, Volume 150, Issue 1, pp 287-291,
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Date: 11 Nov 2008

Prevalence of malaria and related haemosporidian parasites in two shorebird species with different winter habitat distribution


Parasites can have strong effects on host life-history and behaviour, and result in changes in host population dynamics and community structure. We applied a PCR-based technique and examined prevalence of malaria and related haemosporidian parasites in two arctic breeding shorebird species: the Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla) and the Pectoral Sandpiper (C. melanotos). During the non-breeding season, Semipalmated Sandpipers inhabit coastal marine habitats, whereas Pectoral Sandpipers are found in inland areas. In accordance with the hypothesis that the risk of parasite infection is higher in a species wintering in freshwater areas, we found Plasmodium sp. infection during the breeding season only in Pectoral Sandpipers, whereas Semipalmated Sandpipers were parasite free. However, even in Pectoral Sandpipers sampled in the arctic, prevalence of malaria parasites was very low (<3% of individuals, n = 114). Overall, three different Plasmodium sp. lineages were found, one of which has never been described before.

Communicated by F. Bairlein.