Research Article

Richness, origin and structure of an Eimeria community in a population of Eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) introduced into Italy


a1 University of Turin, DIVAPRA Entomology and Zoology, via L. Da Vinci 44, 10095 Grugliasco (TO), Italy

a2 Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Parasitology, Palackého 1-3, 612 42, Brno, Czech Republic

a3 Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, MacLean Building, Wallingford, Oxfordshire, UK

a4 Biology Centre of the ASCR, Institute of Parasitology, Branišovská 31, 370 05 České Budějovice, Czech Republic


The composition and structure of a community of Eimeria was investigated in a population of Eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) introduced into Italy. Eight Eimeria species were found, of which all but 1 had North American origins and were presumably introduced into Italy together with imported cottontails. The success of cottontails in spreading microparasites is probably related to their massive release for hunting purposes. Nearly all cottontails were infected with at least 1 Eimeria species, with bimonthly prevalence ranging from 0–6·3% (E. leporis) to 42·9–89·3% (E. environ). Bayesian model averaging and multivariate techniques were used to investigate the relationships between the occurrence of each parasite and the structure of the relative community. Among the host parameters, only sex was found to be associated with the prevalence of E. honessi, while the rest of the parameters were only weakly correlated with prevalence and species richness. This indicates that individual phenotypic host characteristics are probably less important than environmental factors in determining levels of parasite prevalence and diversity. The community of Eimeria species was probably structured by competition, with less species co-occurrence than expected under a null hypothesis. This was made evident by the low co-occurrence of E. environ and E. neoirresidua with E. poudrei, E. honessi, and E. maior.

(Received August 03 2009)

(Revised November 29 2009)

(Revised December 07 2009)

(Accepted December 08 2009)

(Online publication March 17 2010)


c1 Corresponding author: University of Turin, DI.VA.P.R.A. Entomology and Zoology. Via L. da Vinci 44, 10095 Grugliasco (TO), Italy. Tel: +39 0116708677. Fax: +39 0116708586. E-mail: