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Project Spotlight: Quail Histology and Parasites

Trey E. Johnson, Dale Rollins, Carlos E. Gonzalez-Gonzalez, and Ryan S. Luna
3 quail eyeworms

Scaled (Callipepla squamata), Gambel’s (C. gambelii), and Montezuma quail (Cyrtonyx montezumae) infected with eyeworms (Oxyspirura petrowi).

Populations of quails in Texas have declined over the past few decades due primarily to habitat loss. However, the role that parasites may play in such declines has been largely dismissed. To help address this, we collected scaled quail (Callipepla squamata), Gambel’s quail (Callipepla gambellii), and Montezuma quail (Cyrtonyx montezumae) from across the Trans-Pecos ecoregion of Texas via hunter-harvest, funnel trapping, and nightlighting.

Quail samples were then necropsied to determine the occurrence of various endoparasites, especially eyeworms (Oxyspirura petrowi) and cecal worms (Aulonocephalus pennula). Individual quail organs were submitted to the Texas A&M University Veterinary Medicine Diagnostic Lab (TVMDL), where histopathological analyses were conducted to gain information on parasite-related tissue damage and to document other pathogenic factors.

We determined that host tissues were exhibiting immune responses to O. petrowi. However, the immune responses that were observed did not indicate severe tissue damage but rather mild irritation within the ocular tissues. It has been speculated that such irritation to ocular tissues could negatively impact quail vision. This is worth noting because quail rely heavily on their vision to detect and avoid predators. Future research should focus on measuring the impacts of O. petrowi infections on quail survival.