Effects of malaria double infection in birds: one plus one is not two


A. Marzal, Department of Animal Ecology, Ecology Building, Lund University, S-223 62 Lund, Sweden.
Tel.: +34 924 289412; fax: +34 924 289412;
e-mail: amarzal@unex.es


Avian malaria parasites are supposed to exert negative effects on host fitness because these intracellular parasites affect host metabolism. Recent advances in molecular genotyping and microscopy have revealed that coinfections with multiple parasites are frequent in bird–malaria parasite systems. However, studies of the fitness consequences of such double infections are scarce and inconclusive. We tested if the infection with two malaria parasite lineages has more negative effects than single infection using 6 years of data from a natural population of house martins. Survival was negatively affected by both types of infections. We found an additive cost from single to double infection in body condition, but not in reproductive parameters (double-infected had higher reproductive success). These results demonstrate that malaria infections decrease survival, but also have different consequences on the breeding performance of single- and double-infected wild birds.