Thursday, 9 November 2017

How declining mammal populations in the Florida Everglades are linked to the invasive Burmese python

October 31, 2017

New research published in Biology Letters looks at how declining mammal populations in the Florida Everglades is linked to the invasive Burmese python. We talked to one of the authors, Nathan Burkett-Cadena from the University of Florida, about his research and the repercussions of what he and his co-authors found.

Tell us about yourself and your research
I'm an Assistant Professor at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, a Research and Extension Campus of the University of Florida. My lab focuses on understanding why each mosquito species bites the animals that it does, when and where it does, and how that interaction drives the transmission of mosquito-borne viruses.

What is your article about?
This article is about how a vector mosquito, Culex cedecei, has shifted from feeding upon a variety of mammals to feeding almost exclusively on certain rodents in parts of the Everglades where the invasive Burmese python is established. The Burmese python is implicated in decimating populations of rabbits, deer, raccoons and other mammals. Rodents are the only mammals that have persisted in python-established areas, probably because of their high natural densities and explosive reproduction. Now that rabbits, raccoons and deer are all but eliminated, C. cedecei is "forced" to feed on rodents, particularly the hispid cotton rat. The hispid cotton rat just happens to be one of the only known natural hosts of Everglades virus, an encephalitis-causing pathogen. C. cedecei is the only mosquito known to transmit Everglades virus. As this mosquito feeds more and more on hispid cotton rats, this could increase the prevalence of Everglades virus and human risk to exposure.

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