Friday, February 24, 2023

Island Foxes on the Cover of Molecular Ecology

Fox Foto Friday - Island foxes make the cover of another scientific journal!


Friends of the Island Fox congratulates Jasmine Lu on the publication of her paper–"Ear mite infection restructures otic microbial networks in conservation–reliant Santa Catalina Island foxes (Urocyon littoralis catalinae)"–in Molecular Ecology

Working with Dr. Alexandra DeCandia, Lu investigated the connections between bacteria communities and ear mite infection to understand why island foxes on Catalina became so vulnerable to cancerous tumors in their ear canals.

When there's biodiversity in an island fox's microbiome, good bacteria can work together to keep harmful bacteria in check. When there is a lack of diversity, opportunistic pathogens, like Staphylococcus pseudintermedius can become the dominant bacteria in a fox's ear. In combination, ear mite infestation and S. pseudintermedius promote chronic inflammation. More on bacterial imbalance in island fox ear canal

Compounding the probability for serious disease, two strains of Staph bacteria appeared to cooperate in forming a "multistrain biofilm." As the bacterial community deteriorated, other carcinogenesis-promoting microbes rose in prevalence and assumed a keystone role in the microbiome. 

A video of Jasmine Lu discussing her work on "Date with a Fox" will be available soon.

Read the scientific paper

Why does the occurrence of ear mites in Catalina Island foxes initiate this bacterial imbalance? Other island foxes encounter ear mites, but a similar imbalance does not occur.

Those smudgy swabs collected from island fox ears during health checks continue to provide data to compare microbiomes between island foxes. 

Your donations helped to fund this important research for island foxes and the furtherance of scientific understanding of the potential role of bacteria in some cancers.