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Diversity, distribution and biogeographical origins of Plasmodium parasites from the New Zealand bellbird (Anthornis melanura)

  • S. M. BAILLIE (a1) and D. H. BRUNTON (a1)


Understanding the origin of invasive parasites and ecological transmission barriers on the distribution of mosquito-borne pathogens is enriched by molecular phylogenetic approaches now that large databases are becoming available. Here we assess the biogeographical relationships among haemosporidian blood parasites and an avian host, the New Zealand bellbird (Meliphagidae, Anthornis melanura). Four Plasmodium haplotypes were identified among 93 infected bellbirds (693 screened) using nested PCR of a mitochondrial DNA cytochrome b gene fragment. The most common lineage, LIN1 (11%), is confined to northern New Zealand and falls within a known clade of Plasmodium (subgenus Novyella) sp. infecting Australian meliphagids. LIN1 differs within that clade by 4 9% sequence divergence suggestive of an endemic lineage to New Zealand. The most widespread lineage, LIN2 (2%), is an exact match with a global cosmopolitan (P. elongatum GRW06). Two rare lineages, LIN3 and LIN4 are less abundant, geographically restricted within New Zealand and have <1% sequence divergence with P. (Novyella) sp. (AFTRU08) and P. relictum (LINOLI01) documented from Africa. For the first time, we provide invaluable information on possible rates of entry of invading parasites in New Zealand and their distribution from temperate to cold environments.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author, present address: Department of Biology, Life Science Centre, Dalhousie University, 1459 Oxford Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4R2, Canada. E-mail:


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Diversity, distribution and biogeographical origins of Plasmodium parasites from the New Zealand bellbird (Anthornis melanura)

  • S. M. BAILLIE (a1) and D. H. BRUNTON (a1)


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