Researchers identify the bacteria that can make the Bolson tortoise become ill

December 03, 2020

The Bolson tortoise (Bolson Gopherus flavomarginatus) is the largest land reptile in North America. It lives mainly in dry areas, in particular, in the Chihuahua desert in northern Mexico. In recent decades, its numbers have fallen by 50%, driving the International Union for Conservation of Nature to include it on its red list and it has been classified as endangered. Land tortoises are prone to suffering from a wide range of diseases that can deplete their numbers even more, therefore understanding potential pathogenic organisms could help in advancing conservation strategies.

This was the task set for a research team made up of members from different universities and Mexican entities, including Zoology Professor Francisco Sánchez Tortosa from the University of Córdoba, given his knowledge and experience in conservation biology. Specifically, in this research study, published in Biology, the bacteria present in Ornithodoros turicata ticks were analyzed. These ticks are parasites on tortoises and can transmit diseases to them.

In order to carry out the research, 45 Bolson tortoises were captured at the Mapimí Biosphere Reserve in Mexico, out of which 11 had ticks on their shell or their skin. 17 adult ticks were collected to analyze the bacteria they carried, by means of next generation sequencing.

In the analyses, a large number of potentially pathogenic bacteria was found. This could be due to the large variety of guests found on these kinds of ticks that act as hosts. These live in the big burrows built by the tortoises and used by other animal species such as rodents, birds and other reptiles, that they are parasites on as well.

Among the most numerous bacteria detected are Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria and Firmicutes. Of these, two documented bacteria were registered as pathogens, Mycoplasma spp and Pasteurella testudinis. In addition, A. marginale pathogenic bovine bacteria and A. kovis pathogenic ovine bacteria were detected, as well as A. phagocytophilum, Coxiella burnetii and Neoehrlichia sp zoonoctic bacteria.

According to Professor Francisco Sánchez Tortosa, these results could be interpreted in two ways. On the one hand, this research could lead us to believe that these ticks, and in turn these tortoises, carry diseases that could spread to other animal species, such as livestock, and ultimately, to humans. "That would be an erroneous and catastrophic interpretation as it could lead to a campaign against it that could end in this species's extinction", he asserts.

On the other hand, his vision is more optimistic. "Jumps from one species to another are very uncommon. Now we have this information, but these pathogens have been living with all the other fauna for thousands of years and nothing has ever happened. If we were to perform this research with other animal species, we would surely find similar results. This research is simply a tool in order for us to better understand natural processes and help conserve this species of tortoise, not the other way around", he explains.

The tortoises with parasites did not show evident signs of disease, so further research is needed to understand the tortoises' defense mechanisms against diseases that can be transmitted by ticks, and their characteristics as guests.
The research team taking part in this study is made up of researchers from the Autonomous University of Chapingo (Mexico), the University Juarez del Estado Durango (Mexico), the Autonomous University of Guerrero (Mexico), the Autonomous National University of Mexico, the Mexican National Institute of Cancerology and the University of Cordoba (Spain).

Reference: Sergio I. Barraza-Guerrero , César A. Meza-Herrera , Cristina García-De la Peña,Vicente H. González-Álvarez , Felipe Vaca-Paniagua, Clara E. Díaz-Velásquez,Francisco Sánchez-Tortosa, Verónica Ávila-Rodríguez, Luis M. Valenzuela-Núñez and Juan C. Herrera-Salazar. General Microbiota of the Soft Tick Ornithodoros turicata Parasitizing the Bolson Tortoise (Gopherus flavomarginatus) in the Mapimi Biosphere Reserve, Mexico. Biology 2020, 9, 275; doi:10.3390/biology9090275

University of Córdoba

Related Bacteria Articles from Brightsurf:

Siblings can also differ from one another in bacteria
A research team from the University of Tübingen and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) is investigating how pathogens influence the immune response of their host with genetic variation.

How bacteria fertilize soya
Soya and clover have their very own fertiliser factories in their roots, where bacteria manufacture ammonium, which is crucial for plant growth.

Bacteria might help other bacteria to tolerate antibiotics better
A new paper by the Dynamical Systems Biology lab at UPF shows that the response by bacteria to antibiotics may depend on other species of bacteria they live with, in such a way that some bacteria may make others more tolerant to antibiotics.

Two-faced bacteria
The gut microbiome, which is a collection of numerous beneficial bacteria species, is key to our overall well-being and good health.

Microcensus in bacteria
Bacillus subtilis can determine proportions of different groups within a mixed population.

Right beneath the skin we all have the same bacteria
In the dermis skin layer, the same bacteria are found across age and gender.

Bacteria must be 'stressed out' to divide
Bacterial cell division is controlled by both enzymatic activity and mechanical forces, which work together to control its timing and location, a new study from EPFL finds.

How bees live with bacteria
More than 90 percent of all bee species are not organized in colonies, but fight their way through life alone.

The bacteria building your baby
Australian researchers have laid to rest a longstanding controversy: is the womb sterile?

Hopping bacteria
Scientists have long known that key models of bacterial movement in real-world conditions are flawed.

Read More: Bacteria News and Bacteria Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to