Protecting Free-Living Dormice: Molecular Identification of Cestode Parasites in Captive Dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius) Destined for Reintroduction

Ecohealth. 2017 Mar;14(Suppl 1):106-116. doi: 10.1007/s10393-016-1108-x. Epub 2016 Mar 8.


The success of any population translocation programme relies heavily on the measures implemented to control and monitor the spread of disease. Without these measures, programmes run the risk of releasing immunologically naïve species or, more dangerously, introducing novel infectious agents to native populations. As a precaution, a reintroduction programme for the common or hazel dormouse, Muscardinus avellanarius, in England screens dormice before release following captive breeding. Using PCR sequencing of a range of genes, we tested whether the same species of tapeworm(s) were present in captive and free-living dormice. Whilst only Rodentolepis straminea were identified in free-living dormice, cestode ova found in a captive individual produced a molecular match closely related to Hymenolepis microstoma and a previously unrecorded Rodentolepis species. To prevent putting at risk the free-living population, we recommended the continued treatment of dormice showing tapeworm infection before release. Our work demonstrates how molecular techniques can be used to inform reintroduction programmes, reduce risk from disease and increase chances of reintroduction success.

Keywords: Cestodes; Disease; Hymenolepis fraterna; Hymenolepis microstoma; Rodentolepis straminea; Translocation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cestoda / genetics
  • Cestoda / pathogenicity*
  • England
  • Myoxidae / parasitology*
  • Parasites
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction