Recovery of South Australian rabbit populations from the impact of rabbit haemorrhagic disease

Greg Mutze, P. Bird, Scott Jennings, David Peacock, N. de Preu, John Kovaliski, Brian Cooke, Lorenzo Capucci

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    18 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Context. Recovery of Australian rabbit populations from the impact of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) contrasts with more prolonged suppression of wild rabbits in Europe, and has been widely discussed in the scientific community, but not yet documented in formal scientific literature. The underlying causes of recovery remain unclear, but resistance to RHDV infection has been reported in laboratory studies of wild-caught rabbits. Aims. We document numerical changes in two South Australian wild rabbit populations that were initially suppressed by RHDV, and examine serological data to evaluate several alternative hypotheses for the cause of recovery. Methods. Rabbit numbers were assessed from spotlight transect counts and dung mass transects between 1991 and 2011, and age and RHDV antibody sero-prevalence were estimated from rabbits shot in late summer. Key results. Rabbit numbers were heavily suppressed by RHDV between 1995 and 2002, then increased 5- to 10-fold between 2003 and 2010. During the period of increase, annual RHDV infection rates remained stable or increased slightly, average age of rabbits remained stable and annual rainfall was below average. Conclusions. Rabbit populations recovered but neither avoidance of RHDV infection, gradual accumulation of long-lived RHD-immune rabbits, nor high pasture productivity were contributing factors. This leaves increased annual survival from RHDV infection as the most likely cause of recovery. Implications. Previously documented evidence of resistance to RHDV infection may be of little consequence to post-RHD recovery in rabbit numbers, unless the factors that influence the probability of infection also shape the course of infection and affect survival of infected rabbits.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)552-559
    Number of pages8
    JournalWildlife Research
    Volume41
    Issue number7
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

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    Rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus
    virus
    rabbits
    infection
    transect
    wild population
    antibody
    pasture
    seroprevalence
    fold
    productivity
    rainfall
    feces
    pastures
    summer
    rain

    Cite this

    Mutze, G., Bird, P., Jennings, S., Peacock, D., de Preu, N., Kovaliski, J., ... Capucci, L. (2014). Recovery of South Australian rabbit populations from the impact of rabbit haemorrhagic disease. Wildlife Research, 41(7), 552-559. https://doi.org/10.1071/WR14107
    Mutze, Greg ; Bird, P. ; Jennings, Scott ; Peacock, David ; de Preu, N. ; Kovaliski, John ; Cooke, Brian ; Capucci, Lorenzo. / Recovery of South Australian rabbit populations from the impact of rabbit haemorrhagic disease. In: Wildlife Research. 2014 ; Vol. 41, No. 7. pp. 552-559.
    @article{ceee428a2b0b4cf39026a67be96978ee,
    title = "Recovery of South Australian rabbit populations from the impact of rabbit haemorrhagic disease",
    abstract = "Context. Recovery of Australian rabbit populations from the impact of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) contrasts with more prolonged suppression of wild rabbits in Europe, and has been widely discussed in the scientific community, but not yet documented in formal scientific literature. The underlying causes of recovery remain unclear, but resistance to RHDV infection has been reported in laboratory studies of wild-caught rabbits. Aims. We document numerical changes in two South Australian wild rabbit populations that were initially suppressed by RHDV, and examine serological data to evaluate several alternative hypotheses for the cause of recovery. Methods. Rabbit numbers were assessed from spotlight transect counts and dung mass transects between 1991 and 2011, and age and RHDV antibody sero-prevalence were estimated from rabbits shot in late summer. Key results. Rabbit numbers were heavily suppressed by RHDV between 1995 and 2002, then increased 5- to 10-fold between 2003 and 2010. During the period of increase, annual RHDV infection rates remained stable or increased slightly, average age of rabbits remained stable and annual rainfall was below average. Conclusions. Rabbit populations recovered but neither avoidance of RHDV infection, gradual accumulation of long-lived RHD-immune rabbits, nor high pasture productivity were contributing factors. This leaves increased annual survival from RHDV infection as the most likely cause of recovery. Implications. Previously documented evidence of resistance to RHDV infection may be of little consequence to post-RHD recovery in rabbit numbers, unless the factors that influence the probability of infection also shape the course of infection and affect survival of infected rabbits.",
    keywords = "antibody, disease prevalence, immune system, lagomorph, population structure, wild population, Australia, Europe, South Australia",
    author = "Greg Mutze and P. Bird and Scott Jennings and David Peacock and {de Preu}, N. and John Kovaliski and Brian Cooke and Lorenzo Capucci",
    year = "2014",
    doi = "10.1071/WR14107",
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    pages = "552--559",
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    Mutze, G, Bird, P, Jennings, S, Peacock, D, de Preu, N, Kovaliski, J, Cooke, B & Capucci, L 2014, 'Recovery of South Australian rabbit populations from the impact of rabbit haemorrhagic disease', Wildlife Research, vol. 41, no. 7, pp. 552-559. https://doi.org/10.1071/WR14107

