Prevalence and diversity of avian Haemosporida infecting songbirds in southwest Michigan

Abstract

Avian blood parasites from the genera Plasmodium, Haemoproteus, and Leucocytozoon (Haemosporida) affect hosts in numerous ways. They influence species interactions, host behavior, reproductive success, and cause pathology and mortality in birds. The Great Lakes region of North America has extensive aquatic and wetland habitat and supports a diverse vector community. Here we describe the community of bird-infecting Haemosporida in southwest Michigan and their host associations by measuring parasite prevalence, diversity, and host breadth across a diverse community of avian hosts. Over 700 songbirds of 55 species were screened for Haemosporida infection across southwest Michigan, including 11 species that were targeted for larger sample sizes. In total, 71 parasite lineages infected over 40% of birds. Of these, 42 were novel, yet richness estimates suggest that approximately half of the actual parasite diversity in the host community was observed despite intensive sampling of multiple host species. Parasite prevalence varied among parasite genera (7–24%) and target host species (0–85%), and parasite diversity was consistently high across most target species. Host breadth varied widely across the most prevalent parasite lineages, and we detected around 60% of host species richness for these parasite lineages. We report many new lineages and novel host-parasite associations, but substantial parasite diversity remains undiscovered in the Midwest.

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Funding

Funding was provided by Western Michigan University.

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Correspondence to Maarten J. Vonhof.

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All applicable federal, state, and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed in this study.

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Smith, J.D., Gill, S.A., Baker, K.M. et al. Prevalence and diversity of avian Haemosporida infecting songbirds in southwest Michigan. Parasitol Res 117, 471–489 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00436-017-5724-3

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Keywords

  • Birds
  • Disease
  • Haemosporida
  • Host associations
  • Prevalence
  • Diversity