New host and lineage diversity of avian haemosporidia in the northern Andes.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1111/eva.12176
The northern Andes, with their steep elevational and climate gradients, are home to an exceptional diversity of flora and fauna, particularly rich in avian species that have adapted to divergent ecological conditions. With this diversity comes the opportunity for parasites to exploit a wide breadth of avian hosts. However, little research has focused on examining the patterns of prevalence and lineage diversity of avian parasites in the Andes. Here, we screened a total of 428 birds from 19 species (representing nine families) and identified 133 infections of avian haemosporidia (31%), including lineages of Plasmodium, Haemoproteus, and Leucocytozoon. We document a higher prevalence of haemosporidia at higher elevations and lower temperatures, as well as an overall high diversity of lineages in the northern Andes, including the first sequences of haemosporidians reported in hummingbirds (31 sequences found in 11 species within the family Trochilidae). Double infections were distinguished using PHASE, which enables the separation of distinct parasite lineages. Results suggest that the ecological heterogeneity of the northern Andes that has given rise to a rich diversity of avian hosts may also be particularly conducive to parasite diversification and specialization.