Host-parasite interaction explains variation in the prevalence of avian haemosporidians at the community level.
ABSTRACT: Parasites are a selective force that shape host community structure and dynamics, but host communities can also influence parasitism. Understanding the dual nature from host-parasite interactions can be facilitated by quantifying the variation in parasite prevalence among host species and then comparing that variation to other ecological factors that are known to also shape host communities. Avian haemosporidian parasites (e.g. Plasmodium and Haemoproteus) are abundant and widespread representing an excellent model for the study of host-parasite interactions. Several geographic and environmental factors have been suggested to determine prevalence of avian haemosporidians in bird communities. However, it remains unknown whether host and parasite traits, represented by phylogenetic distances among species and degree of specialization in host-parasite relationships, can influence infection status. The aims of this study were to analyze factors affecting infection status in a bird community and to test whether the degree of parasite specialization on their hosts is determined by host traits. Our statistical analyses suggest that infection status is mainly determined by the interaction between host species and parasite lineages where tolerance and/or susceptibility to parasites plays an essential role. Additionally, we found that although some of the parasite lineages infected a low number of bird individuals, the species they infected were distantly related and therefore the parasites themselves should not be considered typical host specialists. Infection status was higher for generalist than for specialist parasites in some, but not all, host species. These results suggest that detected prevalence in a species mainly results from the interaction between host immune defences and parasite exploitation strategies wherein the result of an association between particular parasite lineages and particular host species is idiosyncratic.
Project description:Southeast Brazil is a neotropical region composed of a mosaic of different tropical habitats and mountain chains, which allowed for the formation of bird-rich communities with distinct ecological niches. Although this region has the potential to harbor a remarkable variety of avian parasites, there is a lack of information about the diversity of malarial parasites. We used molecular approaches to characterize the lineage diversity of Plasmodium and Haemoproteus in bird communities from three different habitats in southeast Brazil based on the prevalence, richness and composition of lineages. We observed an overall prevalence of 35.3%, with a local prevalence ranging from 17.2% to 54.8%. Moreover, no significant association between prevalence and habitat type could be verified (p>0.05). We identified 89 Plasmodium and 22 Haemoproteus lineages, with 86% of them described for the first time here, including an unusual infection of a non-columbiform host by a Haemoproteus (Haemoproteus) parasite. The composition analyses of the parasite communities showed that the lineage composition from Brazilian savannah and tropical dry forest was similar, but it was different from the lineage composition of Atlantic rainforest, reflecting the greater likeness of the former habitats with respect to seasonality and forest density. No significant effects of habitat type on lineage richness were observed based on GLM analyses. We also found that sites whose samples had a greater diversity of bird species showed a greater diversity of parasite lineages, providing evidence that areas with high bird richness also have high parasite richness. Our findings point to the importance of the neotropical region (southeast Brazil) as a major reservoir of new haemosporidian lineages.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Identifying patterns and drivers of infection risk among host communities is crucial to elucidate disease dynamics and predict infectious disease risk in wildlife populations. Blood parasites of the genera Plasmodium and Haemoproteus are a diverse group of vector-borne protozoan parasites that affect bird populations globally. Despite their widespread distribution and exceptional diversity, factors underlying haemosporidian infection risk in wild bird communities remain poorly understood. While some studies have examined variation in avian haemosporidian risk, researchers have primarily focused on host ecological traits without considering host phylogenetic relationships. In this study, we employ a phylogenetically informed approach to examine the association between host ecological traits and haemosporidian infection risk in endemic bird communities in the Western Ghats Sky Islands. METHODS:We used parasite sequence data based on partial mitochondrial cytochrome b gene, that was amplified from genomic DNA extracted from 1177 birds (28 species) across the Western Ghats to assess infection of birds with haemosporidian parasites. We employed a Bayesian phylogenetic mixed effect modelling approach to test whether haemosporidian infection risk was affected by seven species-specific and four individual-level ecological predictors. We also examined the effect of host phylogenetic relationships on the observed patterns of variation in haemosporidian infection risk by estimating phylogenetic signal. RESULTS:Our study shows that host ecological traits and host phylogeny differentially influence infection risk by Plasmodium (generalist parasite) and Haemoproteus (specialist parasite). For Plasmodium, we found that sociality, sexual dimorphism and foraging strata were important ecological predictors. For Haemoproteus, patterns of infection risk among host species were associated with sociality, species elevation and individual body condition. Interestingly, variance in infection risk explained by host phylogeny was higher for Haemoproteus parasites compared to Plasmodium. CONCLUSIONS:Our study highlights that while host ecological traits promoting parasite exposure and host susceptibility are important determinants of infection risk, host phylogeny also contributes substantially to predicting patterns of haemosporidian infection risk in multi-host communities. Importantly, infection risk is driven by joint contributions of host ecology and host phylogeny and studying these effects together could increase our ability to better understand the drivers of infection risk and predict future disease threats.
