Sarcocysts of Sarcocystis sp. were found in the striated muscles from 11 of 14 wild Florida panthers (Felis concolor coryi) and four of four cougars (two wild F. concolor stanleyana and two captive F. concolor of undetermined subspecies). The common occurrence of sarcocysts in muscles of top carnivores such panthers and cougars is unexplained. This stage of the life cycle is normally confined to the muscles of the prey species. Because large felids are rarely preyed upon, it is unlikely that a species of Sarcocystis has evolved using large cats as intermediate hosts. Therefore, the presence of these sarcocysts might be an indication of immune compromise in these felids, enabling the atypical development of the sarcocysts.
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Vol. 25 • No. 4