Diversity and host assemblage of avian haemosporidians in different terrestrial ecoregions of Peru

Luz Garcia-Longoria, Jaime Muriel, Sergio Magallanes, Zaira Hellen Villa-Galarce, Leonila Ricopa, Wilson Giancarlo Inga-Diáz, Esteban Fong, Daniel Vecco, Cesar Guerra-Saldanã, Teresa Salas-Rengifo, Wendy Flores-Saavedra, Kathya Espinoza, Carlos Mendoza, Blanca Saldanã, Manuel González-Blázquez, Henry Gonzales-Pinedo, Charlene Luján-Vega, Carlos Alberto Del Águila, Yessica Vilca-Herrera, Carlos Alberto PinedaCarmen Reategui, Jorge Manuel Cárdenas-Callirgos, Jose Alberto Iannacone, Jorge Luis Mendoza, Ravinder N.M. Sehgal, Alfonso Marzal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Characterizing the diversity and structure of host-parasite communities is crucial to understanding their eco-evolutionary dynamics. Malaria and related haemosporidian parasites are responsible for fitness loss and mortality in bird species worldwide. However, despite exhibiting the greatest ornithological biodiversity, avian haemosporidians from Neotropical regions are quite unexplored. Here, we analyze the genetic diversity of bird haemosporidian parasites (Plasmodium and Haemoproteus) in 1,336 individuals belonging to 206 bird species to explore for differences in diversity of parasite lineages and bird species across 5 well-differentiated Peruvian ecoregions. We detected 70 different haemosporidian lineages infecting 74 bird species. We showed that 25 out of the 70 haplotypes had not been previously recorded. Moreover, we also identified 81 new host-parasite interactions representing new host records for these haemosporidian parasites. Our outcomes revealed that the effective diversity (as well as the richness, abundance, and Shannon-Weaver index) for both birds and parasite lineages was higher in Amazon basin ecoregions. Furthermore, we also showed that ecoregions with greater diversity of bird species also had high parasite richness, hence suggesting that host community is crucial in explaining parasite richness. Generalist parasites were found in ecoregions with lower bird diversity, implying that the abundance and richness of hosts may shape the exploitation strategy followed by haemosporidian parasites. These outcomes reveal that Neotropical region is a major reservoir of unidentified haemosporidian lineages. Further studies analyzing host distribution and specificity of these parasites in the tropics will provide important knowledge about phylogenetic relationships, phylogeography, and patterns of evolution and distribution of haemosporidian parasites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-40
Number of pages14
JournalCurrent Zoology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Amazonia
  • Haemoproteus
  • Plasmodium
  • avian malaria
  • generalist parasite
  • habitat specificity
  • specialist parasite


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