Project description:Host-parasite interactions represent a selective force that may reduce hosts' lifespan, their reproductive success and survival. Environmental conditions can affect host-parasite communities, leading to distinct patterns of interactions with divergent ecological and evolutionary consequences for their persistence. Here, we tested whether climatic oscillation shapes the temporal dynamics of bird-haemosporidian associations, assessing the main mechanisms involved in the temporal dissimilarity of their interactions' networks. For two years, we monthly sampled birds in a tropical coastal ecosystem to avian malaria molecular diagnosis. The studied networks exhibited high specialization, medium modularity, with low niche overlap among parasites lineages. Moreover, alpha and ?-diversity of hosts, parasites and their interactions, as well as the structure of their networks were temporally consistent, i.e., stable under fluctuations in temperature or precipitation over seasons. The structure and temporal consistency of the studied antagonistic networks suggest a high fidelity between partners, which is likely relevant for their evolutionary persistence.
Project description:The drivers of regional parasite distributions are poorly understood, especially in comparison with those of free-living species. For vector-transmitted parasites, in particular, distributions might be influenced by host-switching and by parasite dispersal with primary hosts and vectors. We surveyed haemosporidian blood parasites (Plasmodium and Haemoproteus) of small land birds in eastern North America to characterize a regional parasite community. Distributions of parasite populations generally reflected distributions of their hosts across the region. However, when the interdependence between hosts and parasites was controlled statistically, local host assemblages were related to regional climatic gradients, but parasite assemblages were not. Moreover, because parasite assemblage similarity does not decrease with distance when controlling for host assemblages and climate, parasites evidently disperse readily within the distributions of their hosts. The degree of specialization on hosts varied in some parasite lineages over short periods and small geographic distances independently of the diversity of available hosts and potentially competing parasite lineages. Nonrandom spatial turnover was apparent in parasite lineages infecting one host species that was well-sampled within a single year across its range, plausibly reflecting localized adaptations of hosts and parasites. Overall, populations of avian hosts generally determine the geographic distributions of haemosporidian parasites. However, parasites are not dispersal-limited within their host distributions, and they may switch hosts readily.
