Evolution of vector transmitted parasites by host switching revealed through sequencing of Haemoproteus parasite mitochondrial genomes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Parasite species evolve by switching to new hosts, cospeciating with their current hosts, or speciating on their current hosts. Vector transmitted parasites are expected to speciate by host switching, but confirming this hypothesis has proved challenging. Parasite DNA can be difficult to sequence, thus well resolved parasite phylogenies that are needed to distinguish modes of parasite speciation are often lacking. Here, we studied speciation in vector transmitted avian haemosporidian parasites in the genus Haemoproteus and their warbler hosts (family Acrocephalidae). We overcome the difficulty of generating parasite genetic data by combining nested long-range PCR with next generation sequencing to sequence whole mitochondrial genomes from 19 parasite haplotypes confined to Acrocephalidae warblers, resulting in a well-supported parasite phylogeny. We also generated a well-supported host phylogeny using five genes from published sources. Our phylogenetic analyses confirm that these parasites have speciated by host switching. We also found that closely related host species shared parasites which themselves were not closely related. Sharing of parasites by closely related host species is not due to host geographic range overlap, but may be the result of phylogenetically conserved host immune systems.


External organisations
  • Erciyes University
  • University of Delaware
  • Lund University
  • State Scientific Institute Nature Research Centre
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Biological Systematics


  • Coevolution, Cophylogeny, Cospeciation, Host switching, Parasite evolution, Parasite genomics
Original languageEnglish
Article number106947
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Dec 1
Publication categoryResearch