Parasitology Research

, Volume 103, Issue 6, pp 1435–1443 | Cite as

Genetic characterization, distribution and prevalence of avian pox and avian malaria in the Berthelot’s pipit (Anthus berthelotii) in Macaronesia

  • Juan Carlos IlleraEmail author
  • Brent C. Emerson
  • David S. Richardson
Original Paper


Exotic pathogens have been implicated in the decline and extinction of various native-island-bird species. Despite the fact that there is increasing concern about the introduction of diseases in island ecosystems, little is known about parasites in the islands of Macaronesia. We focus on Berthelot’s pipit (Anthus berthelotii), an endemic and widespread Macaronesian bird species, using a combination of field studies and molecular techniques to determine: (1) the range and prevalence of avian pox and malaria in Berthelot’s pipits throughout the species’ distribution, (2) the genetic characterization of both parasites in order to ascertain the level of host specificity. We sampled 447 pipits across the 12 islands inhabited by this species. Overall, 8% of all individuals showed evidence of pox lesions and 16% were infected with avian malaria, respectively. We observed marked differences in the prevalence of parasites among islands both within and between archipelagos. Avian pox prevalence varied between 0–54% within and between archipelagos and avian malaria prevalence varied between 0–64% within and between archipelagos. The diversity of pathogens detected was low: only two genetic lineages of avian malaria and one lineage of avian pox were found to infect the pipit throughout its range. Interestingly, both avian malaria parasites found were Plasmodium spp. that had not been previously reported in the Macaronesian avifauna (but that had been observed in the lesser kestrel Falco naumannii), while the avian pox was a host specific lineage that had previously been reported on two of the Canary Islands.


Malaria Canary Island Avian Malaria Avian Malaria Parasite Initial Polymerase Chain Reaction 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



José Luis Tella provided additional blood samples from Lanzarote and Fuerteventura islands. We are also grateful to the many friends who assisted with the sampling and provided accommodation in the Canary Islands. This work was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science (Ref.: EX2005-0585), by a grant from John and Pamela Salter Charitable Trust to JCI, and by a UK NERC fellowship to DSR. The Regional Government of the Canary Islands and Regional Government of Madeira gave permission to trap and ring birds. The Spanish Ministry of Environment gave permission to work in the National Park of Las Cañadas del Teide. The Cabildo of Fuerteventura provided accommodation in the Fuerteventura Island. Thanks also to the staff of the Natural Park of Madeira for providing logistical support in the Madeiran and Selvagen archipelagos and to the Portuguese Navy for transport to Selvagen Grande and Deserta Grande.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan Carlos Illera
    • 1
    Email author
  • Brent C. Emerson
    • 2
  • David S. Richardson
    • 2
  1. 1.Island Ecology and Evolution Research GroupIPNA, CSICLa Laguna, TenerifeSpain
  2. 2.Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation, School of Biological SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK

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