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PCR-based detection and genotyping of haematozoa (Protozoa) parasitizing eagle owls, Bubo bubo


We genetically analysed haematozoa parasites (Protozoa) isolated from nestling eagle owls (Bubo bubo) in Toledo province, Central Spain. A total of 206 nestlings from 74 nests were screened for parasites of the genera Leucocytozoon, Plasmodium, and Haemoproteus using a very efficient polymerase chain reaction (PCR) approach that amplifies a partial segment of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene of these parasites. PCR-based detection and sequence analyses revealed a unique lineage of Leucocytozoon (EO1) parasitizing nestling eagle owls. Ocular examination of blood smears identified these parasites as Leucocytozoon ziemanni, the only species deemed valid in owls based on morphology. Preliminary phylogenetic analyses using homologous published sequences isolated from other owl species suggest that L. ziemanni constitutes a monophyletic clade that may be composed by a complex of genetically differentiated cryptic species.

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We wish to thank E. Espada for determining blood parasite prevalence in the blood smears. R. Bonal assisted us with the program PAUP. We manipulated and banded nestling eagle owls under license from the Spanish institutional authorities (Environmental Agency of the Community of Castilla–La Mancha and the Ringing Office of the Ministry of Environment) and we followed general ethical guidelines for animal welfare and nature conservation. This work received financial support from the projects: CGL2005-05611-C02-02/BOS (MEC), PAI05-053 (JCCM), and PCI08-0130-3954 (JCCM). During this work J.O was supported by a pre-doctoral fellowship from the Junta de Comunidades de Castilla–La Mancha/European Social Fund and a post-doctoral JAE-Doc (CSIC) contract. We performed all the laboratory work at the Laboratory of Genetics of the IREC and sequencing was performed by the Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas (CSIC) of Madrid.

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Correspondence to Joaquín Ortego.

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Ortego, J., Cordero, P.J. PCR-based detection and genotyping of haematozoa (Protozoa) parasitizing eagle owls, Bubo bubo . Parasitol Res 104, 467–470 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00436-008-1207-x

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  • Efficient Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Genus Plasmodium
  • Partial Segment
  • International Nucleotide Sequence Database
  • Preliminary Phylogenetic Analysis