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J Parasitol. 2019 Jun;105(3):414-422.

Within-Lineage Divergence of Avian Haemosporidians: A Case Study to Reveal the Origin of a Widespread Haemoproteus Parasite.

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1   Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab, Department of Biology, Lund University, Sölvegatan 37, SE-22362, Sweden.
2   Instituto Potosino de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica A.C. Camino a la Presa San José 2055, Lomas 4ª Sección, San Luis Potosí, SLP. C.P. 78216, Mexico.


Avian haemosporidian parasites are particularly diverse and widespread. To date, more than 3,000 distinct cytochrome b lineages have been recorded, of which some present extremely wide geographical distributions, even including multiple continents. Whether these isolates represent one or several cryptic species remains unknown. Here we carried out a case study of SISKIN1, a common haemosporidian parasite lineage belonging to the morphologically described species Haemoproteus tartakovskyi. To shed light on its evolutionary origin, we investigated the divergence between SISKIN1 isolates obtained from siskins and redpolls in Europe (Russia and Sweden) and house finches in North America (Mexico). First, we used sequence capture of a small data set (2 Russian isolates and 1 Mexican isolate) to investigate the genetic structure based on the full-length mitochondrial genome and ∼1,000 genes. The mitochondrial genomes of Russian isolates were identical with each other but differed from the Mexican one at 6 positions. The nuclear divergence between Russian and Mexican isolates was on average 2.8%, close to what has been observed between 2 species of malaria parasites that respectively infect humans (Plasmodium falciparum) and gorillas (Plasmodium praefalciparum). Second, we used the expanded data set (15 samples in total) to investigate the genetic structure in 3 genes known to be involved in host invasion. The European isolates were identical across all sequenced genes, whereas the Mexican isolates were highly diverse. The lack of shared alleles between European and Mexican populations suggests that they might have diverged in isolation without gene flow. From the MalAvi database we examined the lineages most similar to the SISKIN1 barcode fragment (part of the cyt b gene) and found that most of them had been recorded in North and South America. This suggests that the lineage SISKIN1 originated in North America and subsequently spread to Europe. Our analyses support that the cyt b gene barcoding region is a useful marker for identification of avian haemosporidian lineages that can classify them into clusters of closely related parasites, but to further investigate species limits and evolutionary history, molecular data from multiple faster-evolving genes are required.


; Cytochrome b Lineage; Evolutionary Origin; Genomic Divergence; Geographical Distribution; Haemosporidian Parasites; Haplotype Network; Nuclear Genes; Passerine; Sequence Capture

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