Host specificity of avian haemosporidian parasites is unrelated among sister lineages but shows phylogenetic signal across larger clades

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Parasites can vary in the number of host species they infect, a trait known as “host specificity”. Here we quantify phylogenetic signal—the tendency for closely related species to resemble each other more than distantly related species—in host specificity of avian haemosporidian parasites (genera Plasmodium, Haemoproteus and Leucocytozoon) using data from MalAvi, the global avian haemosporidian database. We used the genetic data (479 base pairs of cytochrome b) that define parasite lineages to produce genus level phylogenies. Combining host specificity data with those phylogenies revealed significant levels of phylogenetic signal while controlling for sampling effects; phylogenetic signal was higher when the phylogenetic diversity of hosts was taken into account. We then tested for correlations in the host specificity of pairs of sister lineages. Correlations were generally close to zero for all three parasite genera. These results suggest that while the host specificity of parasite sister lineages differ, larger clades may be relatively specialised or generalised.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Immunology
  • Ecology


  • Avian malaria, Haemosporida, Host breadth, Parasite evolution, Phylogenetic signal
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)897-902
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology
Issue number12
Early online date2018 Aug 2
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Publication categoryResearch