Linkage between mitochondrial cytochrome b lineages and morphospecies of two avian malaria parasites, with a description of Plasmodium (Novyella) ashfordi sp. nov
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Numerous lineages of avian malaria parasites of the genus Plasmodium have been deposited in GenBank. However, only seven morphospecies have been linked to these lineages. This study linked two molecular sequences with morphospecies of malaria parasites. Two species of Plasmodium (mitochondrial cytochrome b gene lineages P-GRW2 and P-GRW4) were isolated from naturally infected adult great reed warblers (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) and inoculated to naive juvenile individuals of the same host species. Heavy parasitemia developed in the subinoculated birds, which enable identification of the species and deposition of their voucher specimens. Parasites of the lineage P-GRW2 were described as a new species, Plasmodium (Novyella) ashfordi, which is characterized primarily by the fan-like mature erythrocytic meronts containing seven to eight merozoites and the terminal position of clumped pigment granules in the gametocytes. Illustrations of the blood stages of the new species and Plasmodium (Haemamoeba) relictum (lineage P-GRW4) are given. The parasites of both lineages are transmitted in Africa and probably not in northern Europe. Other lineages closely related to P. ashfordi and P. relictum are identified. This study establishes the value of PCR-based identification of avian malaria parasites.
This article benefited from comments made by John R. Baker. The authors are grateful to Alan Warren, Natural History Museum, London for providing the type material of P. vaughani and P. relictum, and Robert Adlard, Queensland Museum, Queensland for providing the voucher blood slide of P. relictum capistranoae. The present study was supported in part by the Swedish Research Council, Carl Tryggers Foundation, and the Lithuanian State Science and Studies Foundation. The experiments described herein comply with the current laws of Sweden, Bulgaria, and Lithuania.
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