Conservation Genetics

, Volume 9, Issue 6, pp 1577–1588 | Cite as

Geographic variation in malarial parasite lineages in the common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)

  • K. M. Pagenkopp
  • J. Klicka
  • K. L. Durrant
  • J. C. Garvin
  • R. C. Fleischer
Research Article


Our current understanding of migration routes of many birds is limited and researchers have employed various methods to determine migratory patterns. Recently, parasites have been used to track migratory birds. The objective of this study was to determine whether haemosporidian parasite lineages detect significant geographic structure in common yellowthroats (Geothlypis trichas). We examined liver tissue or blood from 552 birds sampled from multiple locations throughout the continental United States, southern Canada, and the Bahamas. We found a 52.7% overall prevalence of haematozoan infection. We identified 86.1% of these infections to genus: 81% were Plasmodium; 5% were Haemoproteus; and 0.1% were Leucocytozoon. There were significant differences in the prevalence of different parasite genera among regions (χ2 = 36.82, P < 0.0001) and in the proportion of Plasmodium infections versus other parasites among regions (χ2 = 35.52, P < 0.0001). Sequence information identified three Haemoproteus lineages, two Leucocytozoon lineages, and thirteen Plasmodium lineages. Due to the low number of Haemoproteus and Leucocytozoon, only Plasmodium lineages were used in the geographic comparison of lineages. Six Plasmodium lineages were found in eight or more birds and the prevalence of these varied significantly among regions (χ2 = 172.33, P < 0.0001). Additionally, 45 juvenile birds were sampled to determine what parasites could be obtained in the breeding grounds and we found only one lineage. In conclusion, parasite lineages show some geographic structure, with some lineages being more geographically specific than others, but are not useful for determining migratory connectivity in this species.


Plasmodium Common yellowthroat Migratory connectivity mtDNA Geothlypis 



We would like to thank committee members, Catherine Schaeff and Kiho Kim, for intellectual insight and guidance. We would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. A small number of additional samples were contributed by Brian Olsen, Irby Lovette, and Rebecca Holberton. We would like to thank the various organizations that allowed us to sample common yellowthroats on their land: Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge, Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, Paul Smith College of the Adirondacks, and the Pfeiffer Nature Center. We especially thank Daryl and Leslie Boness, who not only allowed us to sample on their beautiful property but also fed us well. We thank Carl McIntosh, Danielle Palmer, Farah Ishtiaq and Jon Beadell for help with various lab techniques. Funding was provided by the NIH (1R01GM063258) and an American University Mellon Grant.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© US Government 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. M. Pagenkopp
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • J. Klicka
    • 4
  • K. L. Durrant
    • 1
  • J. C. Garvin
    • 5
  • R. C. Fleischer
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Genetics ProgramNational Museum of Natural History and National Zoological Park, Smithsonian InstitutionWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyAmerican UniversityWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Environmental and Aquatic Animal HealthVirginia Institute of Marine Science, The College of William and MaryGloucester PointUSA
  4. 4.Marjorie Barrick Museum of Natural HistoryUniversity of Nevada Las VegasLas VegasUSA
  5. 5.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeMilwaukeeUSA

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