On the specificity of avian blood parasites: revealing specific and generalist relationships between haemosporidians and biting midges

Authors

  • JOSUÉ MARTÍNEZ-de la PUENTE,

    1. Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC), J. Gutiérrez Abascal 2, E-28006 Madrid, Spain
    Search for more papers by this author
    • Present address: Departamento de Ecología de Humedales, Estación Biológica de Doñana (CSIC), Américo Vespucio s/n, E-41013, Sevilla, Spain.

  • JAVIER MARTÍNEZ,

    1. Departamento de Microbiología y Parasitología, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad de Alcalá, Alcalá de Henares, E-28871 Madrid, Spain
    Search for more papers by this author
  • JUAN RIVERO-de AGUILAR,

    1. Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC), J. Gutiérrez Abascal 2, E-28006 Madrid, Spain
    2. Departamento de Microbiología y Parasitología, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad de Alcalá, Alcalá de Henares, E-28871 Madrid, Spain
    Search for more papers by this author
  • JESSICA HERRERO,

    1. Departamento de Microbiología y Parasitología, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad de Alcalá, Alcalá de Henares, E-28871 Madrid, Spain
    Search for more papers by this author
  • SANTIAGO MERINO

    1. Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC), J. Gutiérrez Abascal 2, E-28006 Madrid, Spain
    Search for more papers by this author

Josué Martínez-de la Puente, Fax: +34 954 621 125; E-mail: jmp@ebd.csic.es

Abstract

The study of host–parasite relationships involving vector-borne parasites requires understanding interactions between parasites and vectors. The capacity of haemosporidians to infect insects has clear evolutionary consequences for the transmission of diseases. Here, we investigated (i) the associations between blood parasites, biting midges and birds and (ii) the potential specificity between biting midge and haemosporidian haplotypes. A total of 629 parous biting midges Culicoides and 224 wild birds (belonging to seven species) from a locality of central Spain were individually examined for the presence of Haemoproteus and Plasmodium parasites by sequencing a fragment of cytochrome B. Biting midges were identified morphologically and characterized on the basis of a fragment of the cytochrome c oxidase (COI) gene. Overall, 12 Haemoproteus and three Plasmodium haplotypes were isolated and sequenced. Among them, 10 haplotypes were exclusively isolated from biting midges, three haplotypes only from birds and two haplotypes from both biting midges and birds. Biting midge haplotypes showed both specific and generalist relationships with Haemoproteus haplotypes but only generalist relationships with Plasmodium haplotypes. Several C. festivipennis and C. kibunesis haplotypes established significant coevolutionary links with Haemoproteus haplotypes. These results shed light on the specificity of interactions between vectors and blood parasites.

Ancillary