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Detection and prevalence of Haemoproteus archilochus (Haemosporida, Haemoproteidae) in two species of California hummingbirds

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Haemosporidian blood parasites are transmitted to a wide range of avian hosts via blood-sucking dipteran vectors. Microscopy has revealed an impressive diversity of avian haemosporidia with more than 250 species described. Moreover, PCR and subsequent sequence analyses have suggested a much greater diversity of haemosporidia than morphological analyses alone. Given the importance of these parasites, very few studies have focused on the charismatic hummingbirds. To date, three Haemoproteus species (Haemoproteus archilochus, Haemoproteus trochili, and Haemoproteus witti) and one Leucocytozoon species (Leucocytozoon quynzae) have been described in blood samples taken from hummingbirds (Trochilidae). Unconfirmed Plasmodium lineages have also been detected in hummingbirds. Here, we report the detection of H. archilochus in two hummingbird species (Calypte anna and Archilochus alexandri) sampled in Northern California and perform a phylogenetic analysis of mitochondrial cytochrome b (cyt b) gene lineages. A total of 261 hummingbirds (157 C. anna, 104 A. alexandri) were sampled and screened for blood parasites using PCR and microscopy techniques. Combining both methods, 4 (2.55%) haemosporidian infections were detected in C. anna and 18 (17.31%) haemosporidian infections were detected in A. alexandri. Molecular analyses revealed four distinct H. archilocus cyt b lineages, which clustered as a monophyletic clade. No species of Plasmodium or Leucocytozoon were detected in this study, raising the possibility of specific vector associations with hummingbirds. These results provide resources for future studies of haemosporidian prevalence, diversity, and pathogenicity in California hummingbird populations.

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We appreciate the collaboration of many people with their institutions who helped make this research possible. The following individuals provided technical and field assistance for this research: J. Snipes, T. Drazenovich, K. Hagadorn, Y. Adedeji, S. Wheeler, E. Walther, L. Dalbeck, H.W. Liu, N. Pedersen, M. Buchalski, S. Wethington, R. Colwell, B. Robinson, S. Wetzlich, A. Engilis, I. Engilis, J. Trochet, R. Sarvani, many hummingbird banders and volunteers, the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital, the UC Davis Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology, California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory (CAHFS), California Department of Health Services, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Lindsay Wildlife Hospital (Walnut Creek, CA), and several wildlife rehabilitation facilities. This work is presented in memory of Loreto Godoy, who provided help to get this project started. Funding for this work was provided from the US Fish and Wildlife Service Avian Disease Ecology Grant (H.B.E. and L.A.T.), a Students Training in Advanced Research fellowship from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine (S.B.), and a UC Davis Academic Senate research grant (H.B.E.). We also thank Dr. Gediminas Valkiūnas for insightful comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to R. N. M. Sehgal.

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Bradshaw, A.C., Tell, L.A., Ernest, H.B. et al. Detection and prevalence of Haemoproteus archilochus (Haemosporida, Haemoproteidae) in two species of California hummingbirds. Parasitol Res 116, 1879–1885 (2017).

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