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Prevalence and diversity of Plasmodium and Haemoproteus parasites in the globally-threatened Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 April 2015

CIBIO/UP – Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, Universidade do Porto, Campus Agrário de Vairão, Rua Padre Armando Quintas, P-4485-661 Vairão, Portugal Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab, MEMEG, Department of Biology, Ecology Building, SE-223 62 Lund, Sweden
Departamento de Zoología y Antropología Física, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid E-28040, Spain
Lehrstuhl Allgemeine und Systematische Zoologie: AG Vogelwarte Hiddensee, Vogelwarte Hiddensee, Zoologisches Institut und Museum, Universität Greifswald, Soldmannstraße 23, D-17489 Greifswald, Germany
BirdLife Aquatic Warbler Conservation Team, c/o Schorfheide-Chorin Biosphere Reserve, Hoher Steinweg 5-6, D – 16278 Angermünde, Germany
Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab, MEMEG, Department of Biology, Ecology Building, SE-223 62 Lund, Sweden
*Corresponding author. CIBIO/UP – Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, Universidade do Porto, Campus Agrário de Vairão, Rua Padre Armando Quintas, P-4485-661 Vairão, Portugal. Tel: 0046733288090. E-mail:


The diversity and prevalence of malaria parasites of the genera Plasmodium and Haemoproteus were determined in the globally-threatened Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola. Birds were sampled during migration in Portugal and at the wintering quarters in Senegal and parasites were detected using molecular methods. Only three generalist parasite lineages (Plasmodium) were found. There were no significant differences in the prevalence of parasites between sexes in Europe, but adults had higher prevalence than first-year birds, and birds in Europe had higher prevalence than those captured in Africa. When comparing with other Acrocephalus species and taking sample size into account, Aquatic Warblers had the lowest prevalence and, together with another threatened species, the Seychelles Warbler Acrocephalus sechellensis, the lowest diversity of malaria parasites. We hypothesize that the low diversity of parasites and absence of specialist lineages of Aquatic Warblers are caused by its small population size and fragmented distribution. Furthermore, Aquatic Warblers’ extreme habitat specialization may decrease their exposure to malaria parasites, but other explanations such as high mortality (which would constraint the sampling of infected birds) or, in contrast, very efficient immunological system in clearing the infections cannot be ruled out. This study contributes to explain variation in prevalence and diversity of malaria parasites among hosts.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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