Causes of mortality and lesions observed post mortem in European moles (Talpa europaea) in Cornwall, south-west England: Disease in wildlife or exotic species

V R Simpson, N J Davison, M P Dagleish*

*Corresponding author for this work

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    European moles (Talpa europaea) are a common species in the UK, but there are few published data on the causes of mortality in these animals. An opportunistic post-mortem study was carried out on 44 moles found dead or dying in Cornwall, UK. Assessment of muscle condition and fat reserves, where possible, indicated that most (27 of 37, 73%) were in good nutritive condition. The majority had died of trauma (n = 40, 91%), the principal cause of which was predation (n = 36, 81.8%) by foxes and domestic cats and dogs. The carcases were in a variable state of preservation, but 28 cases were suitable for histopathological examination. This revealed lesions in the lungs of 92.8 % (26 of 28) of the animals. The commonest lesions comprised localized infiltration of the parenchyma by macrophages and eosinophils and in most cases the lesions were unlikely to have been of clinical significance; in two cases they were associated with infection by a parasitic nematode. One mole showed severe pneumonitis and hepatitis caused by infection with Toxoplasma gondii. Adiaspiromycosis was diagnosed in two moles, one by direct microscopical examination of the lung and one by histopathology; the lesions were not considered to be of clinical significance. Severe pleurisy and pericarditis caused by infection with Streptobacillus moniliformis was seen in a mole that had suffered bite wounds to a foot previously. Cholangitis due to infection by a protozoal parasite, provisionally identified as Cyclospora talpae, was a common histopathological finding (11 of 28, 39.3%); infection by the parasite did not appear to affect body condition adversely. Miscellaneous conditions identified were ulcerative dermatitis associated with gram-positive cocci (n = 1), extra medullary haemopoiesis in spleens (six of 12, 50%) and mineralized foci in pulmonary blood vessels (three of 28, 10.7%). No significant pathology was seen in the kidneys. This study suggests that the health status of moles in Cornwall is generally good and predation is a common cause of mortality. Pulmonary disease, associated in some cases with nematode infections, is also prevalent, but probably of little clinical significance. There is a high prevalence of cholangitis due to infection with a protozoan parasite believed to be C. talpae. Other diseases identified include adiaspiromycosis, streptobacillosis and toxoplasmosis.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)18-25
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Comparative Pathology
    Early online date27 Dec 2018
    Publication statusPrint publication - Feb 2019

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


    • Cyclospora
    • European mole
    • Pathology
    • Streptobacillus


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