Texas Tech-led study shows culprit to quail decline

Researchers: Blood-Sucking Eyeworm Culprit to Quail Decline

The Texas Tech-led study, was part of the multi-million dollar Operation Idiopathic Decline.

In the summer of 2010, the Rolling Plains of West Texas expected a bumper crop of quail. By October, they nearly had vanished.

Now, as part of the largest quail disease study ever undertaken in the U.S., scientists at The Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech University believe they have found a major culprit.

Researchers in the Wildlife Toxicology Laboratory necropsied hundreds of birds throughout a 19-million-acre area of land and discovered large numbers of parasitic eyeworms in many of the birds they sampled.

The study, part of the multi-million dollar Operation Idiopathic Decline and funded by the private Rolling Plains Quail Research Foundation, is titled “Evidence of an Oxispirura petrowi Epizootic in Northern Bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) Texas, USA.” It was published in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases and provides evidence of how the parasitic outbreak began.

“When we first got into this research project and started peeling back the layers of this onion, we asked if it’s possible for a parasite to move that quickly through a population on a large area,” said Ron Kendall, professor of environmental toxicology at Texas Tech and lead investigator. “And we answered the question. It’s ‘yes.’”

Other researchers include a key collaborator, Alan Fedynich, an associate professor and research scientist at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, a post-doctoral research associate and three doctoral students in the Wildlife Toxicology Laboratory.