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Only few seabird species contract avian malaria
Date:12/12/2011

unds. Because mosquitoes are among the main transmitters of the Plasmodium genus of avian malaria, the researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and their colleagues from Spain, France, Mexico and the US investigated whether infections of avian malaria differed in seabirds from cold and warm marine areas. To do this, they analysed blood samples from seabirds from different regions for parasitic infections using genetic methods

"We were surprised that the climate differences had less impact on the transmission of blood parasites than expected," says Petra Quillfeldt. "More vectors live in warmer climates; therefore, we would have expected to find a higher rate of infection in tropical locations. We discovered, however, that different species living on the same island under the same climate conditions can display very different rates of infection." The researchers defined several seabird groups that regularly carry malaria parasites. Frigatebirds were found to be particularly affected here, as all five species of this tropical seabird family are frequently infected.

"Of five seabird species present in the seabird community on Christmas Island in the tropical Indian Ocean, only the Christmas Island frigatebirds were found to be malaria hosts. Over half of the island's frigatebirds were affected and, moreover, with three genetically different malaria lines of the subgenera Haemoproteus and Parahaemoproteus, one of which was a completely new strain. As opposed to this, tropical birds and three species of gannet on the same island were not infected at all," explains Petra Quillfeldt.

Furthermore, the scientists have failed to find any blood parasite infections in other seabird groups, such as skuas and auks. Their research has led to the conclusion that the likelihood of infection depends, among other things, on the lifestyle of the birds: species with longer fledgling periods and hole-nesters are particularly seve
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Contact: Leonore Apitz
apitz@orn.mpg.de
49-773-215-0174
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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