Multiple Lineages of Avian Malaria Parasites (Plasmodium) in the Galapagos Islands and Evidence for Arrival via Migratory Birds

Authors

  • I. I. LEVIN,

    1. Department of Biology, University of Missouri–St. Louis, One University Blvd, St. Louis, MO, U.S.A.
    2. Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center, University of Missouri–St. Louis, One University Blvd, St. Louis, MO, U.S.A.
    3. WildCare Institute, Saint Louis Zoo, St. Louis, MO, U.S.A.
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  • P. ZWIERS,

    1. Department of Biology, University of Missouri–St. Louis, One University Blvd, St. Louis, MO, U.S.A.
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Biology, Francis Marion University, Florence, U.S.A.
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  • S. L. DEEM,

    1. WildCare Institute, Saint Louis Zoo, St. Louis, MO, U.S.A.
    Current affiliation:
    1. Saint Louis Zoo Institute for Conservation Medicine, St. Louis, U.S.A.
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  • E. A. GEEST,

    1. Department of Biology, University of Missouri–St. Louis, One University Blvd, St. Louis, MO, U.S.A.
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  • J. M. HIGASHIGUCHI,

    1. Department of Biology, University of Missouri–St. Louis, One University Blvd, St. Louis, MO, U.S.A.
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  • T. A. IEZHOVA,

    1. Institute of Ecology, Nature Research Centre, Lithuania
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  • G. JIMÉNEZ-UZCÁTEGUI,

    1. Charles Darwin Foundation, Galapagos, Ecuador
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  • D. H. KIM,

    1. Whooping Crane Maintenance Trust, 6611 W. Whooping Crane Dr., Wood River, NE, U.S.A.
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  • J. P. MORTON,

    1. Department of Biology, University of Missouri–St. Louis, One University Blvd, St. Louis, MO, U.S.A.
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  • N. G. PERLUT,

    1. Department of Environmental Studies, University of New England, 11 Hills Beach Rd, Biddeford, ME, U.S.A.
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  • R. B. RENFREW,

    1. Vermont Center for Ecostudies, P.O. Box 420, Norwich, VT, U.S.A.
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  • E. H. R. SARI,

    1. Department of Biology, University of Missouri–St. Louis, One University Blvd, St. Louis, MO, U.S.A.
    2. Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center, University of Missouri–St. Louis, One University Blvd, St. Louis, MO, U.S.A.
    Current affiliation:
    1. Departmento de Zoologia, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, ICB, Av.Pres, Antonio Carlos, 6627, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil
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  • G. VALKIUNAS,

    1. Institute of Ecology, Nature Research Centre, Lithuania
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  • P. G. Parker

    1. Department of Biology, University of Missouri–St. Louis, One University Blvd, St. Louis, MO, U.S.A.
    2. Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center, University of Missouri–St. Louis, One University Blvd, St. Louis, MO, U.S.A.
    3. WildCare Institute, Saint Louis Zoo, St. Louis, MO, U.S.A.
    4. Charles Darwin Foundation, Galapagos, Ecuador
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Abstract

Haemosporidian parasites in the genus Plasmodium were recently detected through molecular screening in the Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus). We summarized results of an archipelago-wide screen of 3726 endemic birds representing 22 species for Plasmodium spp. through a combination of molecular and microscopy techniques. Three additional Plasmodium lineages were present in Galapagos. Lineage A–infected penguins, Yellow Warblers (Setophaga petechia aureola), and one Medium Ground Finch (Geospiza fortis) was detected at multiple sites in multiple years. The other 3 lineages were each detected at one site and at one time; apparently, they were transient infections of parasites not established on the archipelago. No gametocytes were found in blood smears of infected individuals; thus, endemic Galapagos birds may be dead-end hosts for these Plasmodium lineages. Determining when and how parasites and pathogens arrive in Galapagos is key to developing conservation strategies to prevent and mitigate the effects of introduced diseases. To assess the potential for Plasmodium parasites to arrive via migratory birds, we analyzed blood samples from 438 North American breeding Bobolinks (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), the only songbird that regularly migrates through Galapagos. Two of the ephemeral Plasmodium lineages (B and C) found in Galapagos birds matched parasite sequences from Bobolinks. Although this is not confirmation that Bobolinks are responsible for introducing these lineages, evidence points to higher potential arrival rates of avian pathogens than previously thought.

Linajes Múltiples de Parásitos de Malaria Aviar (Plasmodium) en las Islas Galápagos y Evidencia de su Arribo por Medio de Aves Migratorias

Resumen

Parásitos de la familia Haemosporidia, del género Plasmodium recientemente fueron detectados por medio de análisis moleculares en el pingüino de las Galápagos (Spheniscus mendiculus). Resumimos los resultados de un análisis, extendido a lo largo del archipiélago, de 3726 aves endémicas representando a 22 especies para Plasmodium spp. mediante la combinación de técnicas moleculares y de microscopía. Tres linajes adicionales de Plasmodium estuvieron presentes en las Galápagos. El linaje A infectó pingüinos, individuos Setophaga petechia aureola y a un individuo de Geospiza fortis en sitios múltiples y en varios años. Los otros 3 linajes fueron detectados cada uno en un sitio y en un tiempo específico; aparentemente, fueron infecciones transitorias de parásitos no establecidos en el archipiélago. No se encontraron gametocitos en los frotis de sangre de individuos infectados; por esto, las aves endémicas de las Galápagos pueden ser hospederos finales de estos linajes de Plasmodium. Determinar cuándo y cómo llegaron los parasitos y los patógenos a las Galápagos es clave para desarrollar estrategias de conservación para prevenir y mitigar los efectos de las enfermedades introducidas. Para evaluar el potencial de llegada de Plasmodium en aves migratorias, analizamos muestras de sangre de 438 Dolichonyx oryzivorus en época reproductiva. Esta ave es la única canora que migra regularmente a través de las Galápagos. Dos de los linajes efímeros de Plasmodium (B y C) que se hallaron en las aves de las Galápagos coincidieron con secuencias de parásitos del ave canora. Aunque esto no confirma que Dolichonyx oryzivorus sea responsable de introducer estos linajes, la evidencia apunta a un potencial más alto de tasas de llegada de patógenos aviares de lo que se pensaba previamente.

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