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Keywords:

  • bird;
  • blood parasite;
  • coevolution;
  • geographic structure

Abstract

Relationships between hosts and parasites represent complex co-evolving systems that can vary both temporally and spatially. This variation may result in different phylogeographic outcomes, ranging from highly geographically structured parasite populations comprised of specialist lineages that are locally abundant but have restricted global occupancy to geographically unstructured parasite populations consisting of widespread parasites. Here, we present results from a large biogeographic study of the Leucocytozoon blood parasites of two nonmigrant bird species, conducted at nine sites across Europe. The aim was to determine whether the parasite lineages of the two hosts were phylogeographically structured across Europe. Employing molecular methods, we found a large diversity of parasites, and although overall prevalence varied greatly, the parasites were not genetically structured. Several measures of local parasite abundance were associated with the number of sites that the lineage occurred in, which is consistent with the macroecological phenomenon of the abundance–occupancy relationship. Taken together, our results show that parasite dispersal is somewhat uncoupled to that of the host in this system: we suggest that broad host and/or vector preference may play an important role in determining the distribution of these parasites and in affecting host–parasite coevolution in this system.