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Trends Parasitol. 2018 Aug;34(8):712-726. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2018 Jun 21.

Evolutionary Ecology of Avian Malaria: Past to Present.

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MIVEGEC (UMR 5290 CNRS - Université de Montpellier - IRD), Montpellier, France. Electronic address:
CEFE (UMR 5175 CNRS - Université de Montpellier - Université Paul Valéry - EPHE), Montpellier, France.


Avian malaria is the oldest experimental system for investigating the biology and transmission of Plasmodium parasites. Recent molecular protocols for detecting and characterizing avian malaria lineages in the field are providing an ever-growing picture of the prevalence, distribution, host range, and diversity hotspots of avian malaria across the world. The unparalleled genetic diversity uncovered rivals anything that has been found in other vertebrate malarias and seems to be matched by an equally rich phenotypic diversity, providing endless opportunities for exploring the selective pressures under which hosts and parasites evolve. We review the most important milestones in avian Plasmodium research and explain why this is a unique animal model to understand the ecology and evolution of malaria.


genetic diversity; host specificity; parasite manipulation; phenotypic plasticity; virulence

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