Nest ecology of blood parasites in the European roller and its ectoparasitic carnid fly

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2016
Authors:R. Vaclav, Betáková, T., Švančarová, P., Pérez-Serrano, J., Criado-Fornelio, Á., Škorvanová, L., Valera, F.
Journal:Experimental Parasitology
Keywords:Avian malaria, Carnus hemapterus, Nidicolous ectoparasite, s Coracias garrulus, Transmission ecology, Trypanosoma

Haemosporidian parasites are considered the most important vector-borne parasites. However, vector identity and ecology is unknown for most such hostevectoreparasite systems. In this study, we employ microscopic and molecular analyses to examine haemosporidian prevalence in a migratory, cavitynesting bird, European roller Coracias garrulus, and its nidicolous blood-feeding ectoparasite Carnus hemapterus. This system is unique in that the ectoparasite is confined to a near-closed environment, in contrast to the free-wandering system of haematophagous dipterans such as mosquitoes. Blood film analysis confirms previous works in that Haemoproteus parasites are widely prevalent in adult rollers and belong to a single species, Haemoproteus coraciae. Leucocytozoon sp. and Trypanosoma sp. also are detected in adult rollers at low intensities with this technique. By means of molecular analysis, we report for the first time Plasmodium sp. presence in C. garrulus. Based on PCR results, Plasmodium parasites are relatively less prevalent than Haemoproteus parasites (20% vs. 31%) in rollers. In contrast, haemosporidian prevalences show the opposite trend for Carnus flies: Plasmodium sp. occurrence (62%) clearly predominates over that of Haemoproteus sp. (5%). A comparison between roller and Carnus samples reveals a significantly higher prevalence of Plasmodium sp. in Carnus samples. Insect survey and phylogenetic analysis suggest Culicoides flies as Haemoproteus sp. vectors, which appear to readily transmit the parasite in southern Spain. This study does not find support for Carnus flies to serve as biological or mechanical vectors of haemosporidians. In spite of this, nidicolous blood-feeding ectoparasites, such as carnid flies, appear as a suitable model for studies on the occurrence and temporal dynamics of avian haemosporidians such as Plasmodium sp. present at low intensities.

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