Mixed species flock, nest height, and elevation partially explain avian haemoparasite prevalence in Colombia
The high avian biodiversity present in the Neotropical region offers a great opportunity to explore the ecology of host-parasite relationships. We present a survey of avian haemoparasites in a megadiverse country and explore how parasite prevalences are related to physical and ecological host characteristics. Using light microscopy, we documented the presence of haemoparasites in over 2000 individuals belonging to 246 species of wild birds, from nine localities and several ecosystems of Colombia. We analysed the prevalence of six avian haemoparasite taxa in relation to elevation and the following host traits: nest height, nest type, foraging strata, primary diet, sociality, migratory behaviour, and participation in mixed species flocks. Our analyses indicate significant associations between both mixed species flocks and nest height and Haemoproteus and Leucocytozoon prevalence. The prevalence of Leucocytozoon increased with elevation, whereas the prevalence of Trypanosoma and microfilariae decreased. Plasmodium and Haemoproteus prevalence did not vary significantly with elevation; in fact, both parasites were found up to 3300m above sea level. The distribution of parasite prevalence across the phylogeny of bird species included in this study showed little host phylogenetic signal indicating that infection rates in this system are evolutionarily labile. Vector distribution as well as the biology of transmission and the maintenance of populations of avian haemoparasites deserve more detailed study in this system.
- ISSN: 1932-6203