Prevalence of malaria and related haemosporidian parasites in two shorebird species with different winter habitat distribution

Abstract

Parasites can have strong effects on host life-history and behaviour, and result in changes in host population dynamics and community structure. We applied a PCR-based technique and examined prevalence of malaria and related haemosporidian parasites in two arctic breeding shorebird species: the Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla) and the Pectoral Sandpiper (C. melanotos). During the non-breeding season, Semipalmated Sandpipers inhabit coastal marine habitats, whereas Pectoral Sandpipers are found in inland areas. In accordance with the hypothesis that the risk of parasite infection is higher in a species wintering in freshwater areas, we found Plasmodium sp. infection during the breeding season only in Pectoral Sandpipers, whereas Semipalmated Sandpipers were parasite free. However, even in Pectoral Sandpipers sampled in the arctic, prevalence of malaria parasites was very low (<3% of individuals, n = 114). Overall, three different Plasmodium sp. lineages were found, one of which has never been described before.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Rick Lanctot from the USFWS in Anchorage and Glenn Sheehan from the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium in Barrow for logistical support, and Richard E. Johnson and Holger Schielzeth for valuable comments. The study was supported financially by the Max Planck Society, the Swedish Research Council (VR) and the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (FORMAS). The study was conducted under a permit of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth Yohannes.

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Communicated by F. Bairlein.

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Open Access This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0), which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

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Yohannes, E., Križanauskienė, A., Valcu, M. et al. Prevalence of malaria and related haemosporidian parasites in two shorebird species with different winter habitat distribution. J Ornithol 150, 287–291 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-008-0349-z

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Keywords

  • Avian malaria
  • Haemosporidian parasites
  • Shorebirds