Project description:BACKGROUND: The rising global temperature is predicted to expand the distribution of vector-borne diseases both in latitude and altitude. Many host communities could be affected by increased prevalence of disease, heightening the risk of extinction for many already threatened species. To understand how host communities could be affected by changing parasite distributions, we need information on the distribution of parasites in relation to variables like temperature and rainfall that are predicted to be affected by climate change. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We determined relations between prevalence of blood parasites, temperature, and seasonal rainfall in a bird community of the Australian Wet Tropics along an elevation gradient. We used PCR screening to investigate the prevalence and lineage diversity of four genera of blood parasites (Plasmodium, Haemoproteus, Leucocytozoon and Trypanosoma) in 403 birds. The overall prevalence of the four genera of blood parasites was 32.3%, with Haemoproteus the predominant genus. A total of 48 unique lineages were detected. Independent of elevation, parasite prevalence was positively and strongly associated with annual temperature. Parasite prevalence was elevated during the dry season. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Low temperatures of the higher elevations can help to reduce both the development of avian haematozoa and the abundance of parasite vectors, and hence parasite prevalence. In contrast, high temperatures of the lowland areas provide an excellent environment for the development and transmission of haematozoa. We showed that rising temperatures are likely to lead to increased prevalence of parasites in birds, and may force shifts of bird distribution to higher elevations. We found that upland tropical areas are currently a low-disease habitat and their conservation should be given high priority in management plans under climate change.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Analysis of the data available from traditional faunistic approaches to mollusc-trematode systems covering large spatial and/or temporal scales in Europe convinced us that a parasite community approach in well-defined aquatic ecosystems is essential for the substantial advancement of our understanding of the parasite response to anthropogenic pressures in urbanised areas which are typical on a European scale. Here we describe communities of larval trematodes in two lymnaeid species, Radix auricularia and Lymnaea stagnalis in four man-made interconnected reservoirs of the Ruhr River (Germany) focusing on among- and within-reservoir variations in parasite prevalence and component community composition and structure. RESULTS:The mature reservoir system on the Ruhr River provides an excellent environment for the development of species-rich and abundant trematode communities in Radix auricularia (12 species) and Lymnaea stagnalis (6 species). The lake-adapted R. auricularia dominated numerically over L. stagnalis and played a major role in the trematode transmission in the reservoir system. Both host-parasite systems were dominated by bird parasites (13 out of 15 species) characteristic for eutrophic water bodies. In addition to snail size, two environmental variables, the oxygen content and pH of the water, were identified as important determinants of the probability of infection. Between-reservoir comparisons indicated an advanced eutrophication at Baldeneysee and Hengsteysee and the small-scale within-reservoir variations of component communities provided evidence that larval trematodes may have reflected spatial bird aggregations (infection 'hot spots'). Two life history groupings of dominant species, the 'cyprinid' and 'anatid' parasites, that depict two aspects of progressive eutrophication in this mature reservoir system, were identified. CONCLUSIONS:We conclude that trematode communities in the lake-adapted R. auricularia are better suited for monitoring the effect of environmental change on host-parasite associations in the reservoir system on the Ruhr River and other similar systems due to the important role of this host in trematode transmission in lakes. Whereas variations in trematode community diversity and abundance may indicate the degree of eutrophication on a larger scale (among reservoirs), the infection rates of the two life history groups of dominant species, the 'cyprinid' and 'anatid' assemblages, may be particularly useful in depicting environmental variability, eutrophication effects and infection 'hot spots' on smaller spatial scales.
Project description:We examined seasonal prevalence in avian haemosporidians (Plasmodium and Haemoproteus) in migrant and resident birds in western Himalaya, India. We investigated how infection with haemosporidians in avian hosts is associated with temporal changes in temperature and mosquito abundance along with host abundance and life-history traits (body mass). Using molecular methods for parasite detection and sequencing partial cytochrome b gene, 12 Plasmodium and 27 Haemoproteus lineages were isolated. Our 1-year study from December 2008 to December 2009 in tropical Himalayan foothills revealed a lack of seasonal variation in Plasmodium spp. prevalence in birds despite a strong correlation between mosquito abundance and temperature. The probability of infection with Plasmodium decreased with increase in temperature. Total parasite prevalence and specifically Plasmodium prevalence showed an increase with average avian body mass. In addition, total prevalence exhibited a U-shaped relationship with avian host abundance. There was no difference in prevalence of Plasmodium spp. or Haemoproteus spp. across altitudes; parasite prevalence in high-altitude locations was mainly driven by the seasonal migrants. One Haemoproteus lineage showed cross-species infections between migrant and resident birds. This is the first molecular study in the tropical Himalayan bird community that emphasizes the importance of studying seasonal variation in parasite prevalence. Our study provides a basis for further evolutionary study on the epidemiology of avian malaria and spread of disease across Himalayan bird communities, which may not have been exposed to vectors and parasites throughout the year, with consequential implications to the risk of infection to naïve resident birds in high altitude.
