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Differential prevalence and diversity of haemosporidian parasites in two sympatric closely related non-migratory passerines



Haemosporidian parasites infecting birds show distinct heterogeneity in their distribution among host species. However, despite numerous studies on the prevalence and diversity of parasite communities across species, very little is known on patterns of differences between them. Such data is lacking because up to date the majority of studies explored the patterns of variation in infections in different years, different time of sampling within a year or a breeding cycle, different study sites or was based on a small sample size, all of which may affect the estimates of prevalence and parasite diversity. Here, the prevalence, richness and diversity of haemosporidian parasites from the genera Plasmodium and Haemoproteus were studied in two closely related non-migratory hole-nesting passerines: Great Tits and Blue Tits. Birds were sampled in sympatrically breeding populations during two seasons at the same stage of their breeding cycle – late nestling care. Great Tits were more prevalently infected with Plasmodium and Haemoproteus parasites (97·1 vs 71·2%), harboured a higher proportion of multiple infections (26·2 vs 3·2%) and had a more diverse parasite community (11 vs 5 parasite lineages) than Blue Tits. Observed differences between two host species are discussed with reference to their breeding densities and immunological and behavioural characteristics.


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*Corresponding author: Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Wilcza 64, 00-679 Warszawa, Poland. Tel.: 0048 22 629 32 21. Fax: 0048 22 629 63 02. E-mail:


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