If you’re a deer hunter in the North Country, Clarkson Professor Andrew David would like your help.
David, an Assistant Professor and Director of First Year Biology at Clarkson, is attempting to collect and analyze parasitic flukes from deer in the Adirondack area to determine whether or not the parasites are enzootic (naturally occurring) in the region.
Giant Liver Flukes can be found in the livers of whitetail deer. While they are invasive in Europe, they are generally not harmful to the deer population where they are considered enzootic.
“The deer and the fluke have reached sort of a compromise where the immune system has sort of been primed with it,” David said. “As far as we know, this is the first time we are analyzing the population genetics of that fluke here in the Adirondack Mountains.”
The Giant Liver Fluke is enzootic, or naturally occurring, in areas near the Adirondacks, including the Great Lakes Region and in Quebec and Labrador in Canada, and David and Pre-Vet Biology Major Alison Parker ’20 want to find out if their enzootic range extends to this region also.
“If we can know that they don’t cause a significant negative impact on the deer in this area, then it is likely enzootic. And that has to do with how it is related to other endemic [enzootic] populations in the country,” Parker said.
David said the main goal in his research of Giant Liver Flukes is to figure out if these parasites form their own genetic cohort, or if they exhibit spatial connections to parasites found in the Great Lakes or Quebec regions.
“We would expect, geographically speaking, they would be closer to areas right over the border but what we are finding is that, based on our analysis, it is more related to the Great Lakes flukes,” David said.
“Already the data we are getting is a bit strange because it is closely related to the Great Lake flukes but what we are seeing is that they are beginning to sort of fall out into their own group,” David continued. “We are not sure if that is because of the relative isolation of the deer in the Adirondacks, or if it something we are overlooking”.
In order to find out more about these parasites, David is asking deer hunters to check for Giant Liver Flukes and send them to him if they find one.
“We want to gather as much data as possible because one thing we want to do is calculate their genetic diversity,” David explained. “The more genetically diverse they are, the more likely they have been here for a long time and the more likely they are native to the Adirondacks.”
David said the flukes are not harmful to humans unless they come in contact with the larvae. However, the larvae are not found in deer, but in and near snails, which act as a vehicle for the parasite as it searches for its final host.
If a hunter wants to check for the flukes, all they would have to do is cut into the liver of the deer and check for one. The flukes are easy to spot as they will stand out from the rest of the liver and are usually about the size of a quarter.
If found, parasites can be put in a sealed plastic bag and mailed to:
Attn: Prof. David
Biology Department (Box 5805)
8 Clarkson Ave.
Potsdam NY - 13699