Persistence of avian haemosporidians in the wild: a case study to illustrate seasonal infection patterns in relation to host life stages

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Infection patterns of avian haemosporidians result from the evolution of their associations with hosts, and can be shaped by multiple biotic factors. However, at the level of parasite species, few studies have investigated the details of the temporal dynamics of infection patterns in wild bird communities. We hereby studied a wild bird community in southern Sweden to investigate two generalist parasites (cyt b lineages PARUS1 and WW2) of the morphological species Haemoproteus majoris in their main host species (tits and warblers, respectively) to look for seasonal (spring to autumn) and age class related variation in infection patterns. For both lineages, we detected a similar temporal pattern in prevalence and infection intensity, with peak levels during the main nesting season in adults and a few weeks later in juveniles. Infections in juveniles were detected as soon as they started to be caught by mist nets, implying that they became infected when still in the nest or during the first weeks post-fledging. The initially high intensities in juveniles were followed by a significant decrease during the hatching year, emphasising the importance of studying haemosporidian infections in nestlings and fledglings. Both prevalence and infection intensity in adults increased from spring to early summer, either due to spring relapses or new infections. Both prevalence and infection intensity declined in adults at the time when independent juveniles of the respective species started to appear, suggesting that the rate of parasite withdrawal from blood exceeded the rates of new infections gained and relapses of previous infections. Prevalence in both juveniles and adults approached zero towards the end of the summer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)611-619
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology
Issue number8
Early online date2020 Jun 26
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jul

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Zoology

Free keywords

  • Age effect
  • Haemoproteus majoris
  • Infection intensity
  • Life stage
  • Prevalence
  • Temporal dynamic


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