University Of Tasmania
149055 - The patterns and causes of dermatitis in terrestrial and semi aquatic mammalian wildlife.pdf (827.92 kB)

The patterns and causes of dermatitis in terrestrial and semi-aquatic mammalian wildlife

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Causative disease and stress agents which manifest as dermatitis in mammals have varying effects on individual animals, from benign irritation and inflammation, to causing morbidity and even mortality. Bacteria, viruses and ectoparasites are all potential causes of dermatitis, and it can be exacerbated by various environmental, genetic and social factors. Furthermore, it is uncertain whether dermatitis is more likely to manifest in already-vulnerable wildlife species. Here, we systematically review the literature for reports of dermatitis in terrestrial and semi-aquatic wild mammalian species, with the goal of determining the biogeographical scale of dermatitis reports, the causes of dermatitis, and whether manifestation of dermatitis is reported more commonly in certain wildlife species or their captivity status (i.e., free-living, in captivity or in a laboratory). We reveal biases in the reporting of dermatitis by a biogeographic realm, with 55% of cases reported in the Nearctic, and towards particular orders of mammals, namely Artiodactyla and Carnivora. Overall, free-living wildlife is almost twice as likely to be reported as having dermatitis than individuals in captivity and six times more likely than individuals in laboratories, which we interpret as owing to exposure to a broader spectrum of parasites in free-ranging individuals, and potential reporting bias in captive individuals. Notably, dermatitis was reported in 23 threatened species, with some species more likely than others to be reported exhibiting clinical signs of dermatitis resulting from underlying health problems. We also find that threatened species are more likely to be reported as having dermatitis in captivity, particularly outside of their endemic home range. This review highlights diverse patterns of dermatological disease causes in captive and free-ranging wildlife, conditions under which they are more likely to be documented, and the need for cross-disciplinary research to ascertain (and so better manage) the varied causes.


Australian Research Council


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Copyright: © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license (

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  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Control of pests, diseases and exotic species in terrestrial environments; Terrestrial biodiversity