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Int J Parasitol. 2011 Aug 15;41(10):1019-27. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2011.03.014. Epub 2011 Jun 1.

Hippoboscid-transmitted Haemoproteus parasites (Haemosporida) infect Galapagos Pelecaniform birds: evidence from molecular and morphological studies, with a description of Haemoproteus iwa.

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University of Missouri-St. Louis, Department of Biology and Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center, 1 University Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63121, USA.


Haemosporidian parasites are widely distributed and common parasites of birds, and the application of molecular techniques has revealed remarkable diversity among their lineages. Four haemosporidian genera infect avian hosts (Plasmodium, Haemoproteus, Leucocytozoon and Fallisia), and Haemoproteus is split into two sub-genera based on morphological evidence and phylogenetic support for two divergent sister clades. One clade (Haemoproteus (Parahaemoproteus)) contains parasites developing in birds belonging to several different orders, except pigeons and doves (Columbiformes), while the other (Haemoproteus (Haemoproteus)) has previously been shown to only infect dove hosts. Here we provide molecular and morphological identification of Haemoproteus parasites from several seabird species that are closely related to those found in dove hosts. We also document a deeply divergent clade with two haemosporidian lineages recovered primarily from frigatebirds (Fregatidae, Pelecaniformes) that is sister to the hippoboscid-(Hippoboscidae) transmitted dove parasites. One of the lineages in this new clade of parasites belongs to Haemoproteus iwa and is distributed in two species of frigatebird (Fregata) hosts from Hawaii, the Galapagos Islands, the eastern Pacific and throughout the Caribbean Basin. Haemosporidian parasites are often considered rare in seabirds due in part to the lack or low activity of some dipteran vectors (e.g., mosquitos, biting midges) in marine and coastal environments; however, we show that H. iwa is prevalent and is very likely vectored among frigatebirds by hippoboscid flies which are abundant on frigatebirds and other seabirds. This study supports the existence of two sister clades of avian Haemoproteus in accord with the subgeneric classification of avian hemoproteids. Description of H. iwa from Galapagos Fregata minor is given based on morphology of blood stages and segments of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene, which can be used for identification. This study shows that hippoboscid flies warrant more attention as vectors of avian Haemoproteus spp., particularly in marine and coastal environments.

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