    Recovery of South Australian rabbit populations from the impact of rabbit haemorrhagic disease. / Mutze, Greg; Bird, P.; Jennings, Scott; Peacock, David; de Preu, N.; Kovaliski, John; Cooke, Brian; Capucci, Lorenzo.

    In: Wildlife Research, Vol. 41, No. 7, 2014, p. 552-559.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    TY - JOUR

    T1 - Recovery of South Australian rabbit populations from the impact of rabbit haemorrhagic disease

    AU - Mutze, Greg

    AU - Bird, P.

    AU - Jennings, Scott

    AU - Peacock, David

    AU - de Preu, N.

    AU - Kovaliski, John

    AU - Cooke, Brian

    AU - Capucci, Lorenzo

    PY - 2014

    Y1 - 2014

    N2 - Context. Recovery of Australian rabbit populations from the impact of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) contrasts with more prolonged suppression of wild rabbits in Europe, and has been widely discussed in the scientific community, but not yet documented in formal scientific literature. The underlying causes of recovery remain unclear, but resistance to RHDV infection has been reported in laboratory studies of wild-caught rabbits. Aims. We document numerical changes in two South Australian wild rabbit populations that were initially suppressed by RHDV, and examine serological data to evaluate several alternative hypotheses for the cause of recovery. Methods. Rabbit numbers were assessed from spotlight transect counts and dung mass transects between 1991 and 2011, and age and RHDV antibody sero-prevalence were estimated from rabbits shot in late summer. Key results. Rabbit numbers were heavily suppressed by RHDV between 1995 and 2002, then increased 5- to 10-fold between 2003 and 2010. During the period of increase, annual RHDV infection rates remained stable or increased slightly, average age of rabbits remained stable and annual rainfall was below average. Conclusions. Rabbit populations recovered but neither avoidance of RHDV infection, gradual accumulation of long-lived RHD-immune rabbits, nor high pasture productivity were contributing factors. This leaves increased annual survival from RHDV infection as the most likely cause of recovery. Implications. Previously documented evidence of resistance to RHDV infection may be of little consequence to post-RHD recovery in rabbit numbers, unless the factors that influence the probability of infection also shape the course of infection and affect survival of infected rabbits.

    AB - Context. Recovery of Australian rabbit populations from the impact of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) contrasts with more prolonged suppression of wild rabbits in Europe, and has been widely discussed in the scientific community, but not yet documented in formal scientific literature. The underlying causes of recovery remain unclear, but resistance to RHDV infection has been reported in laboratory studies of wild-caught rabbits. Aims. We document numerical changes in two South Australian wild rabbit populations that were initially suppressed by RHDV, and examine serological data to evaluate several alternative hypotheses for the cause of recovery. Methods. Rabbit numbers were assessed from spotlight transect counts and dung mass transects between 1991 and 2011, and age and RHDV antibody sero-prevalence were estimated from rabbits shot in late summer. Key results. Rabbit numbers were heavily suppressed by RHDV between 1995 and 2002, then increased 5- to 10-fold between 2003 and 2010. During the period of increase, annual RHDV infection rates remained stable or increased slightly, average age of rabbits remained stable and annual rainfall was below average. Conclusions. Rabbit populations recovered but neither avoidance of RHDV infection, gradual accumulation of long-lived RHD-immune rabbits, nor high pasture productivity were contributing factors. This leaves increased annual survival from RHDV infection as the most likely cause of recovery. Implications. Previously documented evidence of resistance to RHDV infection may be of little consequence to post-RHD recovery in rabbit numbers, unless the factors that influence the probability of infection also shape the course of infection and affect survival of infected rabbits.

    KW - antibody

    KW - disease prevalence

    KW - immune system

    KW - lagomorph

    KW - population structure

    KW - wild population

    KW - Australia

    KW - Europe

    KW - South Australia

    U2 - 10.1071/WR14107

    DO - 10.1071/WR14107

    M3 - Article

    VL - 41

    SP - 552

    EP - 559

    JO - Australian Wildlife Research

    JF - Australian Wildlife Research

    SN - 1035-3712

    IS - 7

    ER -