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Prevalence, phylogenetic relationship and host specificity of haemosporidian blood parasites in a northern bird community

Masud, Linn (2016) MOBM01 20152
Degree Projects in Molecular Biology
Abstract
Avian malaria parasites can have severe fitness effects on the host although most infections seem to be mild. Some of the avian malaria parasites are host specific and infect specific bird species while others infect a wide range of species. Avian malaria can serve as a natural model system for studies of the effect of environmental change on parasites distribution patterns. The global changes of the climate might be modifying the timing of the parasites lifecycle, which in turn might lead to expansion of the geographical northern range of parasites. Further the timing and the development of the blood stage in the parasites life cycle can vary a lot between closely related parasites. In this study I wanted to investigate the presence of... (More)
Avian malaria parasites can have severe fitness effects on the host although most infections seem to be mild. Some of the avian malaria parasites are host specific and infect specific bird species while others infect a wide range of species. Avian malaria can serve as a natural model system for studies of the effect of environmental change on parasites distribution patterns. The global changes of the climate might be modifying the timing of the parasites lifecycle, which in turn might lead to expansion of the geographical northern range of parasites. Further the timing and the development of the blood stage in the parasites life cycle can vary a lot between closely related parasites. In this study I wanted to investigate the presence of malaria parasites in a small community of passerines bird species in the northern parts of Scandinavia. The cytochrome b gene of the parasite mitochondrial genome has been found to be a useful marker for investigations of species diversity by using Polymeras Chain Reaction (PCR). I aimed to identify parasites from 150 locally hatched passerines caught at Ammarnäs, in north of Sweden, and investigated if they are transmitted locally, their phylogenetic relationships and if these parasites where showing patterns of host specificity. This research shows that locally hatched juveniles of several species were infected with Haemosporidians, demonstrating that some of these parasites are transmitted locally in this mountainous habitat. (Less)
Popular Abstract
Fitness effects by avian malaria parasites in a northern community

Avian malaria parasites can have severe fitness effects on the host although most infections seem to be mild. Some of the avian malaria parasites are host specific and infect specific bird species while others infect a wide range of species. With the help of migratory birds, parasites might be transmitted across large geographical areas and avian malaria can serve as a natural model system for studies of the effect of environmental change on parasites distribution patterns. The global change of the climate might be modifying the timing of the parasites lifecycle, which in turn might lead to expansion of the geographical northern range of parasites.

In this study I... (More)
Fitness effects by avian malaria parasites in a northern community

Avian malaria parasites can have severe fitness effects on the host although most infections seem to be mild. Some of the avian malaria parasites are host specific and infect specific bird species while others infect a wide range of species. With the help of migratory birds, parasites might be transmitted across large geographical areas and avian malaria can serve as a natural model system for studies of the effect of environmental change on parasites distribution patterns. The global change of the climate might be modifying the timing of the parasites lifecycle, which in turn might lead to expansion of the geographical northern range of parasites.

In this study I wanted to investigate the presence of malaria parasites in a small community of passerines bird species (Bluethroat, Brambling, Siskin, Common Redpoll and Willow warbler). I aimed to identify parasites from 150 locally hatched passerines caught at Ammarnäs (in north of Sweden) and investigated if they are transmitted locally, their phylogenetic relationships and if these parasites where showing patterns of host specificity. By investigating small communities of birds we can gain knowledge of the dynamics of the parasite community. Parasites can be transmitted to the host by mosquitoes, biting midges and by blackflies. The cytochrome b gene of the parasite mitochondrial genome has been found to be a useful marker for investigations of species diversity by using Polymeras Chain Reaction (PCR). By integrating the molecular information into the public data base MalAvi (Bensch et al 2009), researchers of avian blood parasites from different places are able to compare results on host specificity and geographical distributions of parasites.

This research shows that locally hatched juveniles of several species were infected with malaria parasites, demonstrating that some of these parasites are transmitted locally in this mountainous habitat. We found the highest prevalence of malaria parasites in Bramblings (94%) and to what extent this can influence the survival probability of Bramblings will require more research. A total of 101 infections where molecularly identified, and they belonged to 13 different recently found and named lineages. Some of these lineages showed patterns of host specificity, but the infections are too few to verify any host specificity. Further the research detected 5 new lineages of malaria parasites. In order to know if the new lineages represent own species, the research needed further molecular analysis.

There could be both evolutionary and ecological reasons for a higher prevalence of Malaria infected passerines in mountainous climates. The parasite might have evolved adaptations to escape host´s immune responses and to meet the developmental conditions occurring in cold climates. Ecologically, the reason can be the high richness of Blackflies in such habitats with local freshwater streams in the Northern mountainous climates.
Avian Malaria parasites have developed an excellent survival route due to cold and poor climates which can be crucial for the fitness of some passerine species in the future.

Supervisors: Olof Hellgren and Staffan Bensch
Master´s Degree Project 30 credits, 2015
Department of Biologi, Lund (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Masud, Linn
supervisor
organization
course
MOBM01 20152
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
language
English
id
8891488
date added to LUP
2016-09-12 14:16:04
date last changed
2016-09-12 14:16:04
@misc{8891488,
  abstract     = {Avian malaria parasites can have severe fitness effects on the host although most infections seem to be mild. Some of the avian malaria parasites are host specific and infect specific bird species while others infect a wide range of species. Avian malaria can serve as a natural model system for studies of the effect of environmental change on parasites distribution patterns. The global changes of the climate might be modifying the timing of the parasites lifecycle, which in turn might lead to expansion of the geographical northern range of parasites. Further the timing and the development of the blood stage in the parasites life cycle can vary a lot between closely related parasites. In this study I wanted to investigate the presence of malaria parasites in a small community of passerines bird species in the northern parts of Scandinavia. The cytochrome b gene of the parasite mitochondrial genome has been found to be a useful marker for investigations of species diversity by using Polymeras Chain Reaction (PCR). I aimed to identify parasites from 150 locally hatched passerines caught at Ammarnäs, in north of Sweden, and investigated if they are transmitted locally, their phylogenetic relationships and if these parasites where showing patterns of host specificity. This research shows that locally hatched juveniles of several species were infected with Haemosporidians, demonstrating that some of these parasites are transmitted locally in this mountainous habitat.},
  author       = {Masud, Linn},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Prevalence, phylogenetic relationship and host specificity of haemosporidian blood parasites in a northern bird community},
  year         = {2016},
}