The ecology of zoonotic parasites in the Carnivora

Trends Parasitol. 2021 Dec;37(12):1096-1110. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2021 Sep 17.


The order Carnivora includes over 300 species that vary many orders of magnitude in size and inhabit all major biomes, from tropical rainforests to polar seas. The high diversity of carnivore parasites represents a source of potential emerging diseases of humans. Zoonotic risk from this group may be driven in part by exceptionally high functional diversity of host species in behavioral, physiological, and ecological traits. We review global macroecological patterns of zoonotic parasites within carnivores, and explore the traits of species that serve as hosts of zoonotic parasites. We synthesize theoretical and empirical research and suggest future work on the roles of carnivores as biotic multipliers, regulators, and sentinels of zoonotic disease as timely research frontiers.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; host traits; omnivory; spillback; spillover; transmission risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodiversity
  • Carnivora / parasitology*
  • Host Specificity
  • Host-Parasite Interactions*
  • Humans
  • Zoonoses / parasitology*