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New Insights into Gastrointestinal and Pulmonary Parasitofauna of Wild Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) in the Harz Mountains of Germany

The Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) represents an endangered wild felid species. In Germany, it currently occurs in three isolated populations in and around the Harz Mountains, the Palatinate Forest and the Bavarian Forest. Lynx parasitic infections affect animal health and might have an influence on population performance. Therefore, we investigated the protozoan and helminth fauna of free-ranging Eurasian lynx of the Harz population with emphasis on zoonotic parasites. Individual scat samples (n = 24) were collected from wild animals between 2019 and 2021 in the Harz National Park and surrounding areas. In total, 15 taxa of endoparasites were detected, including seven nematodes (i.e., Aelurostrongylus abstrusus, Angiostrongylus spp., Uncinaria stenocephala, Toxascaris leonina, Toxocara cati, Cylicospirura spp. and Capillaria spp.), one cestode (Diphyllobothriidae) and one trematode (Heterophylidae) as well as six protozoans (i.e., Cystoisospora rivolta, Cystoisospora felis, Toxoplasma gondii/Hammondia spp., Sarcocystis spp., Giardia intestinalis and Cryptosporidium spp.). Moreover, first-stage larvae (L1) of spurious lungworm, Protostrongylus pulmonalis, originating from lagomorph preys were identified. This work represents the first report on patent A. abstrusus and Angiostrongylus spp. infections in wild German Eurasian lynxes. Some of the identified parasites represent relevant pathogens for lynxes, circulating between these carnivorous definitive hosts and a variety of mammalian and invertebrate intermediate hosts, e.g., Sarcocystis spp., T. gondii/Hammondia spp., T. cati, T. leonina, A. abstrusus and Angiostrongylus spp., while others are considered exclusively pathogenic for wild felids (e.g., Cylicospirura spp., C. rivolta, C. felis). This study provides insights in the occurrence of zooanthroponotically relevant metazoan (i.e., T. cati and U. stenocephala) and protozoan (i.e., G. intestinalis) species in free-ranging lynx. The present work should be considered as a baseline study for future monitoring surveys on endoparasites circulating in wild Eurasian lynx for appropriate management practices in lynx conservation strategies in Europe.

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