Molecular and morphological description of Haemoproteus (Parahaemoproteus) bukaka (species nova), a haemosporidian associated with the strictly Australo-Papuan host subfamily Cracticinae
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Linking morphological studies with molecular phylogeny is important to understanding cryptic speciation and the evolution of host-parasite relationships. Haemosporidian parasites of the Australo-Papuan bird family Artamidae are relatively unstudied. Only one parasite species from the subfamily Cracticinae has been described, and this was based solely on morphological description. This is despite many Cracticinae species being easily observed and abundant over large ranges and in close proximity to human populations. We used morphological and molecular methods to describe a new Haemoproteus species (H. bukaka sp. nov.) from an endemic Butcherbird host (Cracticus louisiadensis) in a relatively unstudied insular area of high avian endemism (Papua New Guinea’s Louisiade Archipelago). Phylogenetic reconstructions using parasite cyt-b gene sequences placed the proposed Haemoproteus bukaka sp. nov. close to other host-specialist Haemoproteus species that infect meliphagid honeyeater hosts in the region, e.g. H. ptilotis. Distinct morphological characters of this haemosporidian include macrogametocytes with characteristic large vacuoles opposing a subterminal nucleus on the host cell envelope. Among 27 sampled individuals, prevalence of H. bukaka sp.nov. was high (74 % infection rate) but strongly variable across four islands in the archipelago (ranging from 0 to 100 % prevalence). Parasitaemia levels were low across all infected individuals (0.1–0.6 %). We suspect host density may play a role in maintaining high prevalence given the close proximity and similar physical environments across islands. The findings are discussed in the context of the host genus Cracticus and theory relating to parasite-host evolution and its conservation implications in Papua New Guinea.
KeywordsPapua New Guinea Haemoproteus Parasites Endemic birds Islands Artamidae
Financial support toward for the fieldwork was kindly provided by the Rufford Foundation, Club 300 bird protection fund and the UQ GPEM School Research Grant. We are grateful to the MalariaRCN for training; D. Gibson for advice; and Georgia Kaipu (NRI), Barnabas Willmott (DOE) and the PNG National Museum and Art Gallery for project sponsorship. Furthermore, we thank Kathryn Hall and Jessica Worthington-Wilmer of the Queensland Museum for allowing use of their laboratory facilities and offering valuable advice. We are also grateful to D. Mitchell (CI), numerous local landholders and communities in the Louisiade Archipelago for land access, support and advice. Research was conducted under UQ animal ethics permit GPEM/172/13/APA (WG), ABBBS 2519 (WG), PNG Department of Environment and Conservation approval WTE22.214.171.124.2 (WG), DAFF Import Permits (WG), PNG NRI Research Visa No. 10350017045 (WG) and Milne Bay Provincial Government permit (WG). Samples in Brisbane were collected under Department of Environment and Heritage Protection Queensland Government Scientific Purposes Permit No. WISP10823212 (SMC).
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