Project description:Avian malaria is caused by a diverse community of genetically differentiated parasites of the genera Plasmodium and Haemoproteus. Rapid seasonal and annual antigenic allele turnover resulting from selection by host immune systems, as observed in some parasite populations infecting humans, may extend analogously to dynamic species compositions within communities of avian malarial parasites. To address this issue, we examined the stability of avian malarial parasite lineages across multiple time-scales within two insular host communities. Parasite communities in Puerto Rico and St Lucia included 20 and 14 genetically distinct parasite lineages, respectively. Lineage composition of the parasite community in Puerto Rico did not vary seasonally or over a 1 year interval. However, over intervals approaching a decade, the avian communities of both islands experienced an apparent loss or gain of one malarial parasite lineage, indicating the potential for relatively frequent lineage turnover. Patterns of temporal variation of parasite lineages in this study suggest periodic colonization and extinction events driven by a combination of host-specific immune responses, competition between lineages and drift. However, the occasional and ecologically dynamic lineage turnover exhibited by insular avian parasite communities is not as rapid as antigenic allele turnover within populations of human malaria.
Project description:The latitudinal diversity gradient (LDG) is an established macroecological pattern, but is poorly studied in microbial organisms, particularly parasites. In this study, we tested whether latitude, elevation, and host species predicted patterns of prevalence, alpha diversity, and community turnover of hemosporidian parasites. We expected parasite diversity to decrease with latitude, alongside the diversity of their hosts and vectors. Similarly, we expected infection prevalence to decrease with latitude as vector abundances decrease. Lastly, we expected parasite community turnover to increase with latitudinal distance and to be higher between rather than within host species. We tested these hypotheses by screening blood and tissue samples of three closely related avian species in a clade of North American songbirds (Turdidae: Catharus, n = 466) across 17.5° of latitude. We used a nested PCR approach to identify parasites in hemosporidian genera that are transmitted by different dipteran vectors. Then, we implemented linear-mixed effects and generalized dissimilarity models to evaluate the effects of latitude, elevation, and host species on parasite metrics. We found high diversity of hemosporidian parasites in Catharus thrushes (n = 44 lineages) but no evidence of latitudinal gradients in alpha diversity or prevalence. Parasites in the genus Leucocytozoon were most prevalent and lineage rich in this study system; however, there was limited turnover with latitude and host species. Contrastingly, Plasmodium parasites were less prevalent and diverse than Leucocytozoon parasites, yet communities turned over at a higher rate with latitude and host species. Leucocytozoon communities were skewed by the dominance of one or two highly prevalent lineages with broad latitudinal distributions. The few studies that evaluate the hemosporidian LDG do not find consistent patterns of prevalence and diversity, which makes it challenging to predict how they will respond to global climate change.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Many studies have tracked the distribution and persistence of avian haemosporidian communities across space and time at the population level, but few studies have investigated these aspects of infection at the individual level over time. Important aspects of parasite infection at the individual level can be missed if only trends at the population level are studied. This study aimed to determine how persistent Haemosporida are in great tit individuals recaptured over several years, whether parasitaemia differed by parasite lineage (mitochondrial cytochrome b haplotype) and how co-infection (i.e. concurrent infection with multiple genera of parasites) affects parasitaemia and body mass. METHODS: Parasite prevalence was determined by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), quantitative PCR were used to assess parasitaemia and sequencing was employed to determine the identity of the lineages using the MalAvi database. RESULTS: Haemosporidian prevalence was high over sampled years with 98% of 55 recaptured individuals showing infection in at least one year of capture. Eighty-two percent of all positive individuals suffered co-infection, with an overall haemosporidian lineage diversity of seventeen. Plasmodium and Haemoproteus parasites were found to be highly persistent, with lineages from these genera consistently found in individuals across years and with no differences in individual parasitaemia being recorded at subsequent captures. Conversely, Leucocytozoon parasites showed higher turnover with regard to lineage changes or transitions in infection status (infected vs non-infected) across years. Parasitaemia was found to be lineage specific and there was no relationship between Plasmodium parasitaemia or host body condition and the presence of Leucocytozoon parasites. CONCLUSIONS: The findings of this study suggest that different genera of haemosporidian parasites interact differently with their host and other co-infecting parasites, influencing parasite persistence most likely through inter-parasite competition or host-parasite immune interactions. Even-though co-infections do not seem to result in increased virulence (higher parasitaemia or poorer host body condition), further investigation into infection potential of these parasites, both individually and as co-infections, is necessary.