Research: Benefits of a keystone and threatened species for human health: Evaluation of potential effects of Black-tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) colonies on the prevalence of arenavirus and hantavirus in small mammals from the Janos Biosphere Reserve, Chihuahua, Mexico
Abstract: The Black-tailed Prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) is a keystone species from the grassland of North America that can modulate the assemblages of small mammals within their colonies. The effect on communities of small mammals can indirectly influence the dynamics of rodent-borne zoonotic infectious diseases, but this issue has not been addressed yet. The aim of this project is to assess the relation between the prevalence of two rodent-borne zoonotic diseases (arenavirus and hantavirus) and the diversity of small mammals in habitats of prairie dog colonies and in habitats where prairie dogs are absent. Our prediction of lower pathogen prevalence within habitats of prairie dogs could give new support of the importance of prairie dogs on the ecosystem, due to the decrease of diseases that can affect humans. In sum, this project may prove important new data of the role of C. ludovicianus in buffering infectious diseases; therefore, this information can be taken to reinforce the conservation of this endangered mammal in Mexico.