be consistent with previous findings.

Mancuso’s thesis received approval by the faculty in attendance, and she will receive her Master’s Degree as a result.

D’Orsay Mancuso would like to thank Dr. LaDuke, Dr. Wallace, Dr. Aldras, Dr. Skirta, Dr. Huffman and many students for their contributions during her